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UPDATE: Enbridge files complaint in federal court to block Michigan’s actions against Line 5

The company says the attempt to shut down Line 5 interferes with the comprehensive federal regulation of pipeline safety and burdens interstate and foreign commerce.
(NBC15)
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 4:53 PM EST
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CALGARY, AB and LANSING, Mich. (Press Release/WLUC) - Tuesday Enbridge Inc. filed a federal complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan seeking an injunction to stop the State of Michigan from taking any steps to prevent the operation of Line 5.

The company says the attempt to shut down Line 5 interferes with the comprehensive federal regulation of pipeline safety and burdens interstate and foreign commerce in clear violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

Enbridge is also moving the complaint filed by the State of Michigan against Line 5 on November 13 in Michigan state court to the federal court.

A federal agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), is Enbridge’s safety regulator, not the State of Michigan, Enbridge declared.

The company said three months ago the safety of the dual pipelines was reviewed by the regulator and the pipelines were found to be fit for service.

“The state’s attempt to assume the role of safety regulator through its notice purporting to ‘terminate and revoke’ the easement is improper and unlawful,” Enbridge said in a release.

Enbridge says, “This is the latest attempt by the State of Michigan to interfere with the operation of this critical infrastructure by assuming authority it does not possess. By contrast, Enbridge continues to live up to all its obligations under its agreements with the State of Michigan. Notably, Enbridge has undertaken a variety of Line 5 projects requested by the State at substantial expense, including installing a new Line 5 crossing under the St. Clair River earlier this year and diligently pursuing permitting for the Great Lakes tunnel project at no cost to taxpayers.”

“In the face of continued roadblocks by this Administration it’s time for the State to stop playing politics with the energy needs and anxieties of US and Canadian consumers and businesses that depend on Line 5,” said Vern Yu, Executive Vice President and President, Liquids Pipelines. “It is concerning to see the current Administration is willing to compromise these needs. We remain highly committed to protecting the Great Lakes, the environment, and all the people who use these waters while delivering energy that people rely on daily. Enbridge’s Line 5 has served Michiganders safely without spilling a drop of oil at the Straits crossing for more than 65 years, over nine different State Administrations.”

Enbridge says, “A disruption of Line 5 would create a propane shortage, higher energy prices and hardship for Michigan families, especially those on fixed incomes or of modest means. It would also result in a daily shortage of over 14 million gallons of gasoline and other transportation fuels, impacting the entire region, including Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and Quebec. Ten regional refineries would be significantly and adversely impacted. Some of these refineries served by Line 5 also supply a large percentage of the aviation fuel at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Communications Director Tiffany Brown issued the following statement on Enbridge Energy’s latest lawsuit against the State of Michigan, which will put the Great Lakes and Michigan’s economy at grave risk:

“Governor Whitmer was elected to protect and defend the Great Lakes, which are vital to Michigan’s economy and support over 350,000 jobs. Today’s lawsuit filed by Enbridge brazenly defies the people of Michigan and their right to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill. In short, Enbridge claims it can continue to pump oil through the Straits of Mackinac indefinitely, posing enormous risk to our economy and way of life – and that the people of Michigan have no say in the matter. The company that spilled nearly one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and made Michigan the home of the largest on-land oil spill in American history has again demonstrated it cares only about its bottom line.”

“BACKGROUND: Earlier this month, the state notified Enbridge that it is revoking and terminating the 1953 easement allowing Enbridge to operate the Line 5 dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, effective 180 days from the date of the notice. The state is revoking the easement for violation of the public trust doctrine. This body of law recognizes the State of Michigan as the “trustee” of the public’s rights in the Great Lakes and lays upon the state legal obligations to protect those rights from any impairment. The state found that the 1953 easement violated the public trust doctrine from its inception because the easement does not make the necessary public trust findings.

“Moreover, the state also found that the continued use of the dual pipelines cannot be reconciled with the public’s rights in the Great Lakes and the State’s duty to protect them. Transporting millions of gallons of petroleum products each day through two 67-year old pipelines that lie exposed along the entire span of a busy shipping channel presents an extraordinary and unacceptable risk. The dual pipelines are vulnerable to anchor strikes, similar dangerous impacts, and the inherent risks of pipeline operations.

“As recent events have confirmed, this threat is very real. For example, in April 2018, the pipelines were struck and dented in three different locations by an anchor inadvertently dropped and dragged by a commercial vessel. Then, in June 2020, Enbridge disclosed that the pipelines had again been struck sometime in 2019 by anchors or cables deployed by nearby vessels, damaging pipeline coatings and severely damaging a pipeline support. Four of the five vessels potentially responsible for the impacts were operated by Enbridge’s own contractors.

“In addition, the state is terminating the 1953 easement because Enbridge has repeatedly and incurably violated its terms. The easement requires Enbridge to exercise due care in operating the pipelines, and also requires Enbridge to satisfy numerous specific conditions, such as ensuring that the pipelines are physically supported at least every 75 feet, are covered by a multi-layer coating to prevent corrosion and other physical damage, and are within certain curvature limitations. Enbridge, however, has failed for decades to meet these obligations under the easement, and these failures persist and cannot be cured. For these and other reasons, the state is revoking and terminating the 1953 easement.”

Forward Looking Information: Forward-looking information, or forward-looking statements, have been included in this news release to provide information about Enbridge Inc. (“Enbridge” or the “Company”) and its subsidiaries and affiliates, including management’s assessment of Enbridge and its subsidiaries’ future plans and operations. This information may not be appropriate for other purposes. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by words such as ’'anticipate’', ’'expect’', ’'project’', ’'estimate’', ’'forecast’', ’'plan’', ’'intend’', ’'target’', ’'believe’', “likely” and similar words suggesting future outcomes or statements regarding an outlook. Forward-looking information or statements in this news release include statements with respect to the Line 5 dual pipelines, including the safe operations thereof, litigation and anticipated impact of any disruption to Line 5 operations.

About Enbridge Inc: Enbridge Inc. is a leading North American energy infrastructure company. We safely and reliably deliver the energy people need and want to fuel quality of life. Our core businesses include Liquids Pipelines, which transports approximately 25 percent of the crude oil produced in North America; Gas Transmission and Midstream, which transports approximately 20 percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S.; and Utilities and Power Operations, which serves approximately 3.7 million retail customers in Ontario and Quebec, and generates approximately 1,750 MW of net renewable power in North America and Europe. The Company’s common shares trade on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges under the symbol ENB. For more information, visit www.enbridge.com.

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