February 23, 2021
Lansing — Today, Administrative Law Judge Dennis Mack ruled that climate change considerations may not be included in Enbridge’s Line 5 permit hearing before the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Michigan Climate Action Network (MiCAN) intend to appeal the decision, standing firm that they should be permitted to demonstrate how the global warming impacts of Line 5 are significant and unacceptable and must be considered in a meaningful environmental review of the siting permit request before the MPSC.
“Judge Mack’s decision to exclude climate impacts from being considered by the Commission is gravely disappointing, and is just a continuation of the climate denial that has put us in the global crisis that we are in,” said Kate Madigan, Director of the Michigan Climate Action Network. “It confounds logic that as the extreme weather events increase before our eyes, the Commission is supposed to put on blinders and not even consider the climate impacts of building a new oil pipeline that will transport millions of gallons of fossil fuels every year for 99 years. We cannot pretend that climate change does not exist or that this pipeline will not exacerbate climate emissions by extending the life of this pipeline. The only way the Commission can make the best decision on this tunnel permit is to have all of the facts, and when considering environmental impacts, climate change — the greatest of all environmental crises — must be included.”
“Administrative Law Judge Dennis Mack rejected our argument and we respectfully disagree with his conclusion,” said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It is still our view that Gov. Whitmer’s Revocation and Termination of the existing Line 5 dual pipelines should have changed the context of the climate question in front of the Michigan Public Service Commission. We intend to appeal Judge Mack’s decision.”
On November 13, 2020, Gov. Whitmer notified Enbridge that the State was revoking and terminating Enbridge’s 1953 Easement for the dual pipelines, and that Enbridge must stop operating the pipelines by May 13, 2021.
ELPC filed a supplemental brief on behalf of itself and MiCAN last month explaining how the Governor’s actions changed the scope of the case by transforming Enbridge’s proposed project from the relocation of an existing pipeline to the restart of a decommissioned pipeline. Under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act the Commission is required to evaluate the state of the environment before Enbridge builds the tunnel with the state of the environment after Enbridge builds the tunnel.
In addition, last year Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an Executive Order to create the Michigan Healthy Climate Plan that puts the state on a path towards becoming fully carbon-neutral by 2050. ELPC and MiCAN will call attention during Enbridge’s permit hearing before the MPSC to the climate damage likely to result from Michigan’s highest profile and most controversial fossil fuel project.
ELPC and MiCAN are intervening in the Enbridge Line 5 permit hearings to make sure the MPSC has a more complete set of data regarding the need for a new tunnel and pipeline, as well as 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 under the Straits of Mackinac that carries 23 million gallons of oil every day and already threatens to release oil and natural gas liquid into powerful currents that could carry contaminated water for miles in every direction.