Line 5: Michigan Drops Pipeline Lawsuit, Reorients in Separate Case | The Canadian News

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer dropped a lawsuit Tuesday aimed at shutting down a pipeline that runs through part of the Great Lakes, but said the state would continue a separate case with the same goal.

Whitmer’s legal maneuver followed a federal judge’s decision earlier this month to retain jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by Enbridge after the state revoked an easement allowing Line 5 to cross the Straits of Mackinac.

It further complicates a 68-year-long dispute over the pipeline, increasing the possibility of simultaneous federal and state court cases along with political negotiations involving Michigan, the Biden administration and the Canadian government.

READ MORE: Planning for Canada-U.S. Treaty talks on Line 5 ‘is underway,’ says Ottawa

Enbridge contends that Line 5 is a federal matter, raising questions about US law and trade between the two nations. The Whitmer administration says the key issue is Michigan’s right to protect the Great Lakes, many of which are within its boundaries.

The story continues below the ad.

“No oil company should be able to dictate to the people of Michigan what happens in our sovereign lands and waters,” said Dan Eichinger, director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Line 5 moves 87 million liters per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, Ontario, passing through northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. It is part of a network that transports Canadian crude to refineries in both nations.

A 6.4-kilometer section is divided into two pipes that run along the bottom of the Strait of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron connect.

Whitmer revoked the 1953 easement for that segment last year, agreeing with indigenous groups, environmentalists and tourism companies that there is a risk of a devastating spill. State Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a state lawsuit to enforce Whitmer’s action.

Calgary-based Enbridge responded with a federal lawsuit. The company says the line is secure and rejected the Democratic governor’s shutdown deadline of May 12.

The Canadian government supports Enbridge and has invoked a 1977 treaty that prohibits official actions in any of the countries that prevent “cross-border transmission of hydrocarbons.” Both sides are pressuring the Biden administration to take a position. The White House has promised talks with Canada.

READ MORE: Canada invokes the 1977 pipeline treaty with the US to prevent the closure of Line 5

Nessel initially sued in state court for the closure of Line 5 in 2019, arguing that its continued operation violates the public trust and Michigan Environmental Protection Law. The judge, James Jamo, has delayed the action due to subsequent litigation over the revocation of Whitmer’s easement in November 2020.

The story continues below the ad.

Whitmer’s office said his retirement from the easement remains in effect. But his team hopes that withdrawing the lawsuit to enforce it will allow Nessel’s separate 2019 case to move forward, even as Enbridge’s lawsuit remains in federal court.

Whitmer said the strategy was intended to “help us stay focused on getting the dual Line 5 pipelines out of the water as quickly as possible.”

Enbridge will continue his court case “to assert federal jurisdiction” over the line, spokesman Ryan Duffy said.

Environmental and indigenous groups supported Whitmer’s move, saying state courts should determine the fate of Line 5.

“We’ve had enough of this Canadian corporation and the Canadian government itself joining Michigan’s efforts to protect our Great Lakes,” said Mike Shriberg, regional director of the National Wildlife Federation.

The legal battle is separate from Enbridge’s plan to run a replacement section of Line 5 through a tunnel to be drilled under the Strait of Mackinac. The company will continue to seek state and federal permits for that project “so that it can continue to serve the region safely,” Duffy said.

Indigenous groups in the area oppose Line 5 and the tunnel project, saying both violate their fishing rights under the treaty.

“I hope the governor’s decision is a downsizing and not a withdrawal,” said Aaron Payment, Sault Ste. Marie president of the Chippewa Indians.

© 2021 The Associated Press

Leave a Comment