Mackinac Bridge | Susan J. Demas
While it is still unclear when a federal judge will make a ruling on which court — state or federal — will preside over Michigan’s lawsuit against Enbridge to shut down its controversial Line 5 oil pipeline, a recent filing in State of Michigan v Enbridge offers a clue for the timeline.
Canadian oil company Enbridge and the state of Michigan have been locked in court battles since 2019 over the pipeline. All but one lawsuit is on pause for now, however, as both parties attend required mediation sessions over which court will decide if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s May 12 order shutdown is enforced.
According to a document filed Thursday in federal court, Enbridge and the state of Michigan meet next with a mediator on Aug. 11. After that, the parties “anticipate that the mediation could be completed by or around the end of August 2021.”
There are no remaining deadlines or hearings in the case, so Judge Janet Neff is free to make her final determination on Enbridge’s motion to remand after mediation is concluded.
Whitmer’s shutdown order, announced in November, took effect on May 12 but Enbridge has remained staunch in its refusal to comply without the backing of a court order.
Oil continues to flow through the 68-year-old pipelines under the environmentally-sensitive Mackinac Straits despite Whitmer’s continued warnings, including a promise that the state intends to seize Enbridge’s profits it earns from operating the pipeline in violation of Whitmer’s order.
After Whitmer filed a lawsuit in the 30th Circuit Court to back up her court order in November, Enbridge filed suit in federal court while also filing a motion for Neff to remand the state’s lawsuit to federal court.
Enbridge is seen as having the upper hand in federal court, as the Canadian company intends to rely heavily on federal statutes and international commerce arguments to keep Line 5 in operation.
Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) continue to fight to remand the case back to the 30th Circuit Court, where they will have a better shot of forcing Enbridge to shut the pipeline down.
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