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After Wisconsin Line 5 ruling, Michigan business leaders say build the tunnel

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(The Center Square) – A federal court on Friday ordered Canadian oil company Enbridge to cease the flow of oil and decommission within three years the segment of its Line 5 pipeline in Wisconsin trespassing on the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

Concurrently, Michigan’s business leaders urged the United States Army Corps of Engineers to give the approval needed for the construction of the Great Lakes Tunnel.

In Wisconsin, Enbridge is working to obtain permits to reroute a portion of Line 5 away from the Bad River.

“The Band appreciates the Court putting an end to Enbridge’s flagrant trespass and disregard for our rights. Tribal sovereignty prevailed over corporate profits,” Chairman of the Bad River Band Mike Wiggins said in a statement. “But the Band’s victory is not a cause for unqualified celebration. We are under no illusion that Enbridge will do the right thing. We expect them to fight this order with all of their corporate might.”

Last September, Judge William Conley of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Wisconsin held that Enbridge is trespassing on the Band’s reservation. Last week, he held that the Line 5 pipeline poses a public nuisance to the Bad River and Lake Superior.

Conley ordered Enbridge off the Band’s sovereign lands and to pay the Band $5 million.

Line 5 has been pumping about 540,000 gallons of hydrocarbons daily across the lakebed of Lake Michigan since 1953. Environmental activists worry the pipeline could leak into Lake Michigan and damage the environment. Enbridge has planned a $500 million project to remove the current pipeline to a tunnel constructed 100 feet below the surface of the lake bed. Enbridge’s Great Lakes Tunnel Project was approved during the administration of former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Band welcomed part of the ruling.

“The three-year timeline leaves the Bad River vulnerable to catastrophe, and there is no warrant for allowing Enbridge’s trespass to continue for that long,” Attorney Erick Arnold said in a statement. “And while the Band’s motivations have never been about money, such a small award for a decade-long trespass during which Enbridge earned over a billion dollars in net profits from Line 5 will not sufficiently deter trespassers like Enbridge, but will instead create an incentive for corporations to violate the sovereignty of the Band.”

In 2019, the Bad River Band sued Enbridge to shut down and remove Line 5 from its reservation. In 2013, easements the United States granted in the 1950s to allow Line 5’s construction on the Band’s reservation expired, and the Band declined to renew them.

Michigan business leaders urged regulators to approve the tunnel.

“Line 5 is a critical part of Michigan’s energy infrastructure, and the Great Lakes Tunnel is an essential part of our energy future,” Mike Alaimo, director of environmental and energy affairs for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. “Jobs, business and manufacturing are on the line in Michigan, and they depend on permits. Now’s the time to end the delays and deliver permits so we can protect Michigan jobs, protect the Great Lakes, and break ground on the Great Lakes Tunnel.”

Since 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have campaigned on shutting down Line 5.

If successful, moving the petroleum products would transition from pipelines to tanker truck and rail transportation, according to experts interviewed by The Center Square. This transition would likely drive up prices for consumers, increase carbon emissions, and prove less safe, they say.

Replacing the pipeline’s volume would require about 2,150 trucks crossing the Mackinac Bridge daily for Michigan’s fuel usage.

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