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Enbridge removes Michigan's oil pipeline lawsuit to federal court

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A signpost marks the presence of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada March 20, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

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CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) on Wednesday removed to U.S. federal court a lawsuit filed by Michigan's attorney general against its Line 5 oil pipeline, the latest in a long-running dispute between the Canadian company and the Midwestern state.

The lawsuit had originally been filed in state court in June 2019 by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Nessel's office said Enbridge's move was an "outrageous maneuver" and questioned its validity, saying that federal law states the process to remove a lawsuit must be initiated within 30 days of its being served.

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"We will address this flagrant attempt to undermine that process in court and remain fervently committed to our belief that the fate of Michigan’s greatest natural resources should be determined in a Michigan court," spokesperson Lynsey Mukomel said in an email.

Line 5 ships 540,000 barrel per day of crude and refined products from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario, via Michigan. A 4-mile (6.4-km) section of the aging pipeline runs underwater through the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes and environmentalists are concerned about the risk of an oil leak.

The state ordered the pipeline to shut down by May this year, which Enbridge ignored, and the two sides are embroiled in a legal battle over Line 5's fate. Michigan has been trying to get the lawsuits heard under state law, while Enbridge has been pushing for federal judges to decide the matter.

Enbridge scored a win last month when a federal judge said a lawsuit brought against the pipeline by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer would be heard in federal court, prompting Whitmer to drop it in favor of the separate case filed by Nessel in 2019. Nessel's case had been put on hold while the governor's lawsuit proceeded. read more

"The removal of the Attorney General's case to federal court follows a November 16, 2021 ruling which held that the similar (and now dismissed) lawsuit brought by the Governor to force Line 5's shutdown raised important federal issues and should be heard in federal court," Enbridge said in a statement.

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Reporting by Nia Williams, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Peter Cooney

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