Line 5 Pipeline: Wisconsin Reroute

The Line 5 oil pipeline crosses more than 280 rivers and streams that flow indirectly into the Great Lakes, waters that supply drinking water to over 40 million people.


Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy that transports crude oil and natural gas liquids from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The 69-year-old pipeline has ruptured at least 30 times in the past 50 years, releasing more than 1 million gallons of oil.

The Great Lakes are the lifeblood of Tribal Nations across Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who depend on its connected tributaries, coastal waters, groundwater aquifers, and fish and plant populations to sustain their supply of drinking water, food, and ancient medicines.

In 2021, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released a deeply flawed draft environmental review of a dangerous plan by Enbridge Energy to relocate part of the Line 5 oil pipeline where it runs through the Bad River watershed. Both the plan and the environmental review utterly failed to analyze the hazards this proposal creates for the surrounding communities, including the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, as well as the ecosystems of the surrounding rivers and the local drinking water supply.

Earthjustice represents the Bad River Band in challenging the environmental review of the pipeline.

The Tribe’s Reservation sits within the Bad River watershed, a critical Lake Superior tributary that spans over 1,000 miles of interconnected rivers including the White River (Waabishkaa-ziibi) and the Bad River (Mashkiigon-ziibi). The watershed is the cultural epicenter of the Bad River Band, and keeping it healthy has major environmental and economic significance.

In a related case, the Bay Mills Indian Community, an Ojibwe Tribal Nation, is advocating and litigating to shut down the Line 5 pipeline and prevent a proposed tunnel project underneath the Great Lakes. Earthjustice is representing Bay Mills in its legal fight.

The Bad and White rivers flow through the Bad River Reservation and into Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline crosses both rivers and threatens the Bad River watershed and reservation.
Jaida Grey Eagle for Earthjustice

Case Updates

February 20, 2024 In the News: Inside Climate News

Enbridge Wants Line 5 Shutdown Order Overturned on Tribal Land in Northern Wisconsin

Debbie Chizewer, Managing Attorney, Midwest Office: “It would really limit the ability of state governments and tribal nations and others to protect the interests that have been widely accepted for many years. If you can’t protect your land from a trespass because of the oil pipelines, what’s the point of having your own land?”

Canoes and kayaks on the lake next to a larger bridge, holding a sign that says Evict Enbridge.
December 1, 2023 Article

The Great Lakes Under Threat

The Line 5 pipeline has leaked over 1 million gallons of oil to date and threatens the Great Lakes.

July 7, 2023 In the News: Wisconsin Examiner

Tribal leaders, environmental advocates decry Enbridge appeal of Line 5 ruling

Stefanie Tsosie, Attorney, Tribal Partnerships Program, Earthjustice: “Enbridge’s appeal — like their proposal to re-route the pipeline — is just a misguided attempt to keep the oil and their profits flowing at the expense of the Band and everyone else who relies on the Great Lakes. Hundreds of wetlands and waterways in this unique ecosystem would be impacted by the reroute project, which only moves the threat of an oil spill further upstream from its current path. The only serious…