Thursday, September 12, 2019

Watchdog group reveals Enbridge influence campaign aimed at county officials fueled by oil money; UP Energy Task Force to meet in Hancock

The Michigan Association of Counties Facebook page proudly displays Enbridge's sponsorship. (Image courtesy Oil and Water Don't Mix.)  

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from Oil and Water Don't Mix

Michigan Campaign Finance Network report puts a spotlight on a wide-ranging campaign using money to win support for dangerous Line 5 oil pipelines and proposed tunnel.

A revealing new report by a respected, independent governmental watchdog organization documents how the Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge is buying influence with Michigan public officials as part of a multimillion-dollar media and lobbying campaign aimed at keeping its dangerous Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes and gaining approval for a proposed pipeline oil tunnel to possibly replace them.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network in a new investigation found that, after Enbridge bought $63,000 in paid sponsorships and ads with the Michigan Association of Counties, the group pushed through a resolution backing Enbridge’s Line 5. Houghton County is among several Michigan counties that have already signed the resolution.

The counties’ group deployed its lobbyist to write pro-Line 5 resolutions for counties. Moreover, the watchdog group obtained an email from Enbridge lobbyist Deb Muchmore revealing Muchmore’s lobbying of an Oakland County commissioner, including providing "key messages" that have largely been debunked by the news media and other sources. That same document is also apparently being widely distributed to state lawmakers.

The report also raises questions about whether Grand Traverse County commissioners violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act by discussing the Line 5 resolution privately through emails out of the public light.

The Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus, which opposes Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline and proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac, posted on their Facebook page a corrected version of the Line 5 resolution signed by the Grand Traverse County commissioners. It sheds a light on documented facts that may be unknown to many public officials. (To access this corrected version of the resolution visit the Michigan Anishinaabek Caucus Facebook page and click on files.)

Houghton County Republican Commissioners vote for Line 5 Resolution 

In Houghton County, the resolution was added to the July 9, 2019, agenda during the meeting. It was not included in the agenda posted for the public and commissioners before the meeting and was not mentioned in the packet of information given to the commissioners for the meeting.

During their July 9, 2019, meeting, Houghton County Commissioners voted 3 (Republicans) to 2 (Democrats) to sign the Enbridge Resolution of support for Line 5 and the proposed tunnel.

According to the minutes of the July 9, 2019, meeting of the Houghton County Board of Commissioners, "A Motion was made by Chairman Koskela seconded by Commissioner Britz to adopt the Resolution for Line 5. Commissioner Anderson expressed concerns and wanted to hear what the State intends to do regarding this matter. Commissioner Janssen stated she wanted more information on this matter. The Motion carried by the following vote: YES:  Koskela, Britz, Tikkanen 3. NO: Anderson, Janssen 2."

Commissioner Gretchen Janssen told Keweenaw Now she voted no because she wasn't prepared to make an educated response at the time of the meeting.

"I now understand the benefits of Line 5 but believe the environmental impact if the line broke is far greater than the benefits of the line," Janssen said. "I would still say no to that resolution. Also, I don’t like being an elected official being asked to endorse a company. It just seems inappropriate to me."

Commissioner Glenn Anderson said he voted no on the Resolution and, at the time, said why he did.

"I said any action on line 5 was premature while we are waiting for Governor Whitmer's Up Energy Task Force, which has been directed by March 31st (2020) to identify cost effective propane sources to replace the estimated 35 million gallons of annual propane that comes to the UP via line 5," Anderson told Keweenaw Now.

UP Energy Task Force to hold public meeting in Hancock Sept. 20

In fact, Governor Whitmer's Up Energy Task Force is scheduled for a series of public meetings on the Line 5/propane issues, and their next meeting will be in Hancock at Finlandia University's Jutila Center.

The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in the Leroy Keranen Conference Room 323 of the Jutila Center, 200 Michigan St., Hancock.

The meeting will include a presentation, a lunch break, and an opportunity for the public to make comments in the afternoon.

