Michigan’s environmental agency has approved construction of an underground tunnel to house a replacement for a controversial oil pipeline in a channel linking two of the Great Lakes.
The decision, a victory for Enbridge Inc., comes as the Canadian company resists Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s demand to shut down its 68-year-old line in the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge disputes her claim that the pipeline segment crossing the 4-mile-wide (6.4-kilometer-wide) waterway is unsafe. But Enbridge had earlier sought to ease public concern by striking a deal with Whitmer’s predecessor, Republican Rick Snyder, in 2018 to run a new pipe through a tunnel to be drilled beneath the straits connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
The project requires permits from the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan agency and a Whitmer appointee, said the company’s application satisfied state legal requirements.
Enbridge has pledged to cover all costs of the $500 million project, which it says will be completed by 2024.