Giving the 18-hour bare minimum amount of public notice allowed by law, the Michigan House Government Operations Committee at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday will take up the Enbridge oil tunnel bill.
A number of lawmakers in both parties – as well as thousands of individuals, groups, businesses, tribes, and local communities – have previously raised concerns about Senate Bill 1197’s potential harm to the Mackinac Bridge, Michigan taxpayers, and the Great Lakes.
We urge you to contact the Government Operations Committee Chair, Rep. Lee Chatfield, and other members of the committee with your concerns, using the bulleted list of issues and contact information below. In addition, if your state Representative is not on that committee, you can contact your lawmaker using this lookup, in anticipation of the bill in some form clearing committee and reaching the full state House, perhaps later on the same day.
Members of the Michigan House Government Operations Committee to contact about Senate Bill 1197 right now:
- Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) Committee Chair, 107th District, PHONE: 517-373-2629, EMAIL: LeeChatfield@house.mi.gov
- Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway Township) Majority Vice-Chair, 81st District, PHONE: 517-373-1790, EMAIL: DanLauwers@house.mi.gov
- Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) 71st District, PHONE: 517-373-0853, EMAIL: TomBarrett@house.mi.gov
- Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) Minority Vice-Chair, 69th District, PHONE: (517)-373-1786, EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Christine Greig (D- Farmington Hills), 37th District, PHONE: (517) 373-1793, EMAIL: email@example.com
Background and Concerns
After a flood of public opposition to the proposed oil tunnel being owned and run by the same state authority board that owns and operates the beloved Mackinac Bridge, the Senate made and approved quick revisions that attempted, but failed, to resolve that concern.
The very first line of the passed bill, with changes indicated in capitals in the original text, says, “An act authorizing the Mackinac bridge authority to acquire a bridge AND A UTILITY TUNNEL….” And then in a new Section 14, the bill states at the outset, “THE MACKINAC BRIDGE AUTHORITY MAY ACQUIRE, CONSTRUCT, OPERATE, MAINTAIN, IMPROVE, REPAIR, AND MANAGE A UTILITY TUNNEL.”
A few paragraphs later, the bill says that these powers over the proposed tunnel eventually will transfer to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, which does not exist yet. To get past that stumbling block, the bill gives all the powers, and likely all the liability too, to both the existing Mackinac Bridge Authority and the anticipated one, and declares the problem solved.
In addition to risking the Mackinac Bridge, Michigan Senate Bill 1197:
- Provides the key vehicle for the ill-conceived and unconstitutional Republican-led race to guarantee a private oil tunnel for Enbridge under the Mackinac Straits before January 1, when incoming Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel – both of whom are Democrats and tunnel opponents – take office.
- Gives a shareholder-owned foreign company free access to the public’s Great Lakes water and bottomlands, untold millions of taxpayer dollars for state oversight (Gov. Snyder has requested $4.5 million in public funds so far) and a legal defense fund, and some cover from liability as the state takes on ownership of infrastructure that poses a risk to leak and/or explode and cripple the regional economy, while polluting the drinking water for Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and half of all Michiganders.
- Anticipates draining $500,000 a year from Mackinac Bridge revenue, which is earned by allowing fiber optics to cross the bridge that instead would be moved to the tunnel.
- Increases the odds of a catastrophic oil spill in the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron, by allowing the cracked and dented Line 5 pipelines at least another decade of non-stop oil pumping through 2028, when Line 5 would be 75 years old, while Enbridge considers, but is not required to build, a tunnel.
- Requires the as-yet non-existent Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority to approve by December 31– just 3 weeks from now – a series of agreements being negotiated by the Snyder administration in private with Enbridge for building the tunnel, deeding it to the state, and then leasing the tunnel back for 99 years. The secret process shuts out lawmakers, citizens, businesses, and tribes from the opportunity to review, understand, and oppose or strengthen the pacts to benefit the public.