Statement: Four Michigan Tribes Appeal Line 5 Tunnel Permit

Enbridge’s proposed tunnel project is opposed by Tribes, businesses, and environmental groups.


Alejandro Dávila Fragoso,

Four Tribal Nations filed notice today that they will appeal the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC’s) recent approval of a permit for Canadian oil giant Enbridge to build the Line 5 tunnel project beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The appeal goes to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Opening briefs will be submitted in early 2024.

The Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi have lived on the lands of present-day Michigan since time immemorial, and they have vigorously opposed the Line 5 tunnel project before the MPSC.

Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle said:

“The MPSC made a bad decision, plain and simple. Although we fought to be heard, they put on their blinders and chose to ignore the critical perspective of Tribal Nations throughout the Great Lakes. Indigenous communities have not once been consulted since 1953 when this pipeline was first constructed. Let me be clear: Line 5 remains a threat to not only the tribes, but anyone and everyone who utilizes the Great Lakes. The question is not if the pipeline will leak, it is when.

“Studies show that Line 5 could be decommissioned with almost no impact on jobs, gas prices, or fuel supply. Yet the MPSC did not even pause to ask if we still need this pipeline. Instead, they approved a permit to extend the life of Line 5 for another century. They are prolonging the danger of another oil spill in the Great Lakes, the source of 84% of North America’s surface freshwater. The tunnel project is based on a flawed design that has never been tried anywhere else and would produce a mountain of waste rock as tall as a 20-story building and as long as a football field. Worst of all, it would perpetuate the transfer of 23 million gallons of oil per day just when we need to switch to clean energy sources. The MPSC’s decision is a disaster for all of us.

“It’s important to remember that Enbridge does not yet have the final permit they need from the US Army Corps of Engineers to build the tunnel project. As we appeal the MPSC’s disastrous decision, we also demand and expect that the Army Corps conduct a thorough and meaningful environmental impact statement and uphold the treaty trust responsibilities of the United States. We cannot allow history to repeat itself through the destruction of sacred land for private profit.”

Multiple Tribes, businesses, and environmental groups oppose Enbridge’s proposed tunnel project. Line 5 is operating in violation of a shutdown order from the Governor of Michigan and unlawful trespass on the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin.

Earthjustice and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) represent the Bay Mills Indian Community.

The Pipe Out Paddle Up Floatilla Against the Line 5 pipeline in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Sept. 3, 2022.
The Pipe Out Paddle Up Floatilla Against the Line 5 pipeline in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Sept. 3, 2022. (David Ruck for Earthjustice)

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