Canada Invokes 1977 Pipeline Treaty With The US Over Long-Standing Line 5 Dispute

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Canada Invokes 1977 Pipeline Treaty With The US Over Long-Standing Line 5 Dispute

Tue, 10/05/2021 - 11:57
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Flags of Canada and the USA (copyright by Shutterstock/ruskpp)
Flags of Canada and the USA (copyright by Shutterstock/ruskpp)

Canada, on Monday, October 4th, invoked the 1977 treaty with the US to push for bilateral negotiations over Enbridge Inc’s Line 5 pipeline network project halted many months ago. The move by the Canadian government is part of the efforts to end the long-standing dispute between the State of Michigan and the Canada’s oil export pipeline company, Enbridge.

According to experts, invoking the 1977 US-Canada Treaty will escalate the dispute to a nation-to-nation level, forcing Joe Biden’s administration to take part in Line 5 dispute resolution, ending the seven-month stalemate between the two parties.

“They’re going to escalate it up to the nation-to-nation level, and hopefully, we will have a resolution,” said Ian Lee, a business professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University.  Line 5, one of Canada’s major pipelines, transmits 540,000 barrels of crude oil per day, and refined liquid products from  Superior, Wisconsin, all the way to Sarnia, Ontario.

The trouble began when the state of Michigan issued a shutdown order for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in May, 2021, due to worries of a leak over a 4-mile section of the pipeline running underneath Mackinac Straits in Great Lake. However, Enbridge ignored the order to shut down Line 5, leading to a legal battle between the two sides.

While Canada has been pushing their US counterparts to intervene in the matter, invoking Article Six of the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty is a real step-up in Ottawa’s efforts to help safeguard Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

“Today, Canada is formally invoking the dispute settlement provision of the 1977 Agreement to ensure its full application,” said Marc Garneau, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister. In a statement, Garneau said Line 5 operates in compliance with the 1977 treaty guaranteeing the uninterrupted transit of natural gas liquids and light crude oil between the two countries.

In a letter sent to the US Federal Judge presiding over Line 5 dispute case by Gordon Giffin, the attorney for the Canadian government, the legal councel stated that Canada had officially invoked Article Six of the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty and requested a halt to any proceeding related to Line 5.  However, the request was dismissed by Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel citing a lack of a legal basis to halt the case proceedings.

“I am disappointed that the Government of Canada continues to align itself with Enbridge’s desire to keep using State-owned lands to pump oil through the heart of the Great Lakes, threatening our most precious public resources,” said Nessel in a statement.

Ealier this year, Enbridge Inc. and the State of Michigan engaged in court-ordered mediation before things turned murkier after Enbridge Spokesperson Tracy Larsson reported the Michigan State was not interested in further talks, stalling the mediation process.

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