The UP Energy Task Force was created by Executive Order No. 2019-14. The charge to the Task Force according to section 2(a) of the Executive Order is to do the following:
  • Assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met.
  • Formulate alternative solutions for meeting the UP’s energy needs, with a focus on security, reliability, affordability, and environmental soundness. This shall include, but is not limited to, alternative means to supply the energy sources currently used by UP residents, and alternatives to those energy sources.
  • Identify and evaluate potential changes that could occur to energy supply and distribution in the UP; the economic, environmental, and other impacts of such changes; and the alternatives for meeting the UP’s energy needs in response to such changes.*
The Task Force's first report, due March 31, 2020, is to be focused on alternative means to supply propane to the UP consistent with section 2(a) of the Executive Order. The Task Force is required to submit the remainder of its report, also consistent with section 2(a), by March 31, 2021.

Written comments regarding the work of the UP Energy Task Force can also be submitted via email to EGLE-UPEnergy@Michigan.gov and will be shared with all UP Energy Task Force members. Comments submitted will become part of the public record and subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Enbridge pumps money into media ads, lobbying for Michigan and Minnesota pipelines

Enbridge’s wide-ranging campaign to persuade Michigan to keep Line 5 pumping oil through the Straits of Mackinac has seen the Canadian corporation and its partners pumping money into print, online, and radio ads in virtually every media market and sponsorships of public radio stations, who in exchange for Enbridge’s money repeat Enbridge’s messages, often multiple times a day. For the first seven months this year, Enbridge spent $105,728 on lobbying, more than the entirety of 2018, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Enbridge’s intensive spending in Michigan on paid lobbying and media ads this year mirrors a similar oil pipeline campaign in Minnesota where the Canadian company has spent $13 million trying to force governmental approval of a pipeline there. It follows the action by Enbridge last year to funnel more than $126,000 into a Michigan Chamber of Commerce PAC that unsuccessfully challenged the Voters Not Politicians redistricting reform measure passed overwhelmingly by voters.

"Enbridge is purchasing influence and political support in Michigan, plain and simple, and they are poisoning our politics along with our Great Lakes environment," said Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don’t Mix coordinator. "Our elected representatives are supposed to represent the people. We can’t trust them to do that when they are financially beholden to Enbridge and their oil and gas industry allies."**

Editor's Notes:

* See our June 10, 2019, article, "Gov. Whitmer signs executive order creating UP Energy Task Force."

** Thanks to Oil and Water Don't Mix for information about the Michigan Campaign Finance Network investigation. You can learn more about Line 5 and sign a petition against Enbridge's tunnel project here.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

La Pointe, Wis., passes resolution supporting shut down of Enbridge Line 5

This map shows the location of Mooningwaanekaaning Minis -- Madeline Island -- and its proximity to the Bad River Indian Reservation. Bad River is suing Enbridge because of threats from Line 5, which crosses through 12 miles of sensitive habitat on the Reservation. (Maps and photos courtesy Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)

By Barbara With*
Posted Aug. 28, 2019, on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative
Reprinted with permission.

LA POINTE, Wis. -- In a stunning show of support for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Town of La Pointe (Wis.) Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Aug. 27, 2019, to pass Resolution 2019-0827 Enbridge, denouncing Enbridge Line 5 and all pipelines in the Great Lakes, and standing by Bad River in their July 23, 2019, lawsuit against the foreign oil company. La Pointe is on Mooningwaanekaaning Minis -- Madeline Island -- in the middle of the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin.

The Bad River suit is to force the foreign oil company to comply with its legal obligations to decommission and remove the 66-year-old pipeline from the Bad River watershed. Oil continues to flow across 12 miles of sensitive reservation habitat, even though the right-of-way easements expired in 2013, and Line 5 is in imminent danger of failing. The suit comes only after several years of mediation that failed to get Enbridge to shut the line down.**

According to the lawsuit:

A meander bend in the Bad River adjacent to where the pipeline is currently buried under the River -- and directly upstream from the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs -- has been migrating, causing the river to move ever closer to a portion of the pipeline that is buried much shallower than the adjacent river bottom. That bend is highlighted in blue below. When the migrating channel of the Bad River reaches the buried pipeline, the river will erode and remove the surrounding soils (a process known as scouring) until the pipeline is exposed. When this occurs, portions of the pipeline will no longer be supported by underlying or surrounding soils for the length of the exposure, and the unsupported span will lengthen as the river continues to carry away the soils.

This aerial view shows the Line 5 pipeline (slightly diagonal orange line) crossing the meandering Bad River on the Bad River Reservation. Click on image for larger view.

