91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Judge orders segment of Enbridge's Line 5 shut down and moved off of Native American land

A view of part of the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pumping station near Mackinaw City, Michigan on the south side of the Straits of Mackinac.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A view of part of the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pumping station near Mackinaw City, Michigan on the south side of the Straits of Mackinac.

A federal judge in Wisconsin has ordered Enbridge Energy to shut down and move part of Line 5 off of Native American land within three years.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians filed suit against Enbridge, alleging trespassing. Last year, Judge William Conley with the U.S. District Court of Western Wisconsin agreed. Now he has ordered the segment of pipeline on the reservation to be moved.

“The Band appreciates the Court putting an end to Enbridge’s flagrant trespass and disregard for our rights. Tribal sovereignty prevailed over corporate profits,” said Mike Wiggins, Chairman of the Bad River Band in a release.

An attorney for the Band said the judge’s decision is welcome news.

“Enbridge does not have the legal right to continue what is now a decade-long trespass on the sovereign land of the Bad River Tribe,” said Josh Handelsman.

The judge also ordered Enbridge to pay the tribe more than $5 million plus a portion of profits from Line 5. During the decade, the judge said, Enbridge’s Line 5 profits amounted to an estimated $1.5 billion and the company will continue to profit until the pipeline is moved.

“If they only have to pay $7 million of that, then they end up in a much better spot from trespassing than if they had followed the law,” Handelsman said, adding, “Under the law, a company is not supposed to be able to get a financial benefit from wrongdoing.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the Canadian pipeline company, Enbridge, said it agrees with the court’s decision to reject the band’s argument that Line 5 must immediately shut down.

“However, the company disagrees with several aspects of the Court’s orders, including that Enbridge is in trespass, and that Line 5 must cease operations on the Bad River Reservation within three years,” the company spokesman said. 

 Enbridge plans to appeal the court’s decision and is considering requesting a stay of the judge’s decision while an appeal is heard.

State and federal agencies have yet to approve permits for Enbridge plans to reroute the segment of Line 5 just outside of the Bad River Reservation. The tribe is concerned that the pipeline still will be within the Bad River watershed in Wisconsin.

Enbridge is calling for permit approvals so that a 41-mile relocation project can be constructed within the three year period.

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

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
Related Content