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Line 5 Oil Pipeline Battle Goes International

Canada has invoked a 1977 pipeline treaty to seek bilateral negotiations with the United States over the future of the Line 5 oil pipeline, which has caused a bitter legal dispute between the state of Michigan and pipeline operator Enbridge.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources revoked Enbridge's easement for the operation of the twin Line 5 pipeline last November, citing repeated violations of the easement and the need to protect the Great Lakes. Michigan’s notice required Enbridge to cease operations of the pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac by May 12, 2021. Enbridge ignored the notice and continues running the pipeline. The company says that only a court and the U.S. federal government have authority to order Line 5 shut down.

Canada has been trying for months to engage the Biden Administration in talks over the pipeline, aiming to keep Line 5 – a major outlet for Canada’s oil producers into the U.S. – open.

Now, the Canadian government informed a Michigan court that it is invoking an article of the 1977 Treaty on transit pipelines by presenting to the United States, through diplomatic channels, a formal request for negotiations.

“That formal request notes that, under the terms of its Article II, the Treaty provides that “No public authority in the territory of either Party shall institute any measures (…) which are intended to, or which would have the effect of, impeding, diverting, redirecting, or interfering with in any way the transmission of hydrocarbons in transit,” a lawyer wrote on behalf of the Canadian government to Judge Janet T. Neff of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Enbridge and Michigan participated in a court-ordered mediation in the summer, with no result.

After Michigan’s notice, Enbridge filed a federal complaint at a U.S. district court seeking an injunction to stop Michigan’s order for closure of the Line 5 pipeline, arguing that the state’s shutdown order violates U.S. federal law and the Constitution.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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