Michigan Threatens Enbridge's Profits in Great Lakes Pipeline Dispute
By Vipal Monga and Paul Vieira
TORONTO -- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer threatened to seize
profits from Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. if the company
continues to operate a pipeline through the Great Lakes after a
In a letter sent to Enbridge on Tuesday, Gov. Whitmer and Daniel
Eichinger, director of the state's natural resources department,
reminded the company the state had revoked a permit that allowed
the Line 5 pipeline to run along the bottom of the Straits of
Mackinac, between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The governor has
given the company until May 12 to shut the pipeline.
Michigan has said the pipeline poses an environmental risk and
that any spill from it would threaten the Great Lakes. Enbridge has
said that section of the 68-year-old pipeline has never leaked and
that it is taking steps to protect the lakes after negotiating a
plan with former Gov. Rick Snyder to encase the pipes in a tunnel
below the lake bed.
Enbridge has refused the order, arguing in a lawsuit that
Michigan doesn't have the authority to close the line, which
transports oil and natural gas liquids from Superior, Wis., to
refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec.
"Enbridge's continued occupation and use of State-owned
bottomlands in the absence of a valid and effective easement
constitutes an intentional trespass," said the governor in her
letter. She said the state would, if it wins in court, require the
company to disgorge "all profits derived from its wrongful use of
the State's property" after the May 12 deadline.
Enbridge said it would continue pursue its lawsuit and will keep
operating the pipeline.
"Our responsibility is to the people of Michigan and the Great
Lakes region," an Enbridge spokesman said. "Enbridge will continue
to deliver via Line 5 safe, reliable and affordable energy to fuel
to the region's economies."
The potential closure of the 645-mile pipeline has become a
major issue for Midwestern states and for Canada. The state of Ohio
has already filed a brief siding with Enbridge in the case, and, on
Tuesday, Canada weighed in with its own brief in support of the
Officials in Ottawa say closing the pipeline would cut off
almost half the supply used to make gasoline, jet fuel and home
heating oil for residents in central Canada. The closure could lead
to higher fuel costs and thousands of job losses in refineries,
In its filing, Canada said there should be no shutdown until the
U.S. and Canadian officials work to resolve the matter, as allowed
under the terms of a 1977 treaty between the North American
countries. The brief said Canada has initiated discussions with the
U.S. to resolve this matter.
That treaty prohibits authorities in either country from
blocking pipelines that ship oil and gas across the border unless
there is an emergency. Canada's lawyers said the treaty came about
because of U.S. efforts to transport oil-and-gas products from
Alaska through Canada to the Lower 48 U.S. states.
"Canada is seeking a mutually agreeable solution that also
respects environmental and safety concerns. But neither this court
nor any state court should act in a way that bypasses and
undermines the treaty," said a legal brief filed by the Canadian
government in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of
Michigan on Tuesday.
Canada's Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said the
government supports the continued mediation between Enbridge and
the state of Michigan, under the supervision of the U.S. District
Court of the Western District of Michigan. "We remain confident
this will lead to a solution," the minister said in a
Although Canadian officials, including its ambassador to the
U.S. Kirsten Hillman and Mr. O'Regan, have reached out to
counterparts in Washington, the White House has so far been
reluctant to intervene.
At a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Energy Secretary
Jennifer Granholm said the Biden administration wouldn't weigh in
on Line 5.
"It's in court right now, so that's where it sits," she said.
"It will be decided in court."
Write to Vipal Monga at email@example.com and Paul Vieira at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 11, 2021 18:06 ET (22:06 GMT)
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