The foregoing circumstances represent an existential threat to the Band, its Reservation resources, and its way of life. They pose a dire threat to the treaty-protected rights of the Band and its members in the lands and waters of the Reservation. Accordingly, in addition to constituting a trespass and unlawful possession of the Band’s lands, Enbridge’s refusal to halt the flow of oil across the Reservation constitutes a grave public nuisance.

Read the entire lawsuit here.

The Tribe continues to monitor and document the dangerous conditions of the pipeline and the imminent danger to the entire Chequamegon Bay because of Enbridge’s refusal to stop the oil. Bad River is hoping to avert a potentially devastating situation before it happens and bring the company’s unauthorized presence to an end.

This photo was taken  where 25-40 feet of Enbridge Line 5 pipe are unsupported and exposed to the elements at the Denomie Creek tributaries on the Bad River Reservation. 

Resolution 2019-0837 Enbridge addresses the 1,244 spills, leaks and releases over a 17-year period, the failure of Enbridge to have a plan to clean up a spill under ice, and the urgency to decommission Line 5, considering the extremity of the problem and the great risk La Pointe and Madeline Island are currently in because of Enbridge’s refusal to stop the oil.

Residents of La Pointe who attended the meeting were in agreement with the resolution.

Mashkiiziibi (Bad River) Band requests Enbridge line 5 cessation of oil flow

On August 21, 2019, Bad River Natural Resources Department and technical experts discovered over 48 feet of exposed pipeline on Enbridge line 5 at the Denomie Creek site identified as slope # 18. Various interactions with storm events combined with the natural unpredictability of the land and water have naturally eroded enbankments throughout the area.

Tribal staff and technical experts are currently on site analyzing the threat and have been directed to prepare for emergency management response. Over the last few years, Bad River NRD has been communicating to Enbridge that these right-of-ways need to be continually and routinely monitored and brushed because of the natural changes of the landscape and threats the pipeline poses. Slope # 18 represents an area that Enbridge bas not presently brushed and maintained on the surface.

In a letter dated August 21, 2019 from Bad River Chairman Michael Wiggins, Jr., to Enbridge President Guy Jarvis, Wiggins states, "I do not need to tell you that the discovery of this exposed and unsupported stretch of pipeline is a highly significant and alarming development." Chairman Wiggins acknowledged two steps considered by the Band to be essential to addressing the situation: 1) The Band requested the cessation of oil flow through the reservation. 2) The Band requested that Enbridge respond and participate in the further investigation of the situation.

The Band filed suit in the Western District of Wisconsin Federal Court on July 23, 2019, asserting invaluable resources at stake and that certain areas were at risk for pipeline exposure.**

With over 7,000 members, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians is located on an 125,000-acre reservation in an area within Ashland and Iron Counties on the south shore of Gichi-Gami (Lake Superior). The Ojibwe people have a long and rich heritage throughout the Great Lakes region prior to European contact and through to today. Treaties signed by eleven Ojibwe Tribes ceded millions of acres throughout the region, including what is currently the upper one-third of the State of Wisconsin, but retained the rights to hunt, fish, and gather in the ceded territories, both on and off of their reservation land.

Bad River Band logo courtesy Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Click here to learn more about the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

* Guest author Barbara With is an award-winning author and composer, international peace activist, founding member of Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative, and defender of Lake Superior and the Penokee Mountains.

** See our July 28, 2019, article, "Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sues Enbridge to remove Line 5."

Monday, September 02, 2019

Nick Estes to speak on Standing Rock, Indigenous resistance Sept. 3 at Michigan Tech

Poster courtesy Indigenous Peoples' Day Campaign.

HOUGHTON -- Nick Estes, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and assistant professor in the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico, will present "Our History is the Future - Standing Rock vs Dakota Access," at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, in the Alumni Lounge, Memorial Union Building (MUB) at Michigan Tech.

His talk is about the lessons of the ten-month Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016. Estes places this narrative in the context of the long tradition of Indigenous resistance to the United States genocidal wars against the native peoples of this continent and the development of colonial institutions. He notes that the theft of Indigenous lands continues up to the present and is an integral part of global imperialism. In that sense, the Indian Wars have never truly ended. They continue and reach beyond the borders of this country. Thus the spirit of internationalism is an existential necessity, and ending imperialism abroad by ending it at home is a sacred duty of the Indigenous movement.

