Press Release

ELPC and MiCAN Appeal Judge Decision that Excluded Climate Change Impacts When Considering Line 5 Permit Decision

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Michigan Climate Action Network (MiCAN) today filed an appeal with the Michigan Public Service Commission to allow consideration of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline tunnel during the permit application review. Michigan Administrative Law Judge Dennis Mack recently denied the groups’ request.

ELPC and MiCAN intervened in the Enbridge Line 5 tunnel case because the tremendous quantity of oil transported in the pipeline after a new tunnel is constructed for a much longer time than would otherwise be the case and would be a meaningful contributor to global warming. Climate scientists have shown that we must do everything we can to stop the release of carbon to the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic environmental and human harm. After ELPC and MiCAN were granted intervention, Enbridge argued that the scope of the case must be limited so that the Commission cannot consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change as among the environmental impacts of the project.

ELPC and MiCAN countered that the Michigan Environmental Protection Act does not limit the types of environmental impacts considered in administrative hearings about projects like Line 5, and that it certainly makes no sense to ignore climate change, which scientists say is the single greatest threat to our environment today and will continue to be so for decades to come.

As scientists have come to a better understanding of the immense current and potential damage of global warming, CO2 contribution from oil pipelines is finally being considered in a handful of permit cases around the country. This trend is urgently needed and long overdue, and ELPC and MiCAN are proud to help lead in this essential area of environmental law.

Margrethe Kearney, senior attorney at ELPC, says, “We hope the Public Service Commission makes the right decision to allow the impact on climate change as part of the consideration in Enbridge’s Line 5 permit application review. Carbon released from oil in Enbridge’s proposed tunnel project will impact our environment, and expert testimony explaining those impacts shouldn’t be excluded from the Commission’s deliberations. Not only is the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions required under Michigan law, but Gov. Whitmer’s recent Executive Order on Climate Change also makes clear that reducing carbon emissions is a high priority for the future well-being of Michiganders.”

Kate Madigan, Director of MiCAN says, “The Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) is plain in stating that all environmental impacts of Line 5 are to be considered in permit decisions. We are appealing this decision because it makes no sense to read MEPA and then ignore the biggest environmental impact that Line 5 has: climate change. Line 5 is a main accomplice in generating millions of tons of atmospheric carbon and worsening the greatest human-caused environmental threat in history. In this case, Michigan must act upon the great body of science proving that burning fossil fuels is warming the planet and diminishing our children’s future.”

ELPC and MiCAN are intervening to make sure the MPSC has a more complete set of data regarding the need for a new tunnel and pipeline, and to ensure there is a fully accurate portrayal of the environmental and climate impacts of the proposed project. The tunnel and new pipeline are intended to replace Enbridge’s damaged 67-year-old pipeline that lies on the Straits of Mackinac bottomlands. Line 5 carries 23 million gallons of oil every day and already threatens to release oil and natural gas liquids into powerful currents that could carry oil for miles.

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