by Bruce Walker
As many predicted, pipeline company Enbridge filed to remove a lawsuit to shut down Line 5 from state court to keep it in front of a federal judge.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have been attempting to revoke the easement that allows Line 5 to transport approximately 540,000 gallons of hydrocarbons across a five-mile stretch of the Straits of Mackinac. The easement has been honored since 1953.
“Enbridge today removed to federal court the lawsuit originally filed by Attorney General Nessel in Ingham County Circuit Court in June 2019,” reads a statement from Ryan Duffy, Enbridge strategist, corporate communications and media relations. “That lawsuit seeks to force the shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline at the Straits of Mackinac. The removal of the Attorney General’s case to federal court follows a November 16, 2021 ruling which held that the similar (and now dismissed) lawsuit brought by the Governor to force Line 5’s shutdown raised important federal issues and should be heard in federal court.”
Enbridge argues the case belongs in federal court for several reasons, including a 1977 international treaty between Canada and the United States. According to a jurisdictional order rendered in November by U.S. Federal Judge Janet Neff, the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty was invoked by the Canadian government.
“[T]he federal issues in this case are under consideration at the highest levels of this country’s government,” Neff noted in her order.
“The consolidation in the same court of the Attorney General’s case with Enbridge’s pending federal case challenging the right of State officials to close Line 5 will allow a single judge to rule on the closely related issues in these two cases. Enbridge looks forward to a prompt resolution of both cases,” Duffy said.
The Whitmer administration has been attempting to close the dual Line 5 pipelines, citing environmental concerns. For its part, Enbridge has announced plans to remove the pipeline from the lakebed of the Straits by placing them in a $500 million tunnel the company would build at its own expense 100 feet beneath the floor of the lake. The Canadian-owned company received permission to build the tunnel during the final days of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.
Several groups have warned that closing the pipeline would eliminate high-paying construction jobs, result in a fuel shortage, and drive up prices for businesses and homeowners. Late last month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted wrote a letter to President Joe Biden and Whitmer to keep the pipeline open, saying its closure would threaten 20,000 Ohio jobs and cause significant issues in supply chains, unemployment and fuel costs.
The Consumer Energy Alliance estimates a Line 5 closure would create a $20.8 billion loss of economic activity and an $8.3 billion reduction in combined gross state product, cost 33,755 jobs, eliminate $2.36 billion in wages and lower tax revenues by $265.7 million.
Although Enbridge declared last month it would file to keep the case in federal court, Nessel is crying foul. “This is an outrageous maneuver by Enbridge that flies in the face of federal law, which clearly establishes the process to remove a suit must be initiated within 30 days,” Nessel said in a statement. “We will address this flagrant attempt to undermine that process in court and remain fervently committed to our belief that the fate of Michigan’s greatest natural resources should be determined in a Michigan court. Our residents deserve more than a company who seeks to profit from our natural resources while at the same time attempting to evade legal review of their actions by our state’s courts.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Enbridge Pipeline” by Lawrence Welsh.