LANSING, Mich. — Less than 24 hours after legislation is approved by lawmakers, Gov. Rick Snyder signs it into law creating the new Mackinac Straits Utility Corridor Authority and appoints board members.
The new corridor authority will oversee the construction and management of the utility tunnel proposed by Snyder to go under the Straits of Mackinac, encompassing the controversial Line 5 pipeline.
Democrats Geno Alessandrini of Iron Mountain and Tony England of Ypsilanti and Republican Michael Zimmer of Dimondale comprise the board. Each will serve six-year terms expiring Dec. 12, 2024 and are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, according to Snyder. The chair will later be chosen by the members.
“I want to thank the appointees for being willing to serve on this authority that will have the responsibility of overseeing this critically important piece of infrastructure for Michigan,” Snyder said in a statement. “They have the expertise and the qualifications necessary to serve the state well as the MSCA brings an end to concerns over Line 5 continuing to operate in the Straits of Mackinac.”
Alessandrini is the business manager for the Michigan Laborers District Council, responsible for the oversight of 13,000 construction workers in Michigan.
England is the dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Previously, England worked as a senior scientist astronaut for NASA and served as a deputy chief of the Office of Geochemistry and Geophysics for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The lone GOP board member, Zimmer, serves as the cabinet director for Snyder. Prior to that position, he was director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
This newly minted law swiftly moved through the Legislature, despite attempts from lawmakers and interest groups to have more conversations about the plan.
Signing Senate Bill 1197 into also law requires the new corridor authority to enter into an agreement with Canadian energy company Enbridge for the construction and operation of the tunnel by Dec. 31, 2018.
Enbridge is ready to work with the newly created authority on the “next generation of important energy infrastructure,” spokesperson Ryan Duffy said.
“Enbridge believes the time is right to build for the future. Replacing the Straits segment of Line 5 in a tunnel deep under the lakebed makes a safe pipeline even safer while ensuring a reliable and affordable energy supply to Michigan and the region.”
Congressman Jack Bergman released a statement in regards to the latest development about Line 5, saying:
"I applaud Governor Snyder, along with State House and Senate leadership for their work to protect our the Great Lakes, while ensuring Michigan's energy infrastructure is brought into the 21st Century. This forward thinking approach will create jobs, protect our water, and secure a more thorough and comprehensive energy connection between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. The First District of Michigan is home to our nation's most beautiful natural resources, and our future relies on clean water. This is a monumental step towards keeping our most valuable resource preserved and protected for future generations."