By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan business groups on Monday defended twin oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac, saying Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 provides crucial energy supplies and is safer for the environment than transporting the oil another way.

Representatives of several organizations, most with ties to the energy industry, said the line should continue to operate with frequent maintenance and close scrutiny. They differed with environmental advocates who contend the nearly 5-mile-long (8-kilometer) segment beneath the waterway where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet is aging and should be decommissioned.

Shutting down the line “would be short-sighted at best and would in fact be more dangerous and risky for the public and the environment,” Mark Griffin, president of the Michigan Petroleum Association and the Michigan Association of Convenience Stores, said in a phone conference with reporters ahead of a series of public meetings on Line 5.

He said doing so would require finding another means of transport for the roughly 23 million gallons of light crude and liquid natural gas that flow through the lines daily. One result could be putting thousands more oil-hauling tanker trucks on the highways, he said.

Andy Such, director of regulatory and environmental policy for the Michigan Manufacturers Association, described Line 5 as vital to the state economy. He backed Enbridge’s assurances that the twin segments beneath the Straits of Mackinac have undergone recent pressure tests and are in good condition.

“A mounting body of evidence is saying that Line 5 is operating, safe and functional and we want to make sure the decision is based on that,” said Erin McDonough, president of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association.

Three public sessions were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Holt, Traverse City and St. Ignace on a report about alternatives for Line 5.

Options in the report include leaving the lines in place, rerouting them, running them through a tunnel, or transporting the oil they carry another way.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette responded to the report by calling for a timetable for shutting down the underwater pipe segments.