Opposition to Enbridge Line 5 Shows No Signs of Waning
Posted on: August 7, 2019

Last time Infosuperior covered updates on Enbridge Energy’s Line 5, then Governor Rick Snyder had made a deal with Enbridge to allow them continued use of the aging pipeline that runs through the Straights of Mackinac. Plans were approved to work towards a replacement for the pipeline by building an underground tunnel. Gretchen Whitmer, who was slated to take Snyder’s place, had expressed support for the decommissioning of Line 5.

Upon her election as Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer immediately got to work on taking action against the pipeline. Whitmer requested Attorney General Dana Nessel’s opinion on the legalities of the deal made between Enbridge and Snyder. In an official statement on March 28, 2019, Nessel described specific provisions of the agreement as unconstitutional. On the same day, Governor Whitmer ordered that all work on the Enbridge Tunnel cease.

On June 6, 2019, Enbridge responded to the attorney General’s opinion by filing legal action with the Michigan Court of Claims in order “to establish the constitutional validity and enforceability of previous agreements signed between the Company and the State of Michigan.” By June 27, 2019, the Attorney General responded with legal action of her own. AG Dana Nessel maintained her position and filed legal action in an effort to permanently decommission Line 5. In her lawsuit, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, she argues that the the terms of 1953 easement that allows Enbridge Energy to operate Line 5 in the Straights of Mackinac have been violated by the changes made in the deal with Snyder. AG Nessel also filed a motion to dismiss Enbridges lawsuit. Meanwhile Governor Whitmer created the UP Energy Task Force to explore alternatives to provide energy to Michigan residence in the event that Line 5 is shut down. Despite these efforts, on July 11, 2019, Enbridge announced plans to begin geologic sampling to finalize the designs of the tunnel.

Mashkiiziibi (Bad River) Band also filed suit against Enbridge Energy over Line 5 on July 23, 2019. Line 5 passes through 12 miles of sensitive habitat in the Bad River Reservation. Easements allowing the pipeline to operate there expired in 2013 and the line is in danger of being exposed due to shoreline erosion, which would put stresses on the pipeline that were not accounted for when it was created. Due to the threat the pipeline poses to the environment and their treaty protected rights, Mashkiiziibi Band resolved in 2017 not to consent to a new easement. The Band is calling for the decommissioning and removal of the pipeline from the Bad River watershed.

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