By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate voted on Wednesday for a deal to replace a 65-year-old oil pipeline in the Great Lakes, approving legislation to empower a new authority to oversee the construction and operation of a utility tunnel that would encase the new pipeline.
The bill, approved on a 25-13 vote in the Republican-controlled chamber, was sent to the House for consideration next. It would put the three-member Mackinac Straight Corridor Authority in charge of overseeing functions related to building the tunnel, which supporters say would offer better protections against a potential spill.
The outgoing governor, Rick Snyder — who would appoint the initial members of the authority — is working on several fronts to finish up an agreement with the Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge to replace the underwater segment of its Line 5, which carries about 23 million gallons of oil and natural-gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, traversing large sections of northern Michigan. A more than 4-mile-long section, divided into two pipes, now lies on the floor of the churning Straits of Mackinac.
The massive engineering project is expected to take seven to 10 years to complete, at a cost of $350 million to $500 million — all of which the company would pay. Opponents of the deal say oil and liquids used to make propane should not continue flowing daily through the lines.