Enbridge seeks federal jurisdiction in pipeline dispute

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – Enbridge Energy on Wednesday asked to refer a Michigan lawsuit seeking the closure of an oil pipeline that runs under a canal connecting two of the Great Lakes to federal court.

The Canadian company has argued that a 2019 lawsuit filed in state court by Attorney General Dana Nessel should be heard by U.S. District Judge Janet Neff, who retained jurisdiction over a case last month. separate initiated by the State of Michigan to stop the flow of oil through Enbridge Line 5.

“We hope the Attorney General agrees that it makes sense for his case and that of Enbridge to go to federal court rather than risk duplication of litigation and inconsistent results,” spokesman Ryan Duffy said. .

But Nessel said the “outrageous maneuver” violates a federal rule that the transfer of cases from one court to another must be completed within 30 days of the initial filing.

“We will address this blatant attempt to undermine this process in court and remain firmly committed to our belief that the fate of Michigan’s greatest natural resources should be determined by a Michigan court,” Nessel said.

The Enbridge bet was the latest twist in a multi-year political and legal battle over Line 5, which carries approximately 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of crude oil and natural gas liquids daily between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, Ontario.

It crosses northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is part of an Enbridge system transporting Canadian crude to refineries in both countries.

A 4 mile (6.4 kilometer) section is divided into two pipes that cross the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Environmental groups and indigenous tribes say they risk a spill that could pollute hundreds of miles of water and shoreline, while Enbridge says they have never fled and are in good condition.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge in November 2020 to shut down the 68-year-old line, revoking a 1953 state easement allowing its placement in the Strait. The Calgary, Alta.-Based company filed a federal lawsuit and ignored the Democratic governor’s May 12 shutdown deadline.

Nessel, who had brought an action in state court to enforce Whitmer’s order, urged Neff to send the case back to state court. But the judge ruled last month that he was “properly in federal court” because it raises questions “under consideration at the highest levels of government in this country.”

They include Canada’s invocation of a 1977 treaty with the United States regarding oil shipments between the two countries and federal pipeline safety regulations, Neff said.

Whitmer and Nessel responded this month by dropping their 2020 lawsuit and refocusing their attention on the 2019 case filed in Ingham County, Michigan. He argues that the presence of Line 5 in the Strait violates public confidence and the state’s environmental law.

Judge James Jamo has scheduled a status hearing for January 7.

Enbridge said in a statement that the two cases are similar and come under the same court. The company said federal law allows a defendant to transfer a case from state to federal court within 30 days of receiving “solid and unambiguous information” that such action could be taken.

Neff’s Nov. 16 decision “provided the solid information on which to rely here, and the case has now been withdrawn for further proceedings in Federal District Court,” the company said.

Nessel challenged Enbridge’s interpretation of the rules.

“Our residents deserve more than a business that seeks to profit from our natural resources while trying to evade legal scrutiny of their actions by our state’s courts,” she said.


This story was first published on December 15, 2021. It was updated on December 17, 2021 to correct the fact that the separate case was initiated by the State of Michigan.

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