Tag: Enbridge Line 5

Federal Court Hears Arguments from Bad River Band and Enbridge in Appeal of Line 5 Pipeline Shutdown Order

Traverse City, Mich.— On February 7, 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago heard oral arguments in the Line 5 case involving northern Wisconsin’s Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian multinational pipeline and energy company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The panel of Appellate Judges was Frank H. Easterbrook, Michael Y. Scudder, Jr., and Amy J. St. Eve. Line 5 is a 71-year-old pipeline, threatening the Great Lakes with a catastrophic spill to deliver oil and gas to Canada.

In 2019, the Bad River Band initiated this litigation to evict Enbridge’s 12-mile stretch of Line 5 oil pipeline from their territory based on claims of trespass, nuisance, unjust enrichment, and injunctive. The band then filed for emergency injunctive relief in May 2023, following massive spring flooding events that caused alarming rates of erosion along the Medicine River and threatened to destabilize and rupture the pipeline. On June 16, 2023, U.S. Western District Court of Wisconsin Judge Conley issued a remarkable decision, finding Enbridge in “conscious and willful trespass” and ordering shut down by June 2026 of a Line 5 section running through the tribe’s sovereign territory, and pay the tribe $5.1 million. This is the first time a date has been set to shut down Line 5. 

On appeal, Enbridge’s attorney Alice Loughran argued the Seventh Circuit should vacate Judge Conley’s order, relying on two key arguments: (1) the Bad River Band was not acting pursuant to the “best efforts” clause of the 1992 easement agreement; and (2) Judge Conley’s order violated the 1977 Pipeline Treaty between the U.S. and Canada, which limits the authority of each country to impede the flow of oil and natural gas through pipelines between the nations. 

In response, the Bad River Band’s lawyer, Paul Clement, urged the appellate court to affirm the lower court’s order requiring Enbridge to stop trespassing, and require immediate compliance, not three more years on top of ten years of trespass. Clement also argued that Enbridge must turn over the Line 5 profits realized since its reservation easements expired in 2013. Three additional years of ongoing trespass is unreasonable, Clement said, particularly given the upcoming spring flooding threat, like last year’s, which eroded the land to within 11 feet of the pipeline.

The judges probed why federal agencies were not working faster to approve Enbridge’s proposed 41-mile pipeline re-route around the Bad River reservation. They also questioned why the tribe has not taken precautionary measures like using sandbags to mitigate the risk created by Enbridge. Clement countered that it is unreasonable and unfair to expect the tribe to take affirmative steps that sanction and reinforce the trespasser’s illegal and intentional occupation of the tribe’s land. 

The hearing concluded with Judge Easterbrook announcing that the court would not decide this case until at least next month, after the court receives a briefing on the federal government’s position. 

Next month on March 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will hear oral arguments in Michigan Attorney General Nessel v. Enbridge, the 2019 lawsuit seeking to shut down Line 5 in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac. Multiple anchor strikes have occurred, threatening to rupture the line and causing a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes. Michigan Attorney General Nessel maintains that this case belongs in state court based on the state of Michigan’s sovereign responsibility to protect the public trust in the waters of the Great Lakes.


FLOW is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves as a Great Lakes water law and policy center dedicated to ensuring the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are healthy, public, and protected for all. The enduring idea of the commons and legal principles of the public trust offer unifying adaptive solutions to address basin-wide threats. FLOW’s staff of legal and policy experts, journalists, and community-builders makes FLOW an authoritative resource for Great Lakes advocates. FLOW builds a knowledge base for communities, state agencies, and legislators to inform policy and advocacy for water issues. Learn more at www.ForLoveOfWater.org.


FLOW Appeals MPSC Permit to Site Replacement Line 5 Pipeline in Proposed Great Lakes Tunnel

Media Release: January 3, 2024

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Traverse City, Mich.— For Love of Water (FLOW), a Great Lakes water law and policy center, filed an appeal on December 22, 2023 with the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn the Michigan Public Service Commission’s December 1 decision to approve the application from Canadian oil company Enbridge to relocate its twin Line 5 crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) pipelines to a proposed new underground tunnel. Line 5 currently spans 4.5 miles on the lakebed floor of the Straits of Mackinac.

