Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) on Wednesday filed a Friend of the Court brief in support of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ efforts to remove the Line 5 pipeline from Reservation property in Wisconsin.
The Band is appealing a previous court ruling last June, which it claims doesn’t go far enough to protect the Bad River. In that ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin determined that Enbridge is trespassing on Reservation property and ordered Enbridge to shut down or reroute the pipeline within three to five years or pay more than $5 million in fines. The court further ordered Enbridge to develop a plan to shut down the pipeline if erosion reaches a specific point.
Enbridge is also appealing the District Court’s determination. Both Enbridge and the Band filed their respective appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
“Enbridge is appealing the district court decision on many points, including the ordered shutdown of Line 5 by June of 2026,” according to company spokesman Ryan Duffy in a statement emailed to The Midwesterner. “Enbridge applied for permits for the Line 5 Segment Relocation Project in 2020, a solution that removes the line from the reservation while preserving energy security for millions. However, the Bad River Band opposes necessary approvals for the relocation project.”
From the beginning of her first term in office, Nessel has been attempting to shutter the pipeline, including the five-mile stretch that spans the Straits of Mackinac. She also opposes Enbridge’s proposed $500 million replacement tunnel to bury the dual pipelines 100 feet below the lakebed. The pipeline has been maintained without any leaks for 70 years.
“The evidence in this case clearly establishes that Enbridge trespassed on the Band’s land and has operated Line 5 illegally since 2013,” Nessel said in a statement. “This illegal trespass creates a grave risk of an oil spill that would contaminate the Bad River, the Reservation, and Lake Superior. On behalf of the People of the State of Michigan I am taking this action to protect our Great Lakes from the threat posed by polluters who value their own bottom line more than our priceless natural resources.”
Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels of hydrocarbons each day.
“We respectfully disagree with the points made in the Attorney General’s amicus brief,” Duffy said. “All expert review reinforces that Line 5 is safe and fully complies with Pipeline Safety Act and PHMSA safety standards. Enbridge has proposed over a dozen different projects to address erosion concerns of the riverbank on the Bad River near Line 5. For years, despite referring to the situation as an emergency, the Band’s leadership has been unwilling to work in good faith with Enbridge while denying each proposal arbitrarily.”
Duffy continued: “Any shut down of Line 5 would cause shortages and price increases for the millions of people who rely on the pipeline for energy every day. Line 5’s operation is critical to the economies of the U.S. and Canada and its shutdown would cost thousands of jobs and force the closure of refineries and propane producers.”