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Enbridge asking federal court to intervene in state push to revoke Line 5 easement

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Enbridge has taken its legal battle to federal court to keep oil flowing through its dualpipelinesin the Straits of Mackinac. 

The suit is intended to counter an effort by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) to revoke the company’s easement to operate the pipeline. The easement dates back to 1953.

Earlier this month, Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources informed Enbridge of plans to revoke the easement, citing numerous issues. At the same time, the state also filed a motion in Ingham County Circuit Court to enforce the revocation of the easement.

The federal lawsuit filed this week by Enbridge seeks to move the case from the state to federal court.

In its lawsuit, the company contends federal regulators should take precedence in this case, arguing Line 5’s operation amounts to interstate commerce, serving the energy needs of multiple states and parts of Canada.

In a written statement, Enbridge says the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), is Enbridge’s safety regulator, not the State of Michigan. Enbridge claims the state’s effort to “terminate and revoke” the easement is improper and unlawful.

“In the face of continued roadblocks by this Administration it’s time for the State to stop playing politics with the energy needs and anxieties of U.S. and Canadian consumers and businesses that depend on Line 5,” said Vern Yu, Executive Vice President and President, Liquids Pipelines. “It is concerning to see the current Administration is willing to compromise these needs.”

The dual pipeline is controversial: supported by those who see it as essential to meeting the region’s energy and economic needs; opposed by environmental groups who see the pipeline as a threat to the Great Lakes.

“Today’s lawsuit filed by Enbridge brazenly defies the people of Michigan and their right to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill,” says Tiffany Brown, Governor Whitmer’s spokeswoman.

Enbridge reached a deal with Michigan's former Governor Rick Snyder to work toward construction of a proposed tunnel to contain the aging pipeline.   

Another Enbridge pipeline, Line 6B, ruptured in Michigan in 2010. The pipeline leaked roughly a million gallons of crude oil which eventually fouled part of the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup took years and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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