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Michigan governor may take aim at Enbridge Line 5; Nebraska elects Keystone XL supporter

Washington — Michigan's next governor may push to shut Enbridge's 540,000 b/d Line 5 pipeline, an aging system that remains a key route for light crude and NGLs to the US Midwest and Ontario.

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But in Nebraska, TransCanada's 830,000 b/d Keystone XL heavy oil pipeline likely got a boost from Tuesday's election of two supporters to the state's Public Service Commission.

Michigan Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who won Tuesday with about 53% of votes, has promised to dismantle an agreement reached in October between the state's term-limited current governor and Enbridge to build a utility corridor under the Great Lakes' Straits of Mackinac. The tunnel would address environmental safety concerns surrounding the 65-year-old Line 5 and house a future replacement.

Canadian pipeline capacity is so constrained that losing any throughput would exacerbate the discount at which Alberta producers must sell their oil to US prices, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Whitmer also campaigned on setting a goal of 100% renewable energy for Michigan.

In Nebraska, Republicans Dan Watermeier and Tim Schram were elected to the state's PSC, which voted 3-2 in November 2017 to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL mainline alternative route through the state. Watermeier supports the project and defeated Christa Yoakum, who had promised to challenge the pipeline's approval. Schram was one of the three commissioners who voted to approve it. The state Supreme Court is reviewing the decision.

"The outcome of the Supreme Court proceeding on the approved alternate KXL route may send the question of approval for KXL back to the PSC, where approval looks likely," research firm Washington Analysis said Wednesday in a note.

Keystone XL is one of three remaining proposals for new takeaway capacity that Alberta oil sands producers are still counting on to shrink a record discount for their crude, along with Canada's newly government-owned 590,000 b/d Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to British Columbia, and a 370,000 b/d expansion of Enbridge's Line 3 into the US Midwest.

Western Canadian Select at Hardisty was assessed Tuesday at a $42/b discount to WTI, after trading at a record wide discount of $51.50/b October 11.

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com