In its approval, the MPSC dismissed alternatives to routing Line 5 through the Straits. However, recent industry reports show that there are a range of commercially feasible and operationally viable alternatives to transport crude and NGLs in the event of a Line 5 shutdown. These alternatives include leveraging excess capacity in existing pipelines that do not run through the waters of the Great Lakes.

FLOW contends that the Commission’s decision to permit relocating Line 5 to a yet-to-be-approved tunnel violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA). MEPA requires all agencies to determine if a proposed project is likely to impact the air, water, and natural resources, or public trust in those resources, and to deny approval when, as here, there are feasible and prudent alternatives.

Multiple studies demonstrate that the North American energy market is flexible, adaptable, and resilient, and that Line 5 could be decommissioned without causing supply shortages or price spikes. It is clear that the region has the capacity for a planned and orderly transition to shut down Line 5 and to protect the Great Lakes – which comprise 95% of North America’s fresh surface water – from a catastrophic oil spill. Since 2017, large energy firms and refineries have developed contingency plans for a Line 5 shut down.

Enbridge has yet to obtain the required federal authorization from the US Army Corps of Engineers to construct this mega-infrastructure tunnel project. A final environmental impact statement is expected from the Army Corps in spring of 2026, following public meetings and comment period in 2025.

“Because the Snyder administration cut a deal in 2018 to let Enbridge continue to use the vulnerable dual pipelines in the Straits until a tunnel is built, the State unlawfully and prematurely gave the green-light to Enbridge to operate Line 5 for another 99 years,” James Olson, Sr. Legal Advisor and attorney for FLOW said. “This has poisoned decisions by state agencies, most recently the MPSC, to assume that they don’t have to consider the risks, effects, and alternatives to the continued operation of Line 5.”

FLOW, and other organizations and tribes who have appealed the Commission’s December 1 order will ask the Court of Appeals to overturn the decision and require the Commission to apply the rule of law under MEPA and consider feasible and prudent alternatives to the tunnel and reevaluate its improper, short-sighted commitment to this major piece of new fossil fuels infrastructure in the face of undeniable climate change impacts and risks.

# # #

Contact: Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director
Phone: (231) 944-1568


December 1, 2023: Disgraceful: MPSC Approves Permit for Enbridge Tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac; Breaches Legal Duty to Protect Michigan’s Natural Resources

November 17, 2023: What happens when Line 5 is shut down? A report on energy market impacts

March 16, 2022: FLOW to Michigan Public Service Commission: No Enbridge Oil Tunnel Without Authorization Under Public Trust Doctrine

Disgraceful: MPSC Approves Permit for Enbridge Tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac; Breaches Legal Duty to Protect Michigan’s Natural Resources

Traverse City, Mich. — FLOW is shocked that the collective efforts of thousands of Michiganders and treaty-protected tribes to protect our waters from the catastrophic risks of Line 5 have been ignored in today’s decision by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to grant authorization for a Line 5 tunnel. The Straits are no safer while an unprecedented tunnel perpetuates the threat of an explosion spilling oil and gas into these ecologically fragile and economically vital waters.

In the same week that Governor Whitmer signed into law a nationally significant climate bill to decarbonize 100% of Michigan’s electricity production by 2040, today’s ruling is a black mark on the administration’s climate record and a disgrace to all of Michigan. A Line 5 tunnel with a 99-year lease will be an embarrassing albatross, hobbling future efforts to transition the region off fossil fuels and imprudently burdening taxpayers.

The Commission’s approval of a tunnel and 99-year new crude oil and natural gas liquids pipeline betrays its perpetual and solemn public trust responsibility as the sworn guardians of the public rights of citizens in the Great Lakes. This is not a “just transition” but a craven capitulation to fossil fuel profits.

Three years ago, FLOW intervened as a party before the MPSC in Enbridge’s proceeding seeking approval of a pipeline tunnel under the Straits. FLOW legal advisors Jim Olson and Skip Pruss have represented the public’s interest in the Great Lakes and Michigan’s priceless ecosystem. Enbridge has not received authorization from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to occupy state-owned bottomlands under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, 324.32502-32508 and rules. Nor has the Department of Natural Resources made the required public trust findings to authorize a public-utility easement under Act 10, now MCL 324.2129. Without such authorization, Enbridge does not have a “legal warrant” to occupy state-owned bottomlands. See Obrecht v. Nat’l Gypsum Co., 361 Mich. 399, 416 (1960).

