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Bad River Band votes to eject Line 5 pipeline from their territory

The Council of Canadians expresses solidarity with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and their opposition to the Line 5 pipeline.

The pipeline transports up to 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil, and natural gas liquids. The pipeline, built in 1953, runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet.

A University of Michigan Water Center study released in March 2016 found that 1,160 kilometres of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada are considered potentially vulnerable to a Line 5 spill. The National Wildlife Federation says, “A large oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could potentially spread across vast areas of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. A far-reaching oil slick that spread into Lake Huron could also affect Georgian Bay, one of the most vibrant freshwater ecosystems on the planet.”

The pipeline also bisects the 124,000-acre Bad River Band reservation located on the shore of Lake Superior in Ashland and Iron counties in Wisconsin.

The Globe and Mail now reports, “In Wisconsin, a Chippewa band passed a resolution this week to refuse to renew Enbridge’s permits for its 65-year-old Line 5 to cross rivers in the Bad River Band’s territory. The band wants Enbridge to decommission the aging line – which carries 544,000 barrels a day of Western Canadian crude through Wisconsin and Michigan to Ontario – and could pursue litigation if the company refuses to comply, tribal councillor Dylan Jennings said in an interview. Enbridge was taken off guard by the band’s determination to see the pipeline shut down.”

The Duluth News Tribune adds, “The Bad River Tribal Council has taken formal action to kick the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline off reservation land. The band government voted to not renew easement rights of way for the pipeline that runs from Superior east across Michigan. The band also called for the decommissioning and removal of the pipeline from all Bad River lands and the river’s watershed. Bad River Band officials have directed staff to begin planning for the Line 5 removal project development and the environmental issues and hazards that exist with removal of old pipeline, including a health study, pipeline contents recycling and disposal and surface restoration.”

That news report notes, “According to the band, 15 individual grant of easement rights of way for Line 5 expired in 2013. The two sides have been in negotiations since then over renewing the easements. The band owns interest in 11 of the 15 parcels of land within the grant of easement rights of way, roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2.”

In May 2016, the Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex chapter supported the launch of the 1,200-kilometre Bike the Line campaign against the pipeline. At that launch, chapter activist Randy Emerson read a statement from Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow that highlighted, “There are many Indigenous territories around the lakes and the St. Lawrence River Basin with governance and treaty rights, who will be affected if there’s a spill. Under the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, governments are required to obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous peoples decisions or projects affecting water in their traditional territories.”

The Council of Canadians first expressed opposition to the Line 5 pipeline in November 2013 and with this action alert has called on Ontario and Wisconsin to shut down the pipeline.