Canada invokes pipeline treaty to prevent shutdown of Enbridge oil system

The Canadian government has invoked an international treaty with the United States to avoid possible distribution of Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline in the latest chapter of a tribal lawsuit against the company.

Federal Foreign Minister Melanie Joly activated the Pipeline Transit Treaty of 1977 to enforce the treaty’s prohibition against agencies of either country “obstructing, diverting, redirecting or interfering with any way with the transmission of hydrocarbons in transit”.

Joly cited “serious concerns about the possible closure of Line 5,” a 540,000 bpd international oil pipeline serving Ontario and Quebec, as well as markets in the U.S. Midwest. Since 2019, the Bad River LaPointe Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians has been waging a legal battle over the section of pipeline that crosses their recognized lands in northern Wisconsin.

In its lawsuit, the tribe argues that pipeline easements granted by previous tribal governments expired in 2013, turning Line 5 into “unlawful possession of the lands in question and an intentional and continuing trespass thereon.”

The Canadian decision follows a recent request by the tribe for an immediate injunction from the U.S. District Court to halt deliveries of Line 5 for 12 miles through its territory while its Indigenous rights case for pipe removal is heard. .

Tribal leaders also call the pipeline a threat to the Great Lakes, echoing environmental warnings from the Michigan state executive, where the Canadian government has also invoked the pipeline treaty to protect Enbridge’s oil service. .

The tribe filed the lawsuit after unsuccessfully seeking $45 million in compensation for Line 5’s past operations and its closure. Enbridge offered $30 million and an end to oil flow through the reservation after building a 41-mile pipeline detour around the reservation.

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Closing Line 5 without a replacement would have “domino effects,” Joly said, affecting thousands of jobs in Canada.

“The closure could have a major impact on a number of communities on both sides of the border who depend on the wellbeing of businesses throughout the supply chain.”

Joly said the Canadian government is “strongly supportive” of Enbridge’s Line 5 detour.

“In the upcoming negotiations with the United States under the treaty, Canada is committed to working constructively to find a solution that meets the interests of the communities, respects Canada’s rights under the treaty and ensures the continuous and secure supply of energy to central Canada,” said Joly.

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