LANSING — Enbridge Energy Inc. can proceed as planned with construction of an underwater tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to house a replacement for the dual Line 5 oil pipelines after the Michigan Court of Appeals this week declined to suspend a prior ruling.

A three-judge panel on Tuesday denied Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request to delay construction pending final resolution of ongoing litigation over the late 2018 law that paved the way for the $500 million tunnel project.

Nessel filed new appeal arguments Thursday seeking to overturn an October ruling by Court of Claims Judge Michael J. Kelly, who she contends relied on a “straw man” argument advanced by Enbridge, the Canadian energy giant that sued to spur state action. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had initially used a legal opinion by Nessel to halt any state work on the tunnel project.

This week’s 2-1 ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals means Enbridge can “move forward” with next steps on the project, including permit requests that will be necessary for construction —  at least “for now,” said Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney.

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