October 23, 2020
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 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.
Judge Mack’s decision is perplexing in light of Gov. Whitmer’s recent Executive Order related to climate change, which stated: “To combat this climate crisis, Michigan must take comprehensive, coordinated, and aggressive action.”
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, lead attorney on the case for ELPC, says, “Today’s decision reinforces our resolve. Carbon released from oil in Enbridge’s proposed tunnel project will impact our environment, and data supporting those impacts shouldn’t be excluded from the Commission’s deliberations. Not only is consideration of greenhouse gas emissions required under Michigan law, Gov. Whitmer’s recent Executive Order on Climate Change makes clear that reducing carbon emissions is a high priority for the future well-being of Michiganders.”
Kate Madigan, Director of MiCAN says, “There is no getting around the fact that building a new oil tunnel to operate for up to 99 years would exacerbate climate change, and the harmful impacts we are already experiencing in Michigan. We will appeal this ruling and continue to fight so Michigan will finally catch up to the other states that are including climate when looking at environmental impacts of a project, and to stop Enbridge’s attempts to skirt the rules to avoid necessary scrutiny of a project that will harm our environment, public health, and the climate.”
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.