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 more than $5 million for trespassing.
The ruling came after the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued Enbridge in 2019, claiming the around 12 miles pipeline is in danger of rupturing on their land and that land agreements allowing it to run on the reservation expired in 2013.
U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled in Madison, Wisconsin, that along with the $5.15 million, Enbridge must pay the tribe a portion of the profits as long as the pipeline remains on the land.
Conley, however, ruled the pipeline wasn’t in imminent danger of bursting and said an immediate shutdown would "spark at least temporary shortages and increased prices for refined gas, propane and butane in the Upper Midwest and Eastern Canada, creating hardships, specially for the poor and other economically challenged households."
The tribe had argued that an emergency exists because erosion leaves the Line 5 pipeline at risk of 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 "cease operation of Line 5 on any parcel within the Band’s tribal territory on which defendants lack a valid right of way and to arrange reasonable remediation at those sites."
He also told Enbridge and the tribe last November to create an emergency shutoff plan.
Enbridge said it plans to appeal the decision, saying it disagrees that it is trespassing on tribal land but added it "remains 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 within three years.
The pipeline stretches 645 miles across Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario, carrying 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas each day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.