At Standing Rock in 2016, this spirit of internationalism was evident, as Indigenous nations from around the world made their way to the camp site in solidarity.

Nick Estes places the struggle at Standing Rock in the context of the struggle against capitalism. His recent book, Our History is the Future, closes with the following words:

"The Water protectors also ask us: What does water want from us? What does the earth want from us? Mni Wiconi -- water is life -- exists outside the logic of capitalism. Whereas past revolutionary struggles have strived for the emancipation of labor from capital, we are challenged not just to imagine, but to demand the emancipation of earth from capital. For the earth to live, capitalism must die. Hecetu welo!"

In 2014, Estes co-founded The Red Nation, an Indigenous resistance organization. In 2017-2018, Estes was the American Democracy Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. His work engages colonialism and global Indigenous histories, with a focus on decolonization, oral history, U.S. imperialism, environmental justice, anti-capitalism, and the Oceti Sakowin.*

This event is sponsored by the Michigan Tech Center for Diversity and Inclusion; the Michigan Tech Social Science, Humanities and Physics departments; the Episcopal Church; and the King-Chavez-Parks Initiative.

*Oceti Sakowin (Och-et-eeshak-oh-win), meaning Seven Council Fires, is the proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

We need more recycling! Petition available online

HOUGHTON -- The Copper Country Recycling Initiative (CCRI), a local organization committed to reducing our waste streams, urges local residents to complete and sign a Petition for more recycling services -- which are not offered to residents and businesses in most of the Western UP, including Houghton and Keweenaw counties.

Research indicates that most people recycle when given the opportunity. Curbside recycling has been implemented with great success in the cities of Houghton and Hancock. CCRI is coordinating this petition because we need to continue to improve and prevent our landfill's limited space being taken up by things that can be recycled.

Here is the text of the Petition:

"I support diverting waste from the landfill through recycling, composting, and implementing processes that add value to the county's waste stream. I urge officials in Houghton County to investigate and support these goals too. I support an increase in recycling opportunities in our region, and urge the city, village, township, and county officials of the Western UP to work with the county commissioners to create recycling opportunities for the county’s residents and visitors."

CLICK HERE to sign the Petition and, if you wish, add comments.

CCRI has no interest in keeping, using, or selling your personal information from the petition other than to influence policy decision makers for the community.

The deadline for petition signatures is Sept. 9, 2019, in order to allow a little time for CCRI to get them organized for a presentation at the Houghton County Commissioners' meeting at 5 p.m. on Sept. 10. Signatures submitted after Sept. 9 will still be very valuable. A letter to your township supervisor or county commissioner encouraging them to support more recycling would also be very effective.

In addition to signing the petition, you can also participate in any of the following ways:
  • Attend local [city, village, township, county] meetings and urge your representatives to expand recycling.
  • See the CCRI Keweenaw Recycling Guide here.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Public invited to comment on Draft Isle Royale Non-Wilderness Cultural Resources Management Plan/Environmental Assessment

This map detail shows some of the locations of non-wilderness cultural resources on the eastern end of Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy National Park Service)

HOUGHTON -- The National Park Service (NPS) invites the public to participate in an informational open house meeting and webinar on the draft Non-Wilderness Cultural Resources Management Plan/ Environmental Assessment (EA). The draft plan evaluates three alternatives for managing the non-wilderness cultural resources in the park: a no-action alternative (Alternative A) and two action alternatives (Alternative B and Alternative C). The plan can be accessed here: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ISROcrmp.

The public open house will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. (EDT) on Monday, August 26, 2019, on the 7th floor of the Magnuson Franklin Square Inn, 820 Shelden Avenue in Houghton, Mich. A short presentation will start at 4:30 followed by a question and answer period and open house.

In order to maximize opportunities to learn more about the draft plan/EA, a webinar is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, August 27. To register for the webinar, CLICK HERE.

The same information will be presented at the open house meeting and the webinar.

Isle Royale's cultural resources reflect 4500 years of human endeavor and include: prehistoric mining and occupation sites, American Indian and Euro-American historic mining and fishery sites, lighthouses, shipwrecks, and historic resorts and summer homes. They demonstrate a complex interaction of people and the role they played in shaping the human and physical landscapes on Isle Royale. Presently, the National Park Service manages its cultural resources according to directives defined in the Park's General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (GMP/EIS 1998) without specific guidance for a number of cultural resource themes and topics. The proposed CRMP/EA seeks to define sustainable management practices for all significant cultural resources found in nonwilderness areas on Isle Royale, including archeological sites, cultural landscapes, historic structures, ethnographic resources, and museum objects.

