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Federal appeal court returns Enbridge Line 5 case to Michigan

Lester Graham

A legal battle over the future of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 gas and oil pipeline will continue in a state of Michigan court. That’s after Enbridge lost a key federal court ruling on jurisdiction that was released Monday.

The U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals decision returns the oil pipeline case that has lingered in the judicial system for many years to the Ingham County Circuit Court. The appeals court held Enbridge had missed a deadline to move the case from a state to a federal court.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and state environmental groups cheered the decision. They prefer their chances in Michigan courts.

“The State has an obligation and imperative to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of pollution, especially the devastating catastrophe a potential Line 5 rupture would wreak upon all of Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement released by her office. “As we've long argued, this is a Michigan case brought under Michigan law that the People of Michigan and its courts should rightly decide.”

She called Line 5 “old, dangerous and worsening.”

Enbridge Energy spokesperson Ryan Duffy said the decision was disappointing “given the clear and substantial questions of federal law” raised in the state’s complaint against the company.

Duffy said Enbridge is still hoping to prevail in another federal lawsuit where the company argues Michigan does not have standing to try to shut down Line 5 based on safety concerns regarding its path through the Great Lakes.

“If the federal district court rules in Enbridge’s favor on those motions, Enbridge is hopeful that those rulings will fully resolve the Attorney General’s action,” he said in an email to the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Duffy said Enbridge is also proceeding as planned with the Great Lakes Tunnel to protect aqainst the threat of spills and leaks by encasing the oil and gas line inside a layer of concrete buried beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.