The Detroit News: After Nessel opinion, future unclear for Enbridge Line 5 tunnel, authority

The Detroit News

April 1, 2019

The path forward for building a tunnel to house Enbridge’s controversial Line 5 oil pipeline below the Straits of Mackinac remains unclear after Attorney General Dana Nessel said the law creating an authority to oversee tunnel construction is unconstitutional.

A couple of hours later, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered state agencies to halt their work on the project.

Republican Senate leadership has indicated the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority could challenge the Democratic governor’s directive, but the authority’s board chairman doubts the panel has the power to do so.

“From the authority perspective, there aren’t a lot of options because her decision more or less abolished the authority,” Chairman Mike Nystrom of East Lansing said.

Nystrom said Nessel’s office is the board’s only option for representation, making the board’s involvement in any type of litigation opposing Nessel or Whitmer’s decisions “a little bit of a challenge in my mind.”

The law in question requires the state to pay the authority’s attorney costs should the attorney general decline to represent its interests, but Nessel’s opinion calling the entire law unconstitutional could render that provision moot.

“At this point, it’s up to Enbridge to make decisions on how they decide to go forward,” said Nystrom, who also is executive vice president for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association. “I’m hopeful that they and Gov. Whitmer find a way to continue on with this project.”

Board member Anthony England said he was still uncertain what the panel’s options were. Member James “J.R.” Richardson deferred to Nystrom.

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