State, Enbridge aim to complete Line 5 mediation by end of August

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan and Enbridge expect to complete mediation over the future of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac by the end of August, the parties told a federal judge Thursday. 

The parties are expected to meet with their mediator, former Detroit U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, on Aug. 11. They began meeting with Rosen in April about the ongoing dispute over the future of the 68-year-old pipeline. 

Enbridge wants to "work cooperatively to reconcile interests, resolve disputes and move forward" through the mediation process, spokesman Ryan Duffy said Friday. 

"We understand the stakes in this matter are important not only for Enbridge and the state, but for many others throughout the region that have strong interest in its outcome," Duffy said in a statement. "Meanwhile, we will continue to safely and responsibly deliver the energy the region relies upon from the Line 5 system. "

Attorney General Dana Nessel's office declined comment due to the confidential nature of the court-ordered mediation.

This is Enbridge's Mackinaw Station for Line 5.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November revoked Enbridge's easement through the Straits of Mackinac and ordered the company by May 12 to shut down the dual pipeline carrying up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day through the Straits. 

Whitmer filed in Ingham County Circuit Court at the same time, seeking a court order to uphold her actions. 

She argued that Enbridge had "persistent and incurable violations" of the easement as well as violations of the public trust document.

Enbridge has argued it cured whatever violations cropped up during the lifetime of the pipeline

The company refused to close the line absent a court order and filed its own suit in federal district court, where the Canadian oil giant argued federal regulators, not state, had the final say over the operation of the line.

The company also removed Michigan's suit from state court to federal on similar grounds. The state continues to fight the removal of the case to the conservative-leaning federal court.

Amid the litigation, Enbridge continues moving forward with plans to build an estimated $500 million tunnel beneath the Straits to house a new segment of the pipeline. 

Enbridge has secured permits from the state for the project but still lacks authorization from the Michigan Public Service Commission and federal permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Both agencies have ordered environmental reviews of the project that could delay construction.