Michigan judge rejects attorney general’s effort to move Line 5 case to state court

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Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. scored a significant victory in the Line 5 dispute on Tuesday as a judge in Michigan rejected the state attorney general’s bid to take the dispute over a cross-border pipeline out of federal court.

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US Circuit Court Judge Janet Neff issued the long-awaited written decision late Tuesday, agreeing with Enbridge that its dispute with Michigan Gov. involved “substantial federal issues” in Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

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The decision settles one of the central questions in the case – whether a federal court is the appropriate forum for this – and gives additional weight to Enbridge’s argument that the standoff is a significant bilateral issue with consequences for both countries, and Canada and Canada. The solution is for the U.S.

In his decision, Neff said he was satisfied that the Line 5 case involved a “substantial federal question” and that the hearing would not undermine Michigan’s right to address state issues.

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“The Court is of the view that the Enbridge parties bear their burden to demonstrate that this action was rightly omitted [from state court]”, she writes.

“The scope of property rights that state parties claim changes the interpretation of federal law that burdens those rights as necessary, and this court is an appropriate forum for deciding these contentious and substantial federal issues.”

Reigns a crucial victory for Enbridge

The ruling marks a significant victory for Enbridge, which for the first time sought to move the state to federal court, the state Michigan state has been contesting for the past 12 months.

“Enbridge is pleased with this decision and agrees that the matter is in federal court, as we have always said,” the company said in a statement. “This is a federal and international law issue and the federal court will now handle the matter.”

A spokesman for the Michigan Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to media inquiries Tuesday.

NEF also agreed to accept two recent supplementary briefs filed by the federal government in Ottawa that outlined Canada’s decision to invoke a 1977 treaty designed to ensure the uninterrupted flow of energy across the border between the two countries. details were given.

Those briefs make it clear that while plans for bilateral treaty talks on Line 5 are “well underway,” formal talks are expected to begin “soon”. If those negotiations fail, the next step in the dispute resolution process will be binding international arbitration.

The decision comes at an opportune time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose agenda will be Line 5, when he meets with US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador at the White House on Thursday.

A pause

Canada opted to formally invoke the 44-year-old treaty last month after Neff on Tuesday ended talks with a court-appointed arbitrator in what it described as “stagnation”.

Last November, Whitmer canceled a 1953 easing that allowed Line 5 to operate and ordered it to be closed for fear of an environmental disaster in the ecologically sensitive Strait of Mackinac, the waterway where pipelines form the Great Lakes. crosses over.

The White House has acknowledged that the US Army Corps of Engineers is conducting an environmental assessment on Enbridge’s plans to enclose the underwater portion of the twin pipeline in a deep, fortified underground tunnel.

But he has diligently avoided judging by efforts by Whitmer, by all accounts a close ally of Biden, who was once on the shortlist to be his vice president, to veer off the line altogether.

Line 5 carries up to 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids across the Canada–US border and the Great Lakes via a twin line running along the lake under the strait connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Proponents for several Midwestern states, including Michigan and Ohio, call it an important and essential source of energy – propane in particular. It is also a major source of feedstock for refineries on the northern side of the border, including the supply of jet fuel to some of Canada’s busiest airports.

Critics want the line closed, arguing that it is only a matter of time before an anchor strike or technical failure triggers a catastrophic environmental disaster in one of the region’s most important watersheds.

They also point to a recent pipeline rupture off the coast of California, believed to be the result of an anchor strike, as an example of the fate that could fall on the strait if Line 5 continues to operate.

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