(The Center Square) – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked a federal court to exercise its authority to shutter the Line 5 pipeline in Wisconsin, asserting it poses an imminent threat to the state’s Bad River.
The Friend of the Court brief was filed Wednesday at the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin in support of an emergency motion filed last week by the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians of the Bad River Reservation.
According to the news release from Nessel’s office, extreme erosion of the Bad River’s banks poses a threat of rupturing the pipeline on the reservation. The release also notes a court determined last year that the pipeline’s presence on the reservation constitutes a trespass, although it didn’t order an immediate shutdown or rerouting of the portion of Line 5.
The brief says in part, “The alarming erosion at the Bad River meander poses an imminent threat of irreparable harm to Lake Superior which far outweighs the risk of impacts associated with a shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline.”
Enbridge does not agree.
"Line 5 continues to operate normally and safely across the Bad River Reservation," Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy told The Center Square. "Enbridge’s filing asks Judge Conley to reject the Bad River Band’s request to shut down Line 5 because the pipe is not exposed, it is completely covered by multiple feet of soil; there is no pipeline safety issue, no emergency, and no reason to shut down Line 5."
He said it was in compliance with all applicable codes.
According to Duffy, Enbridge has proposed numerous plans to reinforce the riverbank and stop erosion at what’s known as the Meander on the Bad River. The company has not been given approval or timeframe by the Bad River Band.
Enbridge, the Canadian company that owns and operates Line 5, was granted an easement with Michigan in 1954 for the portion of Line 5 that traverses the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac.
For its part, Enbridge insists authority of the pipeline is governed by a 1977 international treaty between Canada and the United States.
Duffy said Enbridge submitted federal and state permit applications in 2020 to reroute the Bad River Band Reservation segment of Line 5, and has acquired the necessary landowner permissions. Once all the permits are received, he said, Enbridge is prepared to begin the relocation project.
Plains Midstream Canada, a company that connects petroleum producers and refineries, has made declarations in support of Enbridge's opposition. Plains Midstream said shutting down Line 5 would force the closure of their facilities at Rapid River and Superior and would have a “devastating impact on consumers and propane prices in the region.”
Duffy said other refineries state they would either face the same fate or have to severely curtail operations, and consumers would face shortages and price spikes.