Federal judge orders Enbridge to pay over $5M to Bad River Band, close oil pipeline 

A federal judge has given Enbridge three years to shut down parts of an oil pipeline that crosses reservation land and ordered the energy company to pay a Native American tribe more than $5 million for trespassing, the Associated Press reports.

Friday’s order from U.S. District Judge William Conley came after members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa told him during a hearing in Madison that the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is at immediate risk of being exposed by erosion and rupturing on their land.

The tribe argued that an emergency exists because large sections of nearby riverbank have washed away this year, leaving less than 15 feet of land between Line 5 and the Bad River as it meanders on the reservation.

Experts and environmental advocates have warned in court that exposed pipelines would be weakened and could rupture at any time, causing massive oil spills.

The judge’s order acknowledged a rupture would be a nuisance but denied that the threat is imminent; he also noted a shutdown would be likely to cause temporary shortages and increased prices for propane, refined gas, and butane in the Upper Midwest and Eastern Canada.

His order gives Enbridge three years to cease Line 5 operation on parcels within the Band’s tribal territory on which defendants do not have a valid right of way and arrange remediation at those sites. Conley also ordered Enbridge to keep paying the tribe a portion of its profits for as long as the pipeline continues operating on tribal land.

Enbridge said Saturday that it plans to appeal.