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Attorney General Team Argues Before Federal Appeals Court: Line 5 Lawsuit Belongs in State Court

CINCINNATI – Today, attorneys for the Department of Attorney General gave oral arguments before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, making the case that Nessel v. Enbridge should be litigated in a state court of Michigan, announced Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Nessel is asking the Sixth Circuit to order that the case seeking to shut down the aging and dangerous oil pipeline be sent back to state court, where it was originally filed and litigated for over a year.

“We are here today for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear arguments on whether to send this case back to state court where it belongs or keep it in federal court where Enbridge wants it,” said Nessel. “As Michigan’s Attorney General, I will always fight to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of pollution caused by those who put their own profits above our priceless natural resources. Ultimately, this is a Michigan case brought under Michigan law by Michigan’s chief law enforcement officer on behalf of the People of the State to protect our Great Lakes. It belongs in a Michigan court."

“The state government has a responsibility to enforce environmental protections,” she continued. “We must be allowed to enforce state law in state court, that has always been our position as we work to protect our natural resources from an aging, degrading, and dangerous oil pipeline in the middle of one of our state’s most fragile and unique ecosystems.”

Attorney General Nessel argues that the case should be handled in state court, where she originally sued Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy in 2019. Enbridge originally agreed and litigated the case there for over a year. The state court agreed with Nessel that Line 5 needed to be temporarily shut down after being struck by anchors or similar objects, and the court ordered a temporary shut down in the summer of 2020. Nessel and Enbridge each filed motions asking the state court to decide the case, but those motions were never decided because Enbridge then removed the case to federal court long after the deadline to do so had passed.  

“The pipeline is now over 70 years old, and Enbridge has a long history of illegal and unintended releases from its oil pipelines, including several from Line 5 itself, as well as the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history from Line 6B in 2010,” Nessel continued. “The state court was absolutely right to order the temporary shutdown of Line 5 in 2020. A release from Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac would be truly catastrophic, both economically and environmentally.”

Despite Enbridge’s procedural maneuvering, and the fact that substantial litigation had already taken place in the state court, the federal trial court denied Nessel’s request to remand the case back to state court. Nessel asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to take the unusual step of reviewing that decision now, rather than waiting for the case to be fully litigated in the federal trial court.

Attorney General Nessel argues that Enbridge’s removal of the case to federal court was both late and improper. The federal trial court agreed that the Federal Court of Appeals should review this question. The Court of Appeals granted Nessel permission to appeal in July of last year.


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