Canada invokes 1977 treaty with US over Line 5 pipeline dispute

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Canada formally invoked the 1977 pipelines treaty with the United States while reacting to Michigan’s efforts to shut down the Line 5 pipeline.

“In response to Michigan’s efforts to shut down Line 5, Canada has raised its significance for Canadian economic and energy security at the highest levels of the U.S. federal government. We have also stressed the importance of fully respecting and implementing the international agreements that are in place between our two countries,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.

The statement further added that Canada is formally invoking the dispute settlement provision of the 1977 Agreement to ensure its full application, emphasizing that Line 5 is governed by the provisions of the 1977 Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Transit Pipelines, which guarantees the uninterrupted transit of light crude oil and natural gas liquids between the two countries.

“Furthermore, Canada supports Enbridge’s plan to replace the existing pipeline with the proposed Great Lakes Tunnel Project, which will run far below the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac, to further protect the Great Lakes,” Garneau said, adding that efforts to ensure the continued safe operation of Line 5 will be made in close collaboration with the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, as well as with Canadian industry and labour sectors.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenney, in a statement said “Alberta stands firmly behind Canada formally invoking the dispute settlement provision of the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty to ensure Line 5 remains operational. We previously voiced our support for this strong action and we are pleased the federal government has listened and followed through.”

Kenney further added “The shutdown of a safely operating pipeline could potentially set a dangerous precedent for future infrastructure projects. This cannot be allowed to happen. As we continue to manage the devastating impact of the COVID-19 global recession, it’s more important now than ever that Canada and the U.S. work together to support a continental energy strategy.”

Line 5 is a pipeline that transports hydrocarbons from Western Canada to Central Canada through the United States. It is a critical piece of energy infrastructure, which has safely carried light crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac—which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron—for more than 65 years, according to Global Affairs Canada.

On November 13, 2020, the Office of the Governor of the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a Notice of Revocation and Termination of Easement with the intended effect of permanently shutting down Line 5. This notice is currently the subject of a legal dispute in U.S. courts between Michigan and Enbridge.

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