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Nessel files lawsuit to decommission Line 5

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio
In a statement, Nessel said, “This situation with Line 5 differs from other bodies of water where pipelines exist because the currents in the Straits of Mackinac are complex, variable, and remarkably fast and strong.” ";s:

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is taking legal action to decommission Enbridge's Line 5.

Nessel's office announced Thursday that the attorney general filed a lawsuit asking the Ingham County Circuit Court to find whether Enbridge’s continued operation of Line 5 violates the public trust doctrine, is a common law public nuisance, and whether the pipeline violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

According to her office, Nessel’s lawsuit seeks an order from the court to shut down and decommission the Straits pipelines as soon as possible after a reasonable notice period to allow orderly adjustments by affected parties.

“I have consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes," Nessel said in a statement.

The lawsuit cites a potential anchor strike as the most significant risk to Line 5. 

“The continued operation of Line 5 presents an extraordinary, unreasonable threat to the public because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations, and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits," said Nessel. "We were extraordinarily lucky that we did not experience a complete rupture of Line 5 because, if we did, we would be cleaning up the Great Lakes and our shorelines for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children as well.”

The lawsuit was submitted the same day Nessel filed a motion to dismiss the case filed by Enbridge on June 6. The company was seeking enforce agreements made in the last months of the Snyder administration that gave Enbridge the authority to build a tunnel and continue the operation of Line 5.

Nessel says that agreement was unconstitutional, and the agreements are invalid.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's press secretary issued a statement saying while the governor remains willing to talk with Enbridge, the company's decision to sue the government rather than negotiate made legal action necessary.

"For several months the attorney general has indicated she would use her independent authority to seek to shut down the dual pipelines through the Straits if Enbridge did not reach an acceptable agreement with the governor. Today, the attorney general followed through on her promise by filing a separate action."

The governor has also directed the Department of Natural Resources to begin a comprehensive review of Enbridge’s compliance with the 1953 Easement, which created the terms and conditions under which Enbridge could operate the dual pipelines on the bottomlands of the Great Lakes.

Enbridge released an initial statement saying that they need time to fully evaluate the attorney general's lawsuit.

We are disappointed the State chose not to accept our offer to advance talks on the Straits tunnel, a project that would make a safe pipeline even safer. The State also ignored our offer to suspend litigation and jointly appoint an independent, Michigan-based moderator to help facilitate the discussions. We also committed to making additional safety enhancements to the current line. We remain open to discussions with the Governor, and we hope we can reach an agreement outside of court. Enbridge is deeply committed to being part of Michigan’s future. We believe the Straits tunnel is the best way to protect the community and the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.

Editors' note: Enbridge Energy is a financial sponsor of Michigan Radio.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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