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Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline case with Michigan to be heard in federal court, judge rules

Judge dismisses Michigan’s motion to have the case removed to state court.

CALGARY — A legal battle between Canadian company Enbridge Inc. and the U.S. state of Michigan over Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline will be heard in federal court, a judge ruled on Tuesday, dismissing Michigan’s motion to have the case sent back to state court.
Line 5 ships 540,000 barrels per day of crude and refined products from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ont., via the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes.Shutting Line 5 will be a ‘disaster’, encourage imports from OPECMichigan ordered the pipeline to shut down by May over concerns an underwater section could leak into the Great Lakes, an order that Enbridge has ignored.

Last month the Canadian government, which intervened in the court case in support of Enbridge, invoked a 1977 pipeline treaty with the United States to trigger negotiations between Ottawa and Washington over the pipeline’s fate.

Judge Janet Neff of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan said the case should remain in federal court.

The decision to keep the case in federal court is a plus for Enbridge, which is arguing the state of Michigan has no authority to shut down the pipeline, said Kristen van de Biezenbos, a law professor at the University of Calgary.

“Now that Canada has invoked the treaty, the fact that the issues transcend Michigan state law is pretty clear,” van de Biezenbos said.

Enbridge and the Michigan attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Enbridge Inc. won the latest round in its long-running battle to stop Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from shutting the Line 5 oil pipeline that crosses the Great Lakes after a judge ruled that the case should remain in federal court.

Judge Janet Neff of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division rejected the state’s effort to send the case over Whitmer’s order for Enbridge to shut down Line 5 to state court. The case “is properly in federal court,” according to the ruling.

Whitmer has ordered Enbridge to shut Line 5, arguing that its a threat to the Great Lakes because it presents an environmental threat where it crosses through Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron connect. Enbridge has refused to comply, arguing that the governor is exceeding her authority and federal jurisdiction applies.

The company says it is seeking to make the pipeline safer by building a tunnel under the waterway to house the line.

“Enbridge is pleased with the decision and agrees that this case belongs in federal court as we’ve asserted all along,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Line 5 supplies propane to Michigan homes, as well as light crude refineries in the U.S. Midwest and Ontario.

The Canadian government has backed Enbridge in its fight to keep the line in operation and recently invoked provisions of a 1970s treaty to defend the line’s operation, elevating the dispute to an international level. Last week, the Biden administration pledged to discuss the Line 5 issue with Canada, stressing the U.S. isn’t considering a shutdown of the conduit that the state’s governor wants shuttered.

Enbridge Inc said it will continue to ship crude through its Line 5 pipeline that crosses the Great Lakes despite Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmers order to shut the conduit