This is clearly not the end, but it’s a bit of good news.
From Michigan Advance:
Enbridge Inc. must shut down its Line 5 pipeline within three years and pay more than $5 million in profits to the Chippewa Indians Bad River Band, a federal judge in Madison ruled Friday.
Judge William Conley reaffirmed his September 2022 ruling upholding the tribe’s claim that Enbridge has been trespassing on its land since the June 2013 expiration of an agreement that gave the energy company an easement where 12 miles of pipeline passes through tribal land.
“Enbridge has and continues to commit conscious and willful trespass by operating Line 5 on the Band’s 12 former-allotment parcels for which 20-year rights of way expired in June 2013, making an appropriate remedy necessary to address the violation of the Band’s sovereign rights and to take away what otherwise would be a strong incentive for Enbridge to act in the future exactly as it has here,” Conley wrote in his decision.
Judge Conley’s ruling orders Enbridge to shut down of Line 5 within the Band’s tribal territory, which is about a 12 section that crosses the reservation.
Enbridge says it will appeal, of course.
There was a part of the judge’s ruling which wasn’t accurate, though.
According to the AP:
The judge’s order said a rupture on tribal land “would unquestionably be a public nuisance” but denied that the threat is imminent, and said a shutdown would likely “spark at least temporary shortages and increased prices for refined gas, propane and butane in the Upper Midwest and Eastern Canada, creating hardships, specially for the poor and other economically challenged households.”
Yet, as I highlighted here on the blog last week, studies by former chemical engineer and Dow employee, Gary Street, show a negligible rise in gasoline prices if Line 5 is ordered to stop. That has long been a scare tactic used by Enbridge, and it’s a tactic which is falling on deaf ears since its own expert claims closing the pipeline results in a price hike of half of one cent per gallon!
And I’m reminded of this story from Paul Egan in The Detroit Free Press back in 2019. Egan investigated what would happen if the pipeline closed immediately back then. He quoted Gary Street, who said that “the very business model of refineries is to have multiple sources of feedstock from multiple lines.”
Egan asked another expert on whether or not gas hikes were inevitable if Line 5 closed down:
Ryan Kellogg, who studies energy economics at the Harris School of Public Policy, said Michigan can expect some impact from a closure, unless the state’s residents suddenly start driving less or using less propane for heating.
“If it happened tomorrow, I would have to think the price spike would be noticeable — double digits,” Kellogg said.
If it was something that was planned, producers and refiners could be expected to adjust, after a transition period, he said.
The pipeline won’t be shut down immediately, but when it is eventually ordered to cease and desist, the industry will have long-planned for this and adjust accordingly.
As I said last week, we can’t give-in to Enbridge’s scare techniques. That being said, weaning ourselves off oil and gasoline to switch to a more green and energy efficient economy will inevitably offset any possible price hikes. Because in the end, if we want to use the Great Lakes as a source of revenue, and as a source to attract people to move to Michigan, keeping them clean should take top priority.
Still, a win is a win, but the fight continues–not just on closing this 70 year old pipeline, but on saving the entire environment of Michigan.