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Report: Mich. attorney general may close Enbridge Line 5 if no deal reached

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Report: Mich. attorney general may close Enbridge Line 5 if no deal reached

Michigan's attorney general vowed to have an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac closed down if the governor fails to reach a deal with operator Enbridge Inc. on a tunnel to house the infrastructure, The Detroit News reported May 29.

"If they cannot come to an agreement that allows for a quick process of the decommissioning of Line 5 then I will act," Attorney General Dana Nessel said in an interview on the sidelines of a policy conference in the area. She will move to shut down the pipeline by the end of June, the report said.

Nessel said her office has a number of legal mechanisms to decommission the pipeline, but she declined to disclose the next steps she would take, according to the report.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who wants Line 5 decommissioned, is still in talks with Enbridge and stakeholders on the matter, Press Secretary Tiffany Brown told the newspaper. Enbridge will invest $500 million to build a tunnel to house a replacement section of Line 5, according to company spokesman Ryan Duffy.

In March, Nessel issued an opinion that a state law that paved the way for Enbridge to construct the tunnel is unconstitutional. She argued that the statute's "provisions go beyond the scope of what was disclosed in its title." Whitmer almost immediately stopped work on the project in light of the opinion, ordering state departments and agencies to stop acting under that statute.

In a May 30 statement responding to the attorney general's comments, Enbridge said it has emphasized to the governor the importance of updating Line 5. The company said "constructing a tunnel to house the Straits pipelines is the most effective and timely way to remove the existing Line 5 while ensuring the critical energy needs of Michiganders are met."

"Enbridge has committed to construct the tunnel as quickly as prudently possible and to advance a number of additional protective measures while we construct the tunnel," the company said. "Given the attorney general's opinion that the previous administration tunnel authority is invalid, Enbridge engaged and has continued to engage the state about alternatives to address that concern."

Enbridge said it could complete the tunnel sooner than an earlier estimate. If there are no permit delays, the company can start building the tunnel in 2021 and put the new line in service as soon as early 2024, it said. The current Line 5 would cease operations once the replacement pipeline is in service.

Line 5 delivers approximately 23 million gallons of light crude oil and natural gas liquids per day through the Upper Peninsula, including a four-mile stretch through the Straits of Mackinac.