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Sides present arguments on Line 5 jurisdiction at 6th Circuit

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(The Center Square) – Since 2019, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Enbridge Energy have fought over the Line 5 pipeline in court.

Nessel’s office argued Thursday before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the jurisdiction of the pipeline pumping about 540,000 gallons of hydrocarbons daily across the lakebed of Lake Michigan since 1953 belongs in state courts.

Justices Richard Griffin, Amul Thapar, and John Nalbandian heard from both sides.

Enbridge’s attorney, Alice Loughran, says the case should remain in federal court because federal issues dominate the case, such as the 1977 United States-Canada transnational pipelines treaty, the federal Submerged Lands Act, and the extensive federal regulation of oil pipelines.

Assistant Attorney General Dan Bock says Enbridge waited too long to change jurisdictions and that the federal court misapplied the law when it moved the case to federal court.

The judges seemed divided on whether the federal Submerged Lands Act or the pipelines treaty with Canada provides a sufficient basis for the exercise of federal court jurisdiction.

No timeline for a ruling was given.

The pipeline supplies 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula and 55% of Michigan’s statewide propane needs to heat homes, businesses and fuel vehicles.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Nessel say they fear a spill similar to the 2010 oil spill near the Kalamazoo River – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

“The threat of rupturing the aging pipeline and causing a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes is a clear and ever-present danger,” said Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of For the Love of Water. “The largest fresh surface water system in the world is at great risk.”

Nessel initially filed the lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court, saying the pipeline violated the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. A court moved the lawsuit to federal court in 2021, and Canada invoked the 1977 treaty to stop Line 5’s shutdown.

Nessel is trying to reverse the federal jurisdiction decision, saying Michigan has a sovereign responsibility to protect the Great Lakes.

Michigan Freedom Fund Advocacy Director Zach Rudat says shutting down Line 5 would spike fuel prices.

“Nessel is wasting time and resources to try and shut down Line 5, which would drastically diminish our region’s fuel supply when Michigan prices are already spiking at $3.65 a gallon,” Rudat said in a statement. “Household income gains can’t keep up with inflation, property taxes are on the rise, the income tax is on the rise, and drivers are facing record prices at the pump.”

Experts interviewed by The Center Square say shutting down the pipeline would shift oil transportation to more costly and less efficient methods, like by rail or truck, that could lead to higher emission output relative to using the Line 5 pipeline.

The Center Square previously reported it would take 2,150 trucks crossing the Mackinac Bridge daily to replace the pipeline’s volume.

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