The public is invited to submit written comments on the Plan/EA at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ISROcrmp. Please enter your comments by September 6, 2019. Comments may also be submitted by regular mail or hand delivery to: Superintendent Phyllis Green, Isle Royale National Park, CRMP/EA, 800 E. Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, Michigan 49931.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Michigan Attorney General Nessel files State reply to Enbridge brief on lame duck legislation creating Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy Michigan.gov)

LANSING --  On Aug. 15, 2019, the State of Michigan filed its reply brief to Enbridge’s Aug. 1 brief in Enbridge Energy, et.al. v State of Michigan, et.al. (No. 19-000090-MZ). The Office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel noted Enbridge "repeatedly mischaracterizes the State Defendants' arguments" and Enbridge's legal arguments "improperly attempt to re-write the title of Act 359, inventing a new, broader object -- providing for 'infrastructure' connecting the peninsulas ...."

The case, originally filed in Court of Claims by Enbridge June 6, 2019, involves the constitutionality of 2018 PA 359 and the creation of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority. The State argues, as Attorney General Opinion No. 7309 concluded, that the statute creating the Authority is unconstitutional because it violated the Title-Object Clause. The crux of the dispute is that the title of Act 359 -- which was pushed through the Legislature in lame duck at the end of 2018 -- violated that provision of the Michigan Constitution in two ways. First, the title did not provide fair notice to legislators and the public of substance of the bill. Second, it improperly combined two unrelated purposes: the Mackinac Bridge and a proposed "utility tunnel" meant to house a new Enbridge oil pipeline.

The court will determine if it wants to hear oral argument before issuing a decision.

A copy of the State of Michigan’s Reply Brief can be found here.

Please note: Briefing will begin on September 16 in the Attorney General’s separate lawsuit in the Ingham County Circuit Court against Enbridge. That lawsuit seeks a determination that the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits should be decommissioned due to the significant risk of a catastrophic spill from an anchor strike or operational failure.*

*Editor's Note: See our June 29, 2019, article, "Attorney General Nessel takes legal steps to decommission Line 5; Gov. Whitmer seeks to dismiss Enbridge lawsuit."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Federal proposal to de-list gray wolves from Endangered Species List opposed by Attorneys for Animals, Michigan wolf experts, many scientists, Michigan AG Dana Nessel

By Michele Bourdieu

Photo courtesy National Wolfwatcher Coalition.

CANTON, Mich. -- Attorneys for Animals (AFA), a Michigan non-profit, has submitted a response to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposal to de-list gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in all the lower 48 states. 

It was December 2014, when a U. S. District Court ruled to overturn an earlier USFWS decision to strip federal protection for Great Lakes wolves. In 2011 wolves had been left unprotected after being removed from the federal Endangered Species Act. Once again, wolves are in danger.

Strongly opposed to the removal of federal protection for the majestic species, Attorneys for Animals cites the considered opinion that Michigan, one of a handful of states most impacted by the proposed legislation will ignore input from the scientific, natural resource, conservation and animal welfare communities, and disrespect the deafening public outcry from citizens to protect the wolves within its boundaries.

"Of the estimated 1.8 million comments submitted in response to the USFWS proposal, we believe that AFA has an important perspective to offer in opposition to the plan to de-list gray wolves," said Kate Brindle, JD, and board secretary of AFA, who researched and assisted in drafting the AFA response.*

"As a Michigan non-profit of legal professionals and animal advocates, AFA has actively followed legislation for many years," Brindle said. "We have carefully observed the divisive issue of wolf de-listing in Michigan and have taken positions in support of continued federal protection. We therefore are in a unique position to provide a critical assessment of how the de-listing of wolves, followed by a likely opening of this species to a hunt, would affect both Michigan and its gray wolves," Brindle said.

John Vucetich, distinguished professor from Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, expressed agreement with the AFA response.

"In alignment with Attorneys for Animals, I believe that wolves have not met the legal requirements to be delisted," Vucetich said.

