Judge refuses to close Line 5, but says Enbridge is encroaching on a Native American reservation


A Native American tribe and Enbridge Energy both claim success after a federal judge’s ruling. Neither side got everything they wanted.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa wants Line 5 closed and off its reservation in Wisconsin after the tribe revoked the easement for the pipeline. He filed a lawsuit to have this done in 2019.

Enbridge Energy has a proposal to reroute the oil and liquid natural gas pipeline around the reserve and is working through the regulatory process. He says a 1992 agreement with the Bad River Band gives him until 2043 to complete the 41-mile rerouting. In the meantime, Line 5 continues to transport product through the pipeline segment on the reservation.

The judge says Enbridge is trespassing and some sort of compensation is due to the tribe.

“What the judge said is that line 5 must be out of the reservation. It’s a matter of when and it’s a matter of compensation,” said Mike Shriberg, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Center.

The method of calculating compensation remains to be determined. It could be part of the years of profits.

“And the judge also said that Enbridge’s arguments against the tribe’s ability to recover those damages, to recover the benefits, were cited, ‘deaf and without merit,'” Shriberg added.

In a statement, Enbridge Energy said, among other things:

“The importance of Line 5 was confirmed today by the Federal Court Judge’s ruling ensuring that the pipeline will continue to provide power to millions of people in the Upper Midwest as Enbridge moves from forward with the relocation of Line 5 around the Bad River Reserve.

The court further recognized that the Line 5 relocation project must move forward in a timely manner.

Compensation and timing of completion of the rerouted section of pipeline will be decided at a later date. The judge said he was inclined to give Enbridge five years to complete construction of the Line 5 segment.

Part of the reason the judge was reluctant to shut down Line 5 is that Canada invoked a 1977 pipeline transit treaty it made with the United States. This is the second time that Canada has invoked the treaty. The first time was after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer revoked the easement of the Line 5 segment sitting on the lake bed of the Strait of Maciknac. She said the risk of pipeline damage and oil leaking into the Great Lakes was too great.

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