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Permit application for utility tunnel deemed complete by US Army Corps of Engineers

The permit application for a replacement pipeline tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan submitted by Canadian company Enbrdige was deemed complete by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a little more than a week after state environmental experts said the application was not complete.

The Detroit News reported that the Army Corps set a public comment period that will last through June 4 on the application seeking permission to build a roughly 4-mile tunnel to house a new segment of the Line 5 oil pipeline.

“This first determination, coming approximately one month after submittal, is significant and moves the process one step further to the tunnel becoming a reality,” Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said.

If approved for state and federal permits, the Canadian company plans to begin construction of the tunnel in 2021 and begin operating the new Line 5 within the tunnel 2024.

The go ahead from the Army Corps comes roughly a week after the state said the Canadian oil company’s application was incomplete and requested further information and edits that provide more specificity on the plan.

State and federal environmental reviews of permit applications vary because they fall under separate state and federal laws, he said.

The state’s authority derives from Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Action while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it comes to the Straits of Mackinac operates under the Clean Water Act.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have opposed the continued operation of the 66-year-old Line 5, which carries natural gas and crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac. Whitmer and Enbridge sparred in 2019 over a shorter timeline for construction and, when negotiations failed, Enbridge sued the state and Nessel sued Enbridge.

The company’s suit sought a court order upholding Enbridge’s tunnel construction agreement under Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, a request a judge granted. Nessel’s suit sought the immediate shutdown of Line 5 and is still pending in court.


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