State asks judge to stop mediator from filing report in Enbridge case

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan has asked a federal judge to bar a mediator from disclosing details of mediation sessions between state lawyers and Enbridge Energy about the state's attempt to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. 

Mediator Gerald Rosen, a former Detroit U.S. district judge, plans to file a report within the next few days on the status of mediation, which, as of last Thursday, had failed to yield an agreement, Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a Tuesday filing. 

But the terms of the mediation agreement establish that the process is "confidential" and prohibit the disclosure of information such as "communications and the conduct of parties in the course of mediation," the filing said.

This is Enbridge's Mackinaw Station for Line 5.

Instead, the terms of mediation allow the mediator to make a report "stating only who participated in the mediation session and whether settlement was reached."

In a Tuesday statement, an Enbridge spokesman said the company intends to work with the state "to reconcile interests, resolve disputes and move forward."

"We believe in the process and have participated in this mediation in good faith," said Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy. "We understand the stakes in this matter are important not only for Enbridge and the state, but for many others throughout the region who have strong interest in its outcome." 

The two parties have not scheduled any further mediation meetings. They've met four times since April and had hoped to conclude mediation by the end of the month. Rosen led the mediation team that pulled Detroit out of municipal bankruptcy in 18 months through what has become known as the "grand bargain."

The mediation seeks an agreement that ends an impasse between the Canadian oil giant and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmover the future of the Line 5 oil pipeline. 

In November, the state gave Line 5 owner Enbridge 180 days to arrange for a shutdown, a period that expired on May 12. Michigan filed a case in state court seeking to buoy its authority to order the shutdown.

Enbridge refused to close by that date and instead filed a competing suit against the state in federal court, asking the judge to rule only federal regulators had any say over the pipeline's closure.

The 68-year-old dual pipeline can carry about 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids through the Straits of Mackinac a day. It has been the subject of intense debate for about a decade, as environmental advocates have pushed for its decommission because they fear the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in Lakes Michigan and Huron. 

Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder reached an agreement with Enbridge in 2018 that would require Enbridge to build a $500 million tunnel to house a new segment of the pipeline beneath the Straits that would guard against such a rupture. The agreement was upheld in court.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com