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Nessel asks federal court to move Enbridge lawsuit back to home territory

Suspension bridge above the Straits of Mackinac, where Line 5 runs along the lakebed.
The Mackinac Bridge, stretching across the Straits of Mackinac. (Photo: Patrick Shea/IPR News)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is asking a federal court to move her lawsuit against Enbridge back to a state court. Line 5 opponents say it’s an encouraging move that could lead to the shutdown of the pipeline.

Nessel’s lawsuit says Enbridge’s pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac violates Michigan’s public trust doctrine. Litigation went on in a state court for a year before Enbridge took the case to federal court.

Now, Nessel has filed a motion to bring the case back to home territory, arguing the courts made multiple errors in moving the case out of state.

Sean McBrearty is with the group Oil and Water Don’t Mix. He said the state court is a more appropriate venue for this case, and the courts made a mistake in letting Enbridge "pick its own venue."

“This case is about the people’s rights under the public trust doctrine to protect the waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes," Nessel said. "Historically and by statute, cases like that are supposed to be heard in state court. It’s a state issue, not a federal issue.”

Nessel’s request was announced March 3. Enbridge has 10-days to respond. A federal judge will then decide whether to take the case.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America corps member based in northern Michigan for WCMU.