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MI environmental group hails Enbridge suit being ordered back to state court

The colorful and clear waters of the straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan
JORGE L MORO Jorge L Moro/Jorge Moro - stock.adobe.com
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The colorful and clear waters of the straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan

A Michigan nonprofit dedicated to keeping oil out of the Great Lakes is celebrating a major victory.

A federal Appellate Court has ruled that Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's 2019 lawsuit against Canadian oil company Enbridge belongs back in state court.

Nessel's lawsuit aims to shut down part of the Line 5 petroleum pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac over concerns of a potential oil spill.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals discovered that Enbridge moved the case from state court to federal court more than two years past the deadline for changing jurisdictions.

Sean McBrearty is campaign coordinator for the group Oil and Water Don't Mix, and the Michigan director for Clean Water Action.

He said the appellate court's ruling is justified, because Nessel sued Enbridge under the State Public Trust Doctrine and the State Environmental Policy Act.

"Essentially what the doctrine says is that the waters and bottom lands of the state are owned by the people," said McBrearty, "and it's the duty of the state government to care for them in perpetuity."

In response, Enbridge issued a statement that says in part that they are disappointed in the Appellate court's decision, and they believe "the case should remain in federal court given the clear and substantial questions of federal law raised by the attorney general's complaint."

Line 5 transports petroleum products from northwestern Wisconsin through Michigan into Ontario, threading through the Straits of Mackinac.

McBrearty underscored that his organization's concerns about the pipeline and the potential for a catastrophic oil spill are rooted in scientific evidence.

"We have a now 71-year-old pipeline, that was made to last 50-years," said McBrearty, "running everyday through what scientists call the most dangerous spot in the Great Lakes for an oil spill."

Enbridge maintains that Line 5's safety is exclusively regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The case will return to Michigan's 30th Circuit Court in Ingham County.

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