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Tribal Nations say Line 5 approval ‘unlawful’

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(The Center Square) – Tribal Nations asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn the Michigan Public Service Commission’s approval for Enbridge Energy to build the Line 5 tunnel project beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

In December, the MPSC found “there is a public need for Line 5 products and a public need for the replacement project to protect the resources of the Great Lakes.”

Earthjustice and the Native American Rights Fund filed the 43-page brief Thursday on behalf of 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.

Six other organizations are also challenging the permit. The Tribes argue the Commissioners unlawfully barred key evidence about the public need for Line 5 and the risk of future oil spills.

The 645-mile pipeline stretching from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Canada, pumps about 540,000 gallons of hydrocarbons daily across the lakebed of Lake Michigan.

“We agree the dual pipelines must be removed from the Straits, but the Commissioners never considered that Michigan does not need to keep this pipeline operating at all,” Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle said in a statement. “They’ve simply acted as a rubber stamp for Enbridge, gambling our most important resource for the sake of foreign oil profits. Every Tribal Nation and ever Michigander deserves better than this.”

The pipeline transports light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids that heat homes, businesses, and fuel vehicles. Line 5 supplies 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula, and 55% of Michigan’s statewide propane needs.

The Center Square has reached out to Enbridge for a comment.

Since 2019, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel 9 has sued Enbridge seeking the shutdown of Line 5.

This week, the Department of Justice said Enbridge Energy has been trespassing for over 10 years.

The 70-page brief filed in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals says about 12 miles of Line 5 crosses the Reservation of the Bad River Band in northern Wisconsin.

“Making a decision to approve the tunnel without hearing this evidence is like deciding to fix the windshield of a car before you know if the engine still works,” Earthjustice Senior Attorney Christopher Clark said in a statement. “It’s backwards and very dangerous.”

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