Biden Administration Says Enbridge Pipeline Shutdown Order Should Be Reconsidered

Reuters, April 10, 2024

The Biden administration has urged a U.S. appeals court to tell a lower court to rethink its order that would require Canadian operator Enbridge (ENB.TO) to drain portions of an oil pipeline that runs through Native American tribal land in Wisconsin, according to a court filing made public on Wednesday.

In an amicus, or friend-of-court, brief dated April 8, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that forcing Enbridge to drain portions of its Line 5 pipeline could interrupt service in violation of a 1977 treaty between the U.S. and Canada to keep oil flowing.

The U.S., which is not a party to the case, said the lower court was right to find Enbridge is trespassing on the tribal land, but said the court should reconsider its decision ordering Enbridge to stop operating portions of the pipeline by 2026.

Canada, which is also not a party to the case, had previously argued in an amicus brief that the pipeline should be kept open due to the treaty.

The 2019 lawsuit was filed against Enbridge by the Native American tribe the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Bad River Chairman Robert Blanchard in a statement said the tribe is grateful the U.S. agrees Enbridge is operating on tribal land unlawfully, but is "disappointed that the U.S. has not unequivocally called for an immediate end to Enbridge's ongoing trespass."

An Enbridge spokesperson said shutting the pipeline would not be in the public interest, and that the company continues to seek a solution that would not disrupt the flow of oil. The company has offered the Band $80 million to settle the dispute.

The 71-year-old pipeline carries 540,000 barrels of mostly Canadian oil per day from Wisconsin to Ontario and is part of the wider Mainline network.

The brief marks the first time DOJ has weighed in on the dispute since U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison last year ordered Enbridge to shutter portions of the pipeline that run along a 12-mile (19 kilometer) segment of the Band's reservation in Wisconsin.

He also ordered Enbridge to pay the tribe nearly $5.2 million for trespassing, plus a portion of its profits.

Both sides appealed the decision to the 7th Circuit, which had asked DOJ to weigh in on the issue in December. Judges said they couldn't make a decision without hearing from the U.S. government during oral arguments in February.

In its amicus brief, DOJ also said $5.2 million in restitution is too low, given Enbridge's profits from the pipeline. Enbridge has said it is still legally operating on the land, and is evaluating possible alternative routes for the pipeline.


Reporting by Clark Mindock in New York and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot

Click here to read the full article from Reuters.

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Comments and Discussion

There are no comments yet.

Add a Comment

Please log in or register to participate in comments and discussions.

Inspectioneering Journal

Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

Company Directory

Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

Training Solutions

Improve your skills in key mechanical integrity subjects.

Case Studies

Learn from the experience of others in the industry.


Inspectioneering's index of mechanical integrity topics – built by you.

Industry News

Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.


Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.

Expert Interviews

Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.

Event Calendar

Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.


Downloadable eBooks, Asset Intelligence Reports, checklists, white papers, and more.

Videos & Webinars

Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.


Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.