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Climate Change & Economic Experts’ Testimony Demonstrates Why Enbridge Line 5 Tunnel Permit Must be Denied by MPSC

Stop operating pipeline is best way forward to address climate crisis, Michiganders guaranteed access to reliable energy sources.

Lansing, MI — Climate scientists and economic experts submitted written testimony late yesterday to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) about the significance of excessive greenhouse gas emissions that would be generated if Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel siting permit is approved. Expert testimony quantified the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would result from shutting down the line and building a tunnel, as compared to just shutting the line down. Additional experts calculated the cost of those GHG emissions, discussed the impacts of climate change on Michigan and the Great Lakes natural resources, and explained that closing down the line and not building a new tunnel is a feasible option.

 

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Michigan Climate Action Network (MiCAN) were granted permission last spring to present expert witnesses to demonstrate how the climate is impacted by Line 5 as part of a meaningful environmental review of the siting permit request before the MPSC.

 

Greenhouse gas emissions expert Peter Erickson testified that “when compared to a scenario in which the existing Line 5 pipeline no longer operates, construction and operation of the Proposed Project would lead to an increase of about 27 million metric tons CO2e annually in global greenhouse gas emissions from the production and combustion of oil.” Erickson is a Senior Scientist and Climate Policy Program Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute – U.S., affiliated with Tufts University. 

 

Putting that number into context, expert Peter Howard, Ph.D., explained that “the Proposed Project will generate a present value of $41 billion (in 2020 dollars) or more in net monetized climate costs from 2027 to 2070 as compared to the no-action alternative – in other words, the Proposed Project will generate average annual monetized climate costs of approximately $1 billion each year over this period, plus significant unmonetized climate effects and other unquantified pollution costs to human health and the environment.” Howard is Economics Director at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law. 

 

The impacts of climate change on Michigan and Great Lakes natural resources is further explained by Jonathan T. Overpeck, Ph.D., an interdisciplinary climate scientist and the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. “A notable increase in rainfall intensity has already occurred in the Midwest due to greenhouse gas emissions, and further emissions threaten our natural resources with a greater risk of flooding, erosion and degradation of waterway and coastal habitats,” he said. “To avoid unmanageable climate impacts requires the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and an end to construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

 

Importantly, there is one feasible alternative that Enbridge did not consider: shutting down the existing pipelines and not building a new one to replace them. This alternative is feasible, according to economist Elizabeth A. Stanton, Ph.D., “because Michigan’s energy needs can be met without propane through electrification. During a transition to heating with modern electric heat pumps, Governor Whitmer’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force Committee’s short- and long-term recommendations lay out steps to securing energy supplies in the event of a shutdown of Line 5.” Stanton is Director and Senior Economist of the Applied Economics Clinic in Arlington, Mass. 

 

“The solution to the risk of an oil spill in the Great Lakes is simple: stop operating the existing pipelines,” said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The question of what Enbridge can and should do once the existing lines shut down is a separate question, and it is clear that construction of a tunnel under the Straits is not the answer, because it will have a devastating impact on Michigan’s natural resources by contributing to the climate crisis.”  

 

“These experts confirm that Line 5 is a huge contributor to the climate crisis, and building an oil tunnel would cause billions of dollars more of worsening climate impacts for years to come,” said Kate Madigan, Director of the Michigan Climate Action Network. “Building an oil tunnel works against the goals of the Paris Agreement and Michigan’s Healthy Climate Plan. If we are serious about those goals, and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, the only reasonable way forward is to shut down Line 5 and not build a new oil tunnel.”

 

Yesterday the MPSC also received written testimony from academic experts, climate scientists, and tribal leaders who stressed the extremely grave impacts that the proposed Line 5 oil pipeline tunnel would have on biodiversity, Tribal sovereignty, and climate change.

While Enbridge continues to pursue approval to locate a new tunnel and oil pipeline underneath the Straits of Mackinac, the Canadian oil company has been illegally operating the dirty fossil fuel Dual pipeline despite Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order that revoked and terminated Enbridge’s 1953 Easement for the pipelines as of last May. 

  

MiCAN is a Michigan statewide network of organizations, groups, and individuals working to build and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement in the Great Lakes state to call for clean energy solutions, climate stability, and climate justice. 

 

ELPC is a non-profit public interest environmental organization with offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and throughout the Midwest, working to achieve cleaner air, advance clean renewable energy and energy efficiency resources, improve environmental quality, and protect clean water and preserve natural resources in the Midwest.   

 


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