CALGARY — A legal battle between Canadian company Enbridge Inc and the U.S. state of Michigan over Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline will be heard in federal court, a judge ruled on Tuesday, dismissing Michigan’s motion to have the case sent back to state court.
Line 5 ships 540,000 barrels per day of crude and refined products from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario, via the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes. Michigan ordered the pipeline to shut down by May over concerns an underwater section could leak into the Great Lakes, an order that Enbridge has ignored.
Last month the Canadian government, which intervened in the court case in support of Enbridge, invoked a 1977 pipeline treaty with the United States to trigger negotiations between Ottawa and Washington over the pipeline’s fate.
Judge Janet Neff of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan said the case should remain in federal court.
The decision to keep the case in federal court is a plus for Enbridge, which is arguing the state of Michigan has no authority to shut down the pipeline, said Kristen van de Biezenbos, a law professor at the University of Calgary.
“Now that Canada has invoked the treaty, the fact that the issues transcend Michigan state law is pretty clear,” van de Biezenbos said.
Enbridge and the Michigan attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.