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Judge orders Enbridge to remove oil pipeline from Wisconsin tribal land inside 3 years, pay $5 million

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A federal judge ordered Canadian energy company Enbridge on Friday to remove parts of an oil pipeline on tribal lands in Wisconsin and to pay the tribe greater than $5 million for trespassing. 

The ruling got here after the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued Enbridge in 2019, claiming the around 12 miles pipeline is at risk of rupturing on their land and that land agreements allowing it to run on the reservation expired in 2013. 

US District Judge William Conley ruled in Madison, Wisconsin, that together with the $5.15 million, Enbridge must pay the tribe a portion of the profits so long as the pipeline stays on the land. 

Conley, nevertheless, ruled the pipeline wasn’t in imminent danger of bursting and said an instantaneous shutdown would “spark no less than temporary shortages and increased prices for refined gas, propane and butane within the Upper Midwest and Eastern Canada, creating hardships, specially for the poor and other economically challenged households.”

A federal judge ordered Enbridge to remove parts of its Line 5 pipeline that cross tribal lands in Wisconsin, following a lawsuit. AP

The tribe had argued that an emergency exists because erosion leaves the Line 5 pipeline liable to being exposed, which experts have warned in court could weaken the pipeline until it ruptures, causing an oil spill. 

Conley said, “given the environmental risks, the court will order Enbridge to adopt a more conservative shutdown and purge plan,” ordering it to “stop operation of Line 5 on any parcel throughout the Band’s tribal territory on which defendants lack a legitimate right of way and to rearrange reasonable remediation at those sites.”

He also told Enbridge and the tribe last November to create an emergency shutoff plan. 

A Pipeline used to carry crude oil sits at the Superior, Wis., terminal of Enbridge Energy on June 29, 2018.A pipeline used to hold crude oil sits on the Superior, Wis., terminal of Enbridge Energy on June 29, 2018.AP

Enbridge said it plans to appeal the choice, saying it disagrees that it’s trespassing on tribal land but added it “stays open to an amicable resolution with the Bad River Band.”

It said a long-term solution is a 41-mile reroute of the pipeline that relies on “timely government permit approvals” for it to be done inside three years. 

The pipeline stretches 645 miles across Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario, carrying 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas every day. 

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