The authorization breaches the MPSC’s legal duty to prevent likely degradation of Michigan’s air, water, natural resources, and public health—including drinking water, fishing, sanitation, boating and recreation—under Michigan’s environmental protection laws and the mandates under article 4, section 52 of Michigan’s Constitution.

Michigan environmental law prohibits the Commission from authorizing a pipeline when, according to the recent PLG Consulting report, reasonable, practical, feasible, and prudent, and affordable alternatives exist, and environmental damage is likely. The Michigan Environmental Protection Act expressly states that under these circumstances, a permit or approval “shall not be authorized.”

FLOW Founder and veteran Michigan environmental lawyer Jim Olson said: “There is no justification, morally or legally, for a new crude oil pipeline and tunnel that will last into the days of our great-great-grandchildren. When they look back at us, what kind of ancestors will they see?”

This fight is not over, and FLOW will be there.

FLOW’s Technical Questions for the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) is a three-member panel that is responsible for overseeing Enbridge’s proposed pipeline tunnel project under the busy, environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, pending all applicable permits and approvals.

In June 2023, FLOW submitted public comments to the MSCA, to help further public understanding of the purpose, need, and challenges associated with the present status of the tunnel project. For each question, FLOW has provided background information in order to contextualize the questions and illustrate the importance of providing critical project information so that stakeholders can be better informed.

The next meeting of the MSCA will be held on October 2, 2023 in St. Ignace.

Download FLOW’s letter to the MSCA (PDF)

Get the Facts on Line 5 with FLOW’s New, Updated Fact Sheet

Every day, Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline carries nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) from the oil sand fields in western Canada to refineries in Ontario, using the Straits of Mackinac as a high-risk shortcut. In FLOW’s new, updated Line 5 Fact Sheet, you’ll learn the latest on the pipeline, why the tunnel is a dangerous proposition, and what you can do to help get oil out of the Great Lakes.

Download the PDF

U.S. Army Corps to Limit Line 5 Tunnel Review

“The US Army Corps of Engineers decision to exclude the cumulative impacts of the fossil fuels Line 5 will transport, climate concerns, and, remarkably, engineering concerns raised by experts as to the integrity of the tunnel, flies in the face of the Corps’ purpose and mission, the Biden Administration’s goals and policy, and public concern for the protection of Great Lakes waters.” – Liz Kirkwood, FLOW Executive Director

On this day in 2010: Enbridge Oil Spill in Kalamazoo River

This week marks the unlucky 13th anniversary of one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history. On July 25, 2010, a pipeline operated by Enbridge – the same corporation operating the risky Line 5 in the Strait of Mackinac – burst and released dirty tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Nearly forty miles of the Kalamazoo River were closed for cleanup until June 2012. Enbridge paid more than $177 million in penalties and was required to improve safety measures. The estimated cost of the cleanup was more than $1 billion.

Corrosion fatigue – poor maintenance by Enbridge – was cited as the underlying cause of the catastrophic breach by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman compared Enbridge’s inept handling of the spill to the Keystone Kops.

“Why didn’t they recognize what was happening, and what took so long?” she asked.




“The Strait Story” Line 5 Webinar

Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzO-NA-qjfw

Download the Line 5 Fact Sheet (PDF)


Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is over 70 years old and remains a threat to the waters and people of the Great Lakes region.

On Wednesday, July 19 2023, FLOW and Oil & Water Don’t Mix presented a special live webinar, featuring a panel of experts on how Michigan, Wisconsin, and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are working together in the courts to shut down Line 5 and bring an end to Enbridge’s trespass on state, sovereign, and indigenous lands. We also discussed smart pipeline alternatives, how organizations are working to avert an oil spill disaster, and answered audience questions.

Our expert panel:

  • Riyaz Kanji, founding member and Directing Attorney of Kanji & Katzen and attorney for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
  • Christopher Clark, Supervising Senior Attorney, Earthjustice – representing Bay Mills Indian Community
  • Sean McBrearty, Campaign Coordinator, Oil & Water Don’t Mix and Legislative and Policy Director at Michigan Clean Water Action
  • Read full panelist bios.

Hosted by FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood, and moderated by Senior Legal Advisor Skip Pruss.

This online webinar was supported in part by a grant award from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation’s Natural Resources and Preservation Fund.


