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December 9, 2020

Bay Mills Applauds Agency Recognition that Easement Revocation is a “Fundamental Change” to Contested Pipeline Case

The Michigan Public Service Commission asked an Administrative Law Judge to consider how the easement revocation affects the scope of the proceeding over the proposed pipeline tunnel

Contacts

Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, (757) 897-2147

Mary Rock, Earthjustice

Bryan Newland, Bay Mills Indian Community, (512) 862-5570

David Gover, Native American Rights Fund, (720) 647-9637

Lansing, MI

The Michigan Public Service Commission released a decision today announcing that the revocation of the 1953 easement for a problem-plagued pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac is a “fundamental change” to the agency’s proceeding to determine whether Enbridge, a Canadian oil company, should be permitted to replace part of the pipeline with an invasive tunnel. The Commission asked an Administrative Law Judge to consider how the easement revocation affects the scope of this proceeding, including risks of and need for the continued operation of a pipeline through the Great Lakes.

“The Commission’s decision is another important step in an ongoing battle to protect our water,” said Bay Mills Indian Community Chairman Bryan Newland.

“The waters of the Great Lakes are part of our tribe’s identity. These waters are protected by treaty and we depend on healthy water for fishing and sustenance,” Newland said.

Earthjustice, in partnership with the Native American Rights Fund, represents the Bay Mills Indian Community in the Tribal Nation’s fight to protect the Straits and the Tribe’s treaty rights throughout waters in Michigan.

“We appreciate that the Commission recognizes the revocation of the easement for Enbridge’s existing pipelines is a game changer,” said Earthjustice Attorney Mary Rock. “We look forward to presenting evidence of the risks that the pipeline continues to pose to invaluable waters, fisheries, and cultural sites.”

“We applaud the Commission’s decision. More time is needed to consider the impact that the Line 5 Project will have on Bay Mills’ Treaty-protected rights across the length of the pipeline, and in the Great Lakes and Straits of Mackinac,” said Native American Rights Fund Attorney David Gover.

Background

On August 12, 2020, Bay Mills became the first tribal Nation to intervene in a proceeding before the Michigan Public Service Commission to contest Enbridge’s proposal to build and reroute the pipeline with a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac, a 4-mile-wide waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The Public Service Commission is one of the agencies that will determine whether Enbridge will get its wish to build the massive tunnel to house a new segment of its Line 5 pipeline. 

  • Line 5 crosses over 290 rivers and streams, many of which are interconnected and flow to the Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac, and throughout which Bay Mills has treaty-protected fishing, hunting, and gathering rights.
  • The Great Lakes are the largest source of surface fresh water in the world, supplying drinking water for 48 million people.
  • If Enbridge is successful, oil could continue flowing under the Straits of Mackinac for 99 years.
  • In 2010, Enbridge was responsible for the largest inland oil spill in our nation’s history when another of its pipelines (Line 6B) released nearly one million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
  • Last month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Dan Eichinger notified Enbridge that it will revoke and terminate the 1953 easement that allowed the oil giant to operate dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac to transport petroleum and other products. 

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