Opposition to Enbridge Line 5 in Wisconsin echoes Minnesota’s Line 3 woes

Enbridge’s aging Line 5 tar sands crude oil pipeline runs through the Bad River Band of Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin. The Band says Enbridge’s lease expired years ago and it wants the pipeline gone. Enbridge looked at rerouting Line 5 off reservation lands and — surprise — the locals in the city of Mellen didn’t want a pipeline, either. Enbridge took a two-pronged approach; it sued the Bad River Band to keep the old Line 5 in place while continuing to pursue a route through Mellen.

Time for a Line 5 update.

Map of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe lands. (From Wikipedia.)

Enbridge Line 5 runs due east from Superior Wisc., and continues into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. (For map, click here.)

Writing in The Circle newspaper, Winona LaDuke gives a helpful Line 5 update.

The Bad River Band of the Lake Superior had filed a complaint in July claiming that Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is “a grave public nuisance” that poses an ever-worsening oil spill threat to the tribe’s northern Wisconsin reservation, noting that 11 of the l5 easements crossing the reservation had expired in 2013, and that Enbridge was operating without an easement.

Enbridge looked for an alternative route through the city of Mellen, due south of the Bad River Band. According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune, Enbridge had sought Mellen’s permission to survey city lots as part of a proposed Line 5 reroute. The City Council denied that request on a close vote Oct. 1, with Mayor Joe Barabe casting the deciding “no” vote.

In October, the Bad River Band turned down a $24 million offer from Enbridge to allow it to continue operating Line 5. Enbridge then sued the Bad River Band in court to force it to keep Line 5 in place, citing a previous agreement that Enbridge claimed allowed Line 5 to continue operating until 2043. (See LaDuke’s article for details.)

Enbridge was in a bind, but so was the city of Mellen. The city was facing big costs, according to the News Tribune story. Mellen had put in a new lagoon system which led to a significant utility rate hike. It had to replace aging utilities under Main Street. Then there was a bridge replacement project. It all added up for the city of about 700.

Barabe approached Enbridge about buying city land instead of leasing it. That would ease the city’s financial pressure. The two sides eventually settled on a $4 million purchase price, affirmed at a Nov. 5 Council meeting. Mayor Barabe handed out a written statement at that meeting, giving the deal’s backstory. According to the News Tribune, Barabe wrote:

[After the October vote] I sent a signal that I wished to talk with the Canadian company. On Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., an Enbridge employee drove me to an undisclosed office in Ashland and I walked into a war room for Enbridge.

Three men sat at the table, men I never saw before. We had a dozen Enbridge people at both of our meetings but these men were new. I told them I was against them coming into Mellen. I told them they were devils with horns sticking out of their heads.

Comment: I guess from his perspective, Barabe eventually made a deal with the devil.

AG Ellison sides with Michigan in opposing Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac

Straits of Mackinac (Wikipedia)

Follow Line 5 further east, and it crosses the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow link between lakes Michigan and Huron. Then it turns south.

The old pipeline lays on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, an incredible spill risk. Enbridge proposed drilling a tunnel under the Straits for a new Line 5, eventually reaching an agreement with Michigan’s former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Michigan’s Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel is suing to reverse the decision.

According to a Wednesday article in the Detroit News:

Democratic attorneys general in California, Minnesota and Wisconsin weighed in Tuesday on the state’s legal spat with Enbridge over the continued operation of Line 5, arguing a state’s public trust of natural resources extends to submerged lands. …

The amicus brief from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Wisconsin Attorney General Joshua Kaul and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra supports Nessel’s argument that the state has a duty to protect natural resources that are in the public trust. The filing rejects Enbridge’s argument that that role is already filled by the U.S. Coast Guard and federal pipeline regulators.

Click on the link above for more details.

Comment: Interesting that Minnesota’s Attorney General is willing to speak out opposing Enbridge Line 5 but has remained silent on Enbridge Line 3’s threats to Minnesota’s natural resources. (See also previous post: Sign Petition to Attorney General Keith Ellison to Stop Line 3!)

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