MACKINAC, Michigan – The fate of Enbridge’s Line 5 submarine pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac is currently in the hands of a court-approved mediator. That mediator recently announced in Western District Court documents the State of Michigan and Canadian energy giant Enbridge inc. will meet again August 11.
The pipeline was ordered closed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November, but Enbridge has disputed the state’s jurisdiction, holding that the pipeline falls under federal jurisdiction. Governor Whitmer maintains that the pipeline presents a potential environmental disaster should it leak into the Great Lakes. Endbridge points out that the dual pipeline has operated safely since its construction in 1953 and has offered up an alternative to the submarine pipeline in the form of a tunnel.
The proposed pipeline would be built entirely with private funding and would be constructed hundreds of feet below the lakebed, which Endbridge maintains would alleviate any spill concerns.
Canada has filed an intervention in the case, warning that cancelling the pipeline would damage its relationship with the US and undermine future US foreign policy decisions. The pipeline terminates at refineries in Sarnia, Ontario and thousands of jobs on both sides of the border are dependent on the pipeline.
Canada argues the issue should be resolved through bi-lateral talks centred on the terms of a 1977 treaty that specifically covers pipelines that cross the border. Both Canada and the US have been holding bi-weekly meetings on the issue.
The current court proceedings are centred on where jurisdiction for the pipeline lies. Michigan has cited its responsibility for public safety and, by extension, the environment as paramount in the jurisdictional arguments. Those arguments are based in jurisprudence that dates all the way back to the days of the Roman Empire and are foundational to both European and North American law.