The legal battle between Enbridge and the state of Michigan is adding another chapter following a new lawsuit against the energy company's contentious Line 5.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s Department of Natural Resources, lodged the complaint in Ingham County Circuit Court on Nov. 13. They’re seeking the termination of a 1953 easement that allows Enbridge to operate a pair of pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The pipelines are part of the Line 5 network that runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia.
The lawsuit cites “Enbridge’s repeated violations of the easement” as grounds for termination, adding that “Line 5 is a grave and unreasonable risk to the state’s residents and natural resources.” The state wants the pipeline shut down by May 12, 2021.
“I commend Gov. Whitmer and Director Eichinger [Natural Resources director Dan Eichinger] for their forceful actions today to address the grave threat posed by Enbridge’s unlawful operation of its pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac,” says Nessel.
Nessel also spoke to another current lawsuit filed in 2019 which is looking to shut down Line 5 completely.
“The arguments they are making to revoke the easement based on the public trust align with those outlined in my office’s pending lawsuit… which seeks to shut down Line 5 to avoid an environmental catastrophe,” Nessel says.
Enbridge responded with confidence that the new lawsuit wouldn’t succeed. “This notice and the report from Michigan Department of Natural Resources are a distraction from the fundamental facts,” says Vern Yu, executive president and president of Enbridge's Liquids Pipelines division.
“Line 5 remains safe, as envisioned by the 1953 Easement, and as recently validated by our federal safety regulator,” says Yu.
Enbridge scored a court victory in Ingham County back in September after an investigation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that a damaged underwater anchor had not compromised the East pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac. The court gave permission for the pipeline – which had been ordered closed – to resume flowing.
“Line 5 is an essential source of energy for not only Michigan but for the entire region including Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and Quebec,” Enbridge says in a statement. “Any disruption would have devastating consequences.”
Sarnia refineries are some of the largest producers of propane and gas for Eastern Canada. Line 5 serves as one of the main delivery systems for this production.
Enbridge is hoping to start work on a new tunnel to house the dual pipelines running between the two Great Lakes, but that potential project is also stuck in a legal dispute with the state of Michigan.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent