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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana weigh in on Enbridge's Line 5 lawsuit

work being done under Mackinac bridge
Enbridge
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Attorneys general from Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana are requesting amici status in Enbridge Energy's case against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's revocation of the easement for the Line 5 pipeline, which carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac.

In November of 2020, the governor announced she would revoke and terminate Enbridge's easement for the dual pipeline, and gave the company until May 12, 2021 to cease operations. Enbridge then asked a federal judge to dismiss the demand.

In the request, Ohio attorney General Dave Yost wrote that there are "few alternatives" to the crude oil Line 5 brings to Ohio, and that it would hurt Ohio and other regions in the Midwest financially were the pipeline to shut down. That economic damage, he writes, would primarily impact oil refineries in Ohio and those employed there, as well as the transportation of jet fuel to airports around the Midwest.

In November, Whitmer said she was revoking the easements for "violation of the public trust doctrine, given the unreasonable risk that continued operation of the dual pipelines poses to the Great Lakes," as well as Enbridge's "persistent and incurable violations of the easement’s terms and conditions."

Beth Wallace is the manager of conservation partnerships for the National Wildlife Foundation. She says the governor's directive was within the bounds of protecting the resources of the state of Michigan, and that Gov. Whitmer has done the right thing in giving six months notice.

"We're already hearing that the industry is adjusting. Some of the claims that are being made, it's really misleading to imply that there's only one supply chain that is feeding these refineries, and it's important that any industry in this case has multiple sources for supply." She adds, "I would go as far as to say as they're being disingenous in their agruments about supply chains, and that they have the potential to receive product from other sources."

Wallace says it's also disingenous for these states to interject in a conversation that's been going on for seven years.

"The supply is there, the infrastructure can easily be built out to accommodate for a Line 5 shutdown, and that industry has their own obligations to ensure that they have multiple sources. Whether it's a shutdown like we're seeing in May, or a shutdown because of a rupture on the line. Those are business practices that should be in place, and not left up to the governor of the state of Michigan to push those industries to do so."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office says it will file a written response with the court.

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy provided the following statement:

"We appreciate the support from the Attorneys General of Ohio and Louisiana. This underscores that efforts by Michigan’s Governor to shutdown Line 5 have severe implications beyond Michigan’s border. This is consistent with the argument Enbridge is putting forward to have the case heard in federal court. If Michigan were allowed to act on its own, it would impede interstate commerce, thwart the authority of the federal regulator (PHMSA) and violate an international treaty that the Unites States has with Canada (Transit Pipelines Treaty of 1977)."

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

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