Earlier this year, Vucetich led the development of a letter that came to that conclusion. The letter was signed by more than 100 scientists and submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service.**

Nancy Warren, National Wolfwatcher Coalition director, noted that the wolf is subject to over-utilization for commercial and/or recreational purposes and states lack initiatives that would protect wolves. Wolfwatcher also opposes delisting and has submitted comments to USFWS.

"The threats to wolves have not been sufficiently reduced to allow delisting," Warren told Keweenaw Now. "Delisting will expose wolves to inconsistent and unwieldy state management. State programs seek to reduce wolf populations to levels just above the numerical quota to prevent federal relisting. Research shows these low population levels are not sustainable and will not provide the ecological benefits of a thriving population. Policies governing wolf management in states where delisting has occurred are based on misinformation, fear and hatred -- not peer reviewed scientific data."***

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging it to abandon its flawed proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered and threatened wildlife list, saying, "The Service’s strategy to delist the gray wolf seems to be 'if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.'"

This is the 10th attempt to remove the gray wolf from the endangered list by the Service in less than 20 years. The gray wolf species has a population of less than 16,000 nationwide, 11,000 of which are in Alaska.

In its proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fails to analyze whether the gray wolves living in 13 other states -- Washington, Oregon, California, North Dakota, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and Kansas -- are in danger of extinction. Instead, the Service only asks whether the gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin can survive if all the other gray wolves die off.

"That is neither responsible, nor lawful," Nessel said.

The Service’s proposal uses the same flawed methodology the D.C. Circuit Court ruled it could not use to justify delisting the species.

"Simply put, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not adequately accounted for why this species should be removed from the endangered list," Nessel added. "This flawed proposal is the first step toward allowing gray wolves to be hunted to near extinction once again."****

In support of its position, AFA also submitted a Timeline of Efforts to Protect Wolves in Michigan, from late 2011 through late 2016. A summary of the Timeline indicates the following:
• The Michigan legislature passed four different bills, all with the purpose of authorizing a wolf hunt. Of the four,
two were overturned by a clear majority of Michigan voters in November 2014 after successful referendum campaigns against the wolf hunt. One was held unconstitutional by Michigan courts in 2016. One, still on the books awaiting de-listing decision, was made referendum-proof by adding appropriation language.
• A wolf hunt was held in 2013, killing 22 wolves; further hunts have been halted by the 2014 federal court decision overturning the 2011 agency action to de-list the wolves.
• Investigative reports expose deceptive methods used to promote and justify a wolf hunt in Michigan, including
false, exaggerated "scare stories" about wolves; irresponsible, criminally negligent ranching methods behind a claim that wolves were destroying livestock; and destruction of public comments by government officials.

Notes:

* AFA’s comment is available on the federal regulations.gov website here.
 
** Click here for details on the scientists' letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. See also our July 29, 2017, Keweenaw Now article, "Michigan Tech Professor John Vucetich testifies before Senate Committee: S. 1514 would weaken Endangered Species Act, strip wolves of protection."

*** See comments from Wolfwatcher here. See also our 2013 article on Nancy Warren's presentation "Co-existing with Wolves": "Video report: Presentation on wolves offers facts, petition signing opportunity."

**** A copy of Attorney General Nessel's comment letter can be read here.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sues Enbridge to remove Line 5

This map includes Enbridge pipelines affecting the watersheds of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Note that Line 5 passes through the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin (upper left corner) and then proceeds through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, under the Straits of Mackinac and on through Michigan's Lower Peninsula to Sarnia, Ontario. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative)

Posted as press release July 23, 2019, on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative

ODANAH, Wis. -- The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa filed suit against Enbridge on July 23, 2019, to force the decommissioning and removal of the Line 5 pipeline, which runs across 12 miles of sensitive habitat in the Bad River Reservation. This litigation follows a failed multi-year mediation process with the company and is necessary to force the Canadian-owned company to comply with its legal obligations to decommission and remove the 66-year-old pipeline from the Bad River watershed. Enbridge has continued to operate the pipeline for six years since easements allowing it to maintain the Reservation right-of-way expired in 2013, and this present action seeks to bring the company’s unauthorized presence to an end.

