Judge dismisses Michigan’s effort to move Line 5 lawsuit to state court

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Judge says a lawsuit challenging the state’s permission to leave the oil and gas pipeline in the wilds of Michigan is a matter of federal law

The state of Michigan’s attempt to move a lawsuit challenging its permission to leave the underwater section of Enbridge Line 5 largely intact near the Great Lakes out of federal court to a state court appears doomed, after an Indiana judge on Wednesday dismissed the case.

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It was unclear when a judge in a different Michigan county might rule.

In 2016, Michigan announced that the pipeline, which runs through the Kalamazoo river watershed, was “insurmountably defective” and ordered it moved, setting off a long legal battle that continues today.

The 645-mile pipeline carried 760,000 barrels per day of western Canadian oil from Sarnia, Ontario, to Chicago before Enbridge cut it in half in 2010 to try to stave off a highly publicized explosion on Lake Michigan. The company has been forced to deal with waves of growing pressure from citizens and environmental groups who want the entire Michigan section removed.

The Michigan attorney general, Dana Nessel, has argued that federal law, which controls coastal navigation and state land, applied to the pipeline. But the judge’s ruling threw that argument off the rails.

“The state’s appeal of this court’s opinion should be dismissed without further action,” U.S. district judge John Corbett O’Meara wrote in his ruling in northern Indiana.

The Appellate Court for northern Indiana released its own ruling on the matter on Wednesday morning, agreeing with O’Meara’s original ruling last year.

Enbridge representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

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Enbridge, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the line’s upkeep and replacement, maintained that the work is properly authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In her ruling, Nessel said O’Meara’s ruling was “well reasoned” and directed him to consider options. She also noted that Enbridge can file a petition for reconsideration.

Michigan has argued that the massive oil and gas pipeline poses an “unacceptable risk” to the Great Lakes.

The project would excavate part of a shoreline outcrop and install an underwater pipeline, with no fix solution proposed. Opponents say there’s evidence the pipeline was corroded beneath the Kalamazoo river, and state officials now suspect it has broken, which would have dumped crude into one of the Great Lakes’ most populous ecosystems.

Enbridge says the pipeline is safe and has argued that Michigan’s order amounts to a “backdoor” attempt to raise taxes and other costs on the project.

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