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Canada invokes treaty, seeks to stop Line 5 Straits pipeline closure


Citing a 1977 pipeline treaty with the United States, the Canadian government on Monday asked a US federal judge to suspend proceedings in light of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut down oil and gas pipelines controversies of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

Gordon D. Giffin, an attorney representing the Canadian government, in a letter to Western Michigan U.S. District Judge Janet Neff on Monday said Canada had “officially invoked … through diplomatic channels.” an article from a 1977 pipeline treaty with the US government that calls for negotiations between the two governments to resolve international pipeline disputes.

Neff contemplates the state of Michigan lawsuit against Canadian oil transportation giant Enbridge, seeking to stop the operation of the company’s 67-year-old twin pipelines running along the lake bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, where the Grands Lakes Michigan and Huron connect.

Whitmer announced last November that she would be revocation of the 1954 Enbridge easement state to use the bottom of the lake for its pipelines, citing Enbridge’s “persistent and incurable violations of the terms and conditions of the easement” and the potential dangers of an oil spill to the environment and the economy from Michigan.

Enbridge in May continued to operate line 5 in defiance of the Whitmer shutdown deadline, declaring both publicly and in court that Michigan lacks the legal authority to regulate interstate oil and gas pipelines, and that U.S. regulators have deemed the lines safe .

Michigan is seeking to send the federal case back to Michigan courts.

In his letter to the court, Giffin, a former US Ambassador to Canada, noted an article in the 1977 US-Canadian Pipeline Treaty that stated: “No public authority in either territory or other party shall not take any action … which is intended to, or which would have the effect of obstructing, diverting, redirecting or otherwise impeding the transportation of oil in transit. “

In a statement Monday, Whitmer expressed disappointment at the actions of the Canadian government.

“As long as the oil is flowing in the pipelines, there is a very real threat of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes,” she said. “I made it clear to Enbridge that they could not use the bed of our publicly owned lake for these pipelines, but Enbridge refused to shut down. Moreover, rather than taking steps to diversify the energy supply and ensure resilience, Canada has channeled its efforts into defense undertaken with a horrendous environmental record. “

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Line 5 transports 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day eastward across the Upper Peninsula, splitting into two submarine pipelines through the straits, before returning to a single transmission pipeline across the Lower Peninsula extending south to Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipeline – particularly its submarine section of more than 4 miles in the straits – has been a source of contention for years.

Enbridge was responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history – a major leak on one of its major oil transmission lines near Marshall, Michigan, in July 2010. This spill contaminated over 38 miles of the Kalamazoo River and took four years and over $ 1 billion to clean up. Enbridge, in 2016, agreed to a $ 177 million settlement with the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, including $ 62 million in penalties, for the Marshall spill and a 2010 spill on another of its pipelines in Romeoville, Ill..

Canada “is ignoring the plight of the people of the Great Lakes for the benefit of an oil company,” said Beth Wallace, director of Great Lakes conservation for the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental non-profit organization, which has sounded some of the first alarms about aging oil lines on the Strait of the Strait.

Whitmer called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reverse the treaty decision.

“I remain confident that Michigan will prevail in its legal efforts regarding Line 5, regardless of today’s action, and I will continue to fight to get the pipelines out of the water,” he said. she declared.

Contact Keith Matheny: 313-222-5021 or [email protected]