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Enbridge responds to Michigan AG on straits pipeline plan

ESCANABA — Enbridge Inc. reached out to the Daily Press to give their side of the stalemate between the Canadian energy provider and the state after comments Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel made about Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline at the Upper Peninsula State Fair.

During her comments Tuesday, Nessel claimed negotiations had stalled when Enbridge refused to give specifics as to when the pipeline located under the Straits of Mackinac would be decommissioned.

“Enbridge got up and they walked away from the negotiation’s table and they refused to give any certain time frame in which the line would have be shut down, and to my knowledge to this day they still refuse to do that,” Nessel told representatives from local media following her opening remarks for the start of Senior Day at the fair.

Enbridge, however, claims that is not the case.

“Enbridge has not walked away from discussions. We’ve always said we are ready to have discussions with the governor and her office,” Enbridge Communications Strategist Ryan Duffy told the Daily Press in an email. “In every one of our interactions with the Governor’s Office, we’ve offered to sit down and meet again, and that offer remains open.”

Duffy also said the decommission date for the existing tunnel and the construction of its replacement has been discussed.

“As far as a date certain to decommission (the) current line, our timeline to complete the tunnel is five years, with an in-service date of early 2024. We understand the urgency with which the governor wants a solution, and we’ve done our very best to meet the Administration’s expectations,” said Duffy.

During her time with the Daily Press on Tuesday, Nessel said her “big problem” with the tunnel project is it would take a minimum of seven to 10 years to build a tunnel, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wanted to have the existing tunnel decommissioned in two years.

“They won’t say two years, five years, seven years, 10 years, 20 years, and so when you’re in this position where Enbridge is still permitted to keep operating the line for as many years as they want, irrespective of the condition of the line, that’s something that the governor — she could not tolerate that, she could not abide by that, and I think she was right to get up from the — to make sure there were no further negotiations unless and until Enbridge would put some sort of time frame on that,” Nessel said.

According to Duffy, Enbridge has started the geotechnical work for the summer, which will be used to inform the engineering plan and give a clearer sense of the project’s timeline. He also said Enbridge is working with the state on a predictable permitting progress that would further help Enbridge firm up a target date.

During her Governor’s Day Luncheon on Wednesday, Whitmer herself took aim at the safety of the pipeline, which was struck by an anchor last year. Nessel had her own concerns for the line, which she shared Tuesday.

“I believe that every day that goes by we’re in imminent peril of having that rupture and having one of the worst environmental disasters we’ve ever had in the United States of America, and that’s very concerning to me,” said Nessel.

According to Duffy, Enbridge welcomes an opportunity to discuss ideas or solutions that would make the Straits of Mackinac safer, and is open to jointly appointing an independent, Michigan-based moderator to get past the impasse and move forward on a solution.

“The sooner we can work together, the sooner we can have a firm date,” said Duffy.

Duffy also said Enbridge has suggested emergency orders to ensure the regulatory process is as fast as possible and offered to implement additional operational safeguards to further protect the existing pipeline.

“We’re committed to finding solutions that ensure energy will continue to be delivered, and have put forward a range of ideas in our discussions to help further protect the Straits,” he said.

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