This map shows the location of the Bad River Reservation, where Line 5 crosses through 12 miles of sensitive habitat. (Map courtesy Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)

The Bad River Reservation is located on the south shore of Lake Superior and includes vast wetlands interlaced with a network of rivers and streams, including the Kakagon River, the White River, and the Bad River. Those rivers give way to the Kakagon and Bad River sloughs, which are complex freshwater estuaries stewarded by the Band and internationally recognized as some of the most sensitive freshwater estuarine ecosystems on earth. They provide refuge for threatened and endangered species, support critical treaty fisheries, contain some of the last remaining wild rice beds on the Great Lakes, and supply healthful, traditional sustenance to Bad River Band members who continue to fish, hunt, and gather in these lands and waters, as they have for centuries.*

The Band passed a resolution in January of 2017 declaring that, in light of the threat posed by Line 5 to precious watershed resources, it would not consent to new easements for Line 5 across parcels of tribally-owned land. Since then, the Band has been collecting and reviewing environmental, water, and pipeline data to further assess the danger posed by the pipeline. While a significant threat of ruptures and leaks exists for the entire stretch of Line 5’s path across the Reservation, there is a looming disaster just east of where Line 5 presently crosses the Bad River. There, the river channel is migrating towards the pipeline at an alarming rate due to bank erosion: while the distance between the riverbank and the pipeline was 320 feet at this location in 1963, it now stands at only 28 feet, and the river is threatening to carve a new channel directly across the pipeline route.

This April 2019 video clip shows how Enbridge's Line 5 passes through the Bad River Reservation at the Bad River Bend. Click on YouTube icon for larger screen. (Drone footage © David Joe Bates and courtesy Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative)**

The river will inevitably expose the pipeline, subjecting it to stresses that it was not designed to withstand and making a rupture all but certain. Other than the decommissioning of the pipeline on the Reservation, the only options for avoiding such a disaster involve either the drilling of a new pipeline or armoring the banks of the Bad River. Neither is acceptable to the Band, as both carry their own significant risks and would involve further alteration and damage to watershed resources. More on these issues can be viewed here.

The Bad River Band has carefully reviewed alternatives to Line 5, and understands that the majority of the product on the line is for export and that ready substitutes are available for the few services Line 5 actually provides to the region. Given these realities and the threat posed to the Bad River watershed and coastal wetlands and to Lake Superior, which together serve as the lifeblood not only for the Band but for many neighboring communities, the Bad River Tribal Council cannot allow the community to shoulder the significant and unacceptable risk associated with a foreign company’s aging pipeline.

Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. agrees with the Council’s decision.

"No amount of compensation is worth risking Wenji-Bimaadiziyaang -- an Ojibwe word that literally means 'From where we get life,'" Wiggins said. "It’s time to end the imminent threat the company is presenting to our people, our rivers, and Gichi-Gami (Lake Superior). It’s not only an infringement of our sovereignty, but a burden felt by our people having to engage in the perpetual chase for the next pipeline rupture. It’s time to stop the flow of oil immediately."

The Bad River Tribal Council would like for its constituents and local community members to know that the Tribe has weighed all options, and filing suit against Enbridge represents the best and last route for successfully decommissioning an enormous threat to the local watershed and environment.***

Bad River Tribal Council Member Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings explains, "The tribe has commenced litigation because we must stop the operation of line 5 in order to protect current and future generations from a potential catastrophe. We will not allow a foreign energy company to endanger our lifeway. As Anishinaabe, it’s really quite simple to us, 'Giishpin ganawendamang iw nibi, giga-ganawenimigomin -- If we take care of the water, it will continue to take care of us.'"

With over 7,000 members, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians is located on an 125,000-acre reservation in an area within Ashland and Iron Counties on the south shore of Gichi-Gami (Lake Superior). The Ojibwe people have a long and rich heritage throughout the Great Lakes region prior to European contact and through to today. Treaties signed by eleven Ojibwe Tribes ceded millions of acres throughout the region, including what is currently the upper one third of the State of Wisconsin, but retained the rights to hunt, fish, and gather in the ceded territories, both on and off of their reservation land.****

Inset photo: Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr.
(Photo courtesy Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative)

Notes:

* Click here for the Complaint in this lawsuit.

** See another drone video of this area by David Joe Bates in our June 29, 2019, article, "Attorney General Nessel takes legal steps to decommission Line 5; Gov. Whitmer seeks to dismiss Enbridge lawsuit."

*** Click here for additional information about Line 5.

**** Learn more about the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians online at http://www.badriver-nsn.gov/.