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Michigan judge allows western portion of Line 5 to reopen, keeps eastern leg closed

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

A Michigan judge ruled Wednesday to keep a temporary restraining order against Enbridge in place while allowing the company to resume operations through the western leg of the Line 5 twin pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. 

Ingham County Circuit Judge James Jamo's order stops short of granting state Attorney General Dana Nessel’s request for an injunction against the company, instead extending and modifying the existing restraining order. 

Enbridge will be allowed to restart the western leg of Line 5 in order to conduct safety testing. After the testing concludes the company can resume normal operation “subject to the results.”

The order keeps the eastern portion of the line closed pending both a final court ruling and a determination from federal regulators about the safety of the pipeline. 

David Holtz is with the environmental group Oil and Water Don’t Mix, which advocates for a shutdown of the pipeline. 

“I think the attorney general got what she needed,” he said, “which is a delay in keeping those pipelines shut down so they don’t pose a threat to the Great Lakes. That’s her primary concern.”

But, Holtz said the order dodges one of the broader questions around the case: whether the state has a right to regulate the pipeline at all.  That determination may come when the judge issues his final ruling in the case.

“He sort of kicked the can down the road on that,” Holtz said. “But I think we’ll see where he lands on that when he issues his final order.”

In a written statement Attorney General Dana Nessel said the ruling would allow the state to get the information it needs to evaluate “the threat this pipeline poses to our environment if left to operate in its current state.”

A spokesperson for Enbridge Energy said in a statement that they anticipate the operation of the western leg of the pipeline “will soon return to normal.”

And, the statement continued, Enbridge remains willing to work with the state to address “issues of concern about the safety of Line 5 and its ultimate replacement with The Great Lakes Tunnel, that will contain a new section of the pipeline.”

Enbridge Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

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