Still ‘non-negotiable’: Canada’s Natural Resources Minister redraws line on Line 5


OASHINGTON — Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is doubling down on Canada’s assertion that continued operation of Line 5 is “non-negotiable.”

Wilkinson made the comments Friday in the House of Commons as opposition MPs seized on media reports that the controversial cross-border pipeline faces another legal challenge.

In addition to efforts by the state of Michigan to shut down Line 5, an Indigenous group in Wisconsin is now asking a judge to do the same.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa argues in court documents that Enbridge Inc., the owner of the pipeline, no longer has the right to operate in its territory.

Fifteen of the 20-year easements that allowed the company to operate in the band’s territory expired in 2013 and were never properly renewed, they claim in court documents.

“Enbridge continued to operate the pipeline as if it had an indefinite right to do so,” the documents, first reported by The Globe and Mail, state.

“This constitutes an unlawful possession of the lands in question and an intentional and continuing trespass upon them.”

The band filed a motion in February seeking summary judgment against Enbridge – in other words, to close Line 5 without a trial.

“The continued operation of Line 5 is non-negotiable,” Wilkinson said Friday in response to a question from Conservative MP John Brassard.

“We will take appropriate measures to ensure the continued and safe operation of this critical infrastructure. And we continue to work closely with the owner of Line 5.”

Wilkinson said he would continue to raise the issue in discussions with his American counterparts. Federal officials say the minister will be in DC for meetings on a number of bilateral issues in the coming days, potentially as early as next week.

The Conservatives, however, want the government to take a tougher line, urging Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to intervene in the Wisconsin case the same way they did in Michigan: with an amicus brief to make promote Canada’s economic interests.

“As before, the government must take a ‘Team Canada’ approach to fighting this latest legal challenge to an international pipeline that is critical to our country,” Tory MPs Greg McLean and Marilyn Gladu wrote in a letter to Joly. early this week.

“We call on you to fully defend and support Canada’s interests once again, by filing an amicus brief and ensuring that the terms of the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty are met.

Enbridge, meanwhile, is trying to move the pipeline out of band territory, spokesman Jesse Semko said, adding that a 1992 agreement with the Bad River Band allows operations to continue. until 2043.

This relocation project will involve a Wisconsin contractor, a union and an Indigenous workforce, as well as $46 million spent specifically on Indigenous businesses and communities in the area, Semko said.

“An agreement has been reached with 100% of the private landowners along the route, which was chosen because it minimizes environmental impacts and protects critical resources.”

Wisconsin’s challenge comes as Enbridge tries to fend off Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who fears an environmental disaster in the Strait of Mackinac, where the twin lines cross the Great Lakes.

Enbridge insists the pipeline is safe and has already received a level of state approval for a $500 million concrete tunnel under the strait that would house the line’s twin pipes and protect them from strikes. ‘anchoring.

In the Michigan case, Canada invoked a 1977 bilateral pipeline treaty to ensure the uninterrupted flow of energy between the two countries and asked the court to allow those talks to proceed.

It’s not yet clear whether the federal Liberal government will do so again in the Wisconsin case, though that would likely require a separate round of negotiations, Semko added.

“Given Line 5 volumes, there is no easy alternative for the upper U.S. Midwest and Canada,” it said in a statement.

“Moving the same volumes by truck or rail would require more trucks and railcars than is currently available, cost significantly more, and consume more fuel to move it.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 6, 2022.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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