IG news Update,
North America’s existential debate about the merits and dangers of oil and gas pipelines faces a crucial test Thursday in Wisconsin.
That’s where a district court judge will hear arguments about whether or not to close Line 5, a critical cross-border energy conduit between Canada and the US.
The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa says spring flooding has overlooked the risk of a breach on its northern Wisconsin territory.
Alberta-based Enbridge Inc., the owner of the pipeline, says the band is exaggerating the risk and preventing the company from taking protective measures.
Thursday’s hearing will involve attorneys for the state of Michigan, which has been trying in its own courts since 2019 to shut down Line 5.
It is unclear how long the hearing will last or how soon District Court Judge William Conley will rule on the band’s request for an order to shut down the pipeline.
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The band, which argues that Enbridge’s right to operate in its area has long expired, fears an impending disaster following spring flooding along the Bad River, which it says will undermine the area around the line. Have given.
For its part, Enbridge insists that those claims of an emergency have been exaggerated _ and that shutting down the pipeline would be too drastic a measure.
“Despite proving both liability and grounds for an injunction, the band has done neither. The motion must therefore be denied,” Enbridge argued in a brief filed before the hearing.
“No release of oil is ‘ready to happen’, ‘happening soon’ or ‘actual and immediate.’
Enbridge argues that even if the risk was high, the shutdown would be inappropriate, pointing to a court-ordered contingency plan that spelled out the steps the threat actually warranted.
“Enbridge will pre-emptively purge and shut down the line prior to any potential rupture,” the brief said, adding that the area remains under continuous 24-hour video surveillance.
“No amount of flooding and erosion has taken Enbridge by surprise and will not.”
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Heavy flooding in early April washed away significant sections of the riverbed where Line 5 intersects the Bad River, a 120-kilometer meander that connects Lake Superior and a complex network of ecologically fragile wetlands. feeds.
The band has been in court with Enbridge since 2019, in an attempt to force the pipeline’s owner and operator to reroute Line 5 around its traditional territory – something the company has already agreed to do.
But the flood has turned a theoretical risk into a very real one, argues the band, and it wants the pipeline to be shut down immediately to prevent catastrophe.
Line 5 meets the river just before a spot where the court is known as a “meander”, where the riverbed snakes back and forth several times, separated only by several meters of forest and pipelines.
In four places, the river was less than 4.6 meters from the pipeline – only 3.4 meters in one particular location – and erosion is still ongoing.
Michigan, led by Attorney General Dana Nessel, has been arguing since 2019 that it is only a matter of time before Line 5 leaks into the Straits of Mackinac, the ecologically fragile waterway where it crosses the Great Lakes.
Nessel argued in his brief, “Dangerous erosion on the eroded river meander poses an imminent risk of irreparable damage to Lake Superior, which far outweighs the risk of impacts associated with the closure of the Line 5 pipeline.”
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“Without judicial intervention, it is likely that this irreparable harm will be inflicted not only on the band, but also on Michigan, its residents, and its natural resources.”
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The economic argument against closing the pipeline — which carries 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids daily in Wisconsin and Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ont. _ are famous till now.
Defenders of Line 5, which include the federal government, say the shutdown would cause major economic disruption across the prairie and the US Midwest, where it provides feedstock to refineries in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
It also supplies major refining facilities in Ontario and Quebec, and is important for the production of jet fuel for major airports on both sides of the Canada–US border, including Detroit Metropolitan and Pearson International in Toronto.
A lengthy statement released Tuesday by the Canadian embassy warned of dire economic consequences of closing the line, as well as potential implications for bilateral relations.
“The energy security of both Canada and the United States will be directly affected by the closure of Line 5,” the statement said. It said that around 33,000 US jobs and US$20 billion worth of economic activity would be at stake.
“During the energy transition, at a time of growing concern over energy security and supply, maintaining and protecting existing infrastructure must be a top priority.”
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The two countries have been negotiating for months under the terms of a 1977 pipeline treaty that effectively prohibits either country from unilaterally shutting off the flow of hydrocarbons.
Nonetheless, the embassy statement and the Enbridge brief acknowledge that the possibility of a shutdown order is very real.
In Enbridge’s case, the brief asked the judge to grant a 30-day adjournment to give lawyers time to file an appeal should an injunction be ordered.
And if “this specific, temporary flood situation” results in a shutdown, the embassy says, Canada expects the US to abide by the treaty, “including the prompt resumption of normal pipeline operations.”