DOJ: Enbridge has trespassed for more than 10 years



(The Center Square) – The Department of Justice has weighed into the Line 5 pipeline dispute, saying Enbridge Energy has been trespassing for more than 10 years.

The 70-page brief filed in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals says about 12 miles of Line 5 crosses the Reservation of the Bad River Band in northern Wisconsin.

The 645-mile pipeline stretching from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Canada, pumps about 540,000 gallons of hydrocarbons daily across the lakebed of Lake Michigan.

The pipeline transports light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids that heat homes, businesses, and fuel vehicles. Line 5 supplies 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula, and 55% of Michigan’s statewide propane needs.

“The operation of that pipeline has implications for the trade and diplomatic relationships between the two countries, as well as economic and energy-supply implications,” the brief says.

The DOJ said the “district court failed to adequately assess all of the public interests in crafting its injunctive relief or to adequately weigh them in light of all the circumstances and equities.”

The brief said the district court’s “extreme discounting” of Enbridge’s avoided costs “was not justified…”

Enbridge said it’s working on an “amicable” solution to recognize the sovereign land and provide “vital energy that millions of people rely on every day throughout the Great Lakes region.”

“Shutting down Line 5 before relocating the pipeline outside of the Reservation would violate the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty between the U.S. and Canada,” Enbridge said in a statement. “The Government of Canada has made its position clear. Such a shutdown is not in the public interest as it would negatively impact businesses, communities and millions of individuals who depend on Line 5 for energy in both the U.S. and Canada.”

The company said it’s working to relocate the Line 5 pipeline off the Bad River Reservation. Enbridge said in 1992, the Bad River Band and Enbridge signed an agreement that the pipeline could remain on the Reservation through 2043.

“Enbridge does not intend for operations to remain on the Bad River Reservation a moment longer than it takes to relocate the segment of Line 5 around the Reservation,” the company said.

Chairman Robert Blanchard of the Bad River Band welcomed part of the ruling but said they are “disappointed” the U.S. hasn’t called for an “immediate end” to the ongoing trespass.

“We are grateful the US urged the court not to let Enbridge profit from its unlawful trespass,” Blanchard said in a statement. “But we are disappointed that the US has not unequivocally called for an immediate end to Enbridge’s ongoing trespass, as justice and the law demand.”

Blanchard said they disagreed with “the government’s 11th-hour assertion that the courts do not also have the authority to protect our Reservation against an imminent rupture of the pipeline.”

“Line 5 remains an urgent threat, not only to the Band’s fishing and gathering, but also to the health and welfare of our people and our neighbors,” Blanchard said.

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