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U.S. Dept. of Justice says Enbridge is trespassing on tribal lands

The Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, and is five miles long.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio
The Mackinac Bridge, near a section of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. A case in Wisconsin deals with another section of the pipeline crossing the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's lands. (Photo: Dan Wanschura/IPR News)

This coverage is made possible through a partnership between IPR and Grist, a nonprofit environmental media organization.

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Those involved in the Line 5 pipeline controversy have been waiting for the United States Department of Justice — and the Biden administration — to come forward with its opinion on a case that involves tribal sovereignty and foreign relations.

But when the legal brief came down on Wednesday, no one was satisfied.

The legal trail began in 2019, when the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued Enbridge for trespassing. Last June, a district court ruled that Enbridge was trespassing and had to remove the pipeline within three years and pay the tribe more than $5 million. Both parties appealed.

The Justice Department amicus brief backed the band's claims that Enbridge was trespassing by continuing to operate the Line 5 pipeline on its lands. And it said the company should pay more than the court-ordered amount of roughly $5 million.

But the department stopped short of saying how the court should interpret the 1977 treaty, only recommending that the case be sent back to the district court to more fully consider public interests, including diplomatic relations with Canada, energy concerns around Line 5, and protecting the band’s sovereign rights.

Read the full story on Grist.

Listen to an interview about the case in the player above.

Enbridge is among Interlochen Public Radio's financial supporters. They have no role in decisions about our news coverage, which are made independently by the IPR newsroom.

Izzy covers climate change for communities in northern Michigan and around the Great Lakes for IPR through a partnership with Grist.org.