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AG Nessel Files in Wisconsin Federal Court Asking for Emergency Shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline
May 17, 2023
LANSING – Today, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel asked a Wisconsin federal court to take emergency action to protect Lake Superior from an imminent threat posed by Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. Nessel filed an amicus brief in support of an emergency motion filed last week by the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians of the Bad River Reservation.
The rising waters of the Bad River near Superior, Wisconsin have caused extreme erosion along the banks of the river and dramatically increased the likelihood that the Line 5 pipeline will rupture. In 2022, the court concluded that the presence of Line 5 on the Bad River Reservation constitutes a trespass, but the court did not order an immediate shutdown or rerouting of the pipeline. At that time, more than 30 feet of riverbank separated the pipeline from the water’s edge. But intense recent erosion has rapidly eaten away the bank, with one location losing over 10 feet of bank in a single week. As a result of this erosion, there are presently locations with as little as 11 feet of riverbank between the pipeline and the water’s edge. If the bank continues to erode and the water reaches the pipeline, the pipeline will be vulnerable to rupture due to the force of currents, debris strikes, or erosion of the ground beneath the pipeline leaving it suspended without adequate support.
If the pipeline ruptures, it will release oil and natural gas liquids into the Bad River, which flows directly into Lake Superior a mere 16 miles downstream. The Band has asked the court to order an emergency shutdown of the pipeline, and Nessel’s brief today supports that request.
“Lake Superior is a priceless natural and cultural resource and, like all the Great Lakes, it is vital to our way of life in Michigan,” Nessel said. “As Attorney General, I owe a duty to the people of Michigan to protect all of Michigan’s waters, not only for us today, but also for future generations. I will always do everything in my power to protect the Great Lakes from the threat posed by those who care more about their bottom line than about Michigan’s residents and natural resources.”
The purpose of the State’s brief is to ask the court to consider the impacts to the State of Michigan, its residents, and its natural resources if the pipeline ruptures and contaminates Lake Superior, and to inform the court that Michigan believes that the risk of a rupture outweighs any risk posed by a shutdown.
Nessel filed a lawsuit in state court in June 2019 to shut down Line 5, saying it was a grave threat to Michigan and the Great Lakes.