Meet the Line 5 Webinar Panelists

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is over 70 years old and remains a grave threat to the waters and people of the Great Lakes region. On Wednesday, July 19, FLOW and Oil & Water Don’t Mix will present a free live webinar, The Strait Story: Enbridge Line 5 and its Trespass on State Waters and Indigenous Lands. Viewers will learn about important legal developments, smart alternatives, and how we can avert an oil spill disaster.

We’re pleased to announce an outstanding panel of experts for the webinar:

Riyaz Kanji, Founding Member and Directing Attorney, Kanji & Katzen

Riyaz Kanji is a founding member of Kanji & Katzen, PLLC, a firm whose mission is to advance Tribal sovereignty. A graduate of Harvard College and the Yale Law School, Riyaz served as a law clerk to the late Honorable Betty Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. He is an advisor to and vocal cheerleader for the Tribal Supreme Court Project. Riyaz represents Tribes at all levels of the federal court system, and was part of the team that argued and won the decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma vindicating the continued existence of the Muscogee Creek Reservation.

Christopher Clark, Supervising Senior Attorney, Earthjustice, Chicago

Christopher joined Earthjustice’s Midwest regional program in January 2020. He works with the Chicago-based team to advance the organization’s mission throughout the region. Earthjustice, in collaboration with the Native American Rights Fund, currently represents the Bay Mills Indian Community in its advocacy and litigation efforts involving the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline. 

Prior to joining Earthjustice, Christopher worked for over a decade as senior counsel and then Midwest Regional Director for Lambda Legal, the nation’s largest LGBTQ legal rights organization. In that capacity, Christopher successfully argued cases before five different state supreme courts in the Midwest region. 

Christopher obtained his undergraduate degree in Public and International Affairs form Princeton University and his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. He lives in Chicago with his husband, Victor where they own an art gallery.

Sean McBrearty, Legislative and Policy Director, Clean Water Action

Sean McBrearty is the Campaign Coordinator for the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign and Legislative and Policy Director at Michigan Clean Water Action, where he works on water infrastructure, oil and gas, and drinking water issues. Mr. McBrearty has served as a leader in the campaign to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline for the past six years. He learned the importance of protecting drinking water and our environment from a young age, growing up in a community devastated by perennial droughts and poor water and air quality in California’s Central Valley.

FLOW Welcomes Court Order in Michigan Attorney General’s Case to Shut Down Line 5

Editor’s note: The following is a press statement from Zach Welcker, Legal Director of FLOW (For Love of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, Michigan, in response to a federal district court’s certification on Tuesday of questions for interlocutory review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The decision comes in the case of Nessel v. Enbridge, filed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on June 27, 2019, in the Michigan Circuit Court for the County of Ingham, to shut down the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes. Members of the media can reach Zach Welcker, FLOW Legal Director, at Zach@flowforwater.org or by cell at 231.620.7911.

“This is a welcome development in Attorney General Dana Nessel’s effort to return to state court her state-law claims seeking the shutdown of Enbridge’s dual oil pipelines on state-owned bottomlands in the Straits of Mackinac. FLOW credits her petition for mandamus—filed just two business days before the certification order—for prompting the federal district court to finally take action on a motion that the Attorney General filed more than five months ago.

“Although the district court’s order does not guarantee that the Sixth Circuit will agree to resolve the certified questions, we are hopeful that the Court will recognize that interlocutory review is necessary to protect the fundamental state rights that are undermined by the district court’s erroneous procedural and jurisdictional rulings. 

“The Attorney General’s extraordinary efforts to obtain appellate review before the right is available via direct appeal is a testament to her commitment to protect the Great Lakes—and our public rights to use and enjoy them—from being impaired by Enbridge, the same company that is responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil-spill disaster,” said FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker 

“The Attorney General’s extraordinary efforts to obtain appellate review before the right is available via direct appeal is a testament to her commitment to protect the Great Lakes—and our public rights to use and enjoy them—from being impaired by Enbridge, the same company that is responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil-spill disaster.” 

Additional Resources:

Petition for Writ of Mandamus in Nessel v. Enbridge-2023-2-17 

Opinion and Order Granting Motion to Certify-Nessel v. Enbridge-2023-2-21

FLOW’s Line 5 Program

FLOW’s Line 5 News