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Governor Whitmer drops federal lawsuit seeking to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline

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Enbridge
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 oil and natural gas liquids pipeline.

But that’s not the end of the legal effort to shut down the line that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

Lynsey Mukomel is the press secretary for Attorney General Dana Nessel, who filed the motion today. “Attorney General Nessel fully supports the governor in her decision to dismiss the federal court case and instead focus on our ongoing litigation in state court,” Mukomel said.

She says returning the legal fight to a state court would be the fastest and most viable path to resolve the litigation. An Enbridge spokesman said the company is pleased by the development, but will continue to pursue its separate federal court case.

For Love of Water, a group that wants the pipeline shut down, said in a statement:

“The State of Michigan took a strategic step today in the race to prevent a catastrophic Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac by concentrating its legal efforts in state, not federal, court,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “The state’s legal fight and the citizen-led movement to protect the Great Lakes, jobs, and a way of life continue full speed ahead.”

In response to Judge Neff’s November 16, 2021 decision to assume federal jurisdiction over the state’s 2020 case to shut down Line 5, the state has chosen to voluntarily dismiss that case and rely instead on Attorney General Dana Nessel’s 2019 lawsuit against Line 5-owner Enbridge in state circuit court in Ingham County. This procedural maneuver will shift consideration of the State of Michigan’s legal efforts to shut down Line 5 back to a state-court forum where the matter belongs.

The State of Michigan has paramount sovereignty over the Great Lakes that cannot be severed.While the timing of a decision on the merits is still uncertain, dropping the 2020 case will almost certainly expedite resolution of the State Michigan’s claims because it avoids protracted litigation in federal court, which would be necessary to guarantee the State’s right to appeal Judge Neff’s legally deficient remand decision in the 2020 case.

“It’s vitally important to recognize that the action by Governor Whitmer and Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger in November 2020 to revoke and terminate Line 5’s 1953 easement remains valid,” said FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker. “While Enbridge continues to trespass in state waters and on state bottomlands, the State of Michigan can now move forward on Attorney General Nessel’s case filed on behalf of the citizens of Michigan in 2019 to shutdown the dual pipelines in the Straits.”

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation, issued the following statement in support:

‘We strongly support Gov. Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel’s courageous and steadfast legal strategy to shut down Line 5. We’ve had enough of this Canadian corporation and the Canadian government itself tying up Michigan’s efforts to protect our Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill. Thank you, Gov. Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel for taking action to return the protection of Michigan’s land and waters to our state. Line 5 is a ticking time bomb and this move to cut through Enbridge’s legal delay tactics is the best way to move forward to protect the Great Lakes.

‘We urgently call on President Biden to move quickly to support the protection of the Great Lakes by clearly and definitively backing the State of Michigan’s duty and authority to take all necessary actions to protect this critical resource, Michiganders, and Tribal treaty rights. President Biden can and should act swiftly to stop Enbridge’s meritless legal claims that have one goal: delay.’”

Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.