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Attorney General's office says in court Enbridge Line 5 is "environmental time bomb"


The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge was in court Friday fighting an attempt to shut down its Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac.

In an online hearing before 30th Circuit Court Judge James S. Jamo, the Attorney General’s office argued the 1953 easement along the bottom of the Straits should not have been granted for the pipeline. It said that easement should be invalidated because it violates the Public Trust Doctrine.

That doctrine says when lands and other resources controlled by the state are used by private entities they must be used to improve the public good and not impair public trust rights such as fishing, boating, or hunting. A lawyer from the Attorney General’s office said Line 5 is “an environmental ticking time bomb,” because of the risk that the 67 year old pipelines could release crude oil into the Great Lakes.

Enbridge’s lawyers argue Attorney General Dana Nessel is trying to override the Legislature with her own policy. In 2018, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved the continued use of Line 5 until a tunnel can be built to house a replacement to the twin 20-inch pipelines. A lawyer for the Attorney General stated the easement and the tunnel are two different issues.

Besides the case in the circuit court, another case is in the Appellate Court to decide the legality of the law that approved the tunnel.

While the hearing was underway, Enbridge released a statement to news media which said in part:

"Line 5 has been safely operating across the Straits for more than 65 years under the 1953 Easement. 

There is no change in the operating condition of the pipeline or change in law to support the Attorney General’s allegations."

Full disclosure: Enbridge is a corporate supporter of Michigan Radio.

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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.
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