Breach of Trust: How Government agencies are working with Enbridge, Inc. to Jeopardize Tribal Treaty Rights

“Nothing in this agreement requires any state or federal agency to approve a permit for Enbridge.”

These were the words spoken to tribal representatives – including myself – by attorneys for the United States Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency during a meeting earlier this month in Traverse City, Michigan regarding Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline.

Earlier this year, the EPA and DOJ began working with Enbridge on a settlement agreement relating to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac. You can read that agreement HERE.

I wrote about this agreement on Turtle Talk several months ago, which I encourage you to read to better understand this post. Seriously. Read it HERE. That blog entry describes how the EPA and DOJ were working – quietly – to ensure that Enbridge is able to continue to operate the Line 5 Pipeline in the waters of the Great Lakes.

Some background:

The Line 5 pipeline is nearly seven decades old, and transports Canadian oil from Superior, Wisconsin to Ontario (through) – providing no oil to the people of Michigan or the United States. It has already outlived its intended lifespan. The pipeline runs through the heart of the waters ceded by Ojibwe and Odawa tribes through the 1836 Treaty of Washington. Our tribes retained the right to fish in the ceded waters under that treaty; a fact that was confirmed in the landmark case of United States v. Michigan. Earlier this year, the Line 5 Pipeline was damaged when a ship anchor accidentally struck the pipeline. The anchor strike also damaged a nearby electrical transmission line, causing hundreds of gallons of toxic chemicals to leak into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The Line 5 Pipeline poses grave risks to the people who depend upon the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, including our tribal fishermen. A majority of people in Michigan, including every federally recognized tribe within the State, wants this pipeline shut down. The pipeline’s crossing of the Straits of Mackinac provides no benefits to the people of Michigan, but forces us to bear enormous risks.

It was for those reasons that the 1836 Treaty Tribes objected to the EPA’s and DOJ’s proposed deal with Enbridge.

In numerous letters, and in-person, we explained to federal officials that Enbridge would use this agreement to circumvent environmental laws and force state and federal agencies to grant the permits necessary to keep the Line 5 Pipeline in place.

At our August 7th meeting in Traverse City, EPA and DOJ officials tried to assure tribal representatives that we had no reason to be concerned about their agreement with Enbridge. “Nothing in this agreement,” they stated, “requires any state or federal agency to approve a permit for Enbridge.”

You can imagine the surprise when representatives of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) informed tribal officials at a meeting this week that the MDEQ may be required to issue a permit to Enbridge as a result of that agreement.

Somebody is lying.

The State of Michigan wants to authorize Enbridge to drill a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to allow the Line 5 Pipeline to continue to operate beneath the waters of the Great Lakes in perpetuity. Michigan’s tribes expect that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will approve the construction of a tunnel sometime this year, prior to the expiration of his term in office.

But, it will take several years to bore a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The State of Michigan appears to want Enbridge to make structural changes to the Line 5 Pipeline in the meantime to provide political cover secure the pipeline.

So, what does all of this convoluted complaining mean? This:

All of the bureaucratic actions relating to Enbridge’s pipeline over the past year are intended to make sure that Enbridge can tunnel through the lakebed and keep the oil flowing beneath the waters of the Great Lakes in perpetuity. And it is coming to a head in the next several months.

The United States Government promised the 1836 Treaty Tribes that its agreement with Enbridge would not require agencies to give Enbridge the permits it needs. The State of Michigan is saying that the agreement may require it to give Enbridge the permits it needs.

Somebody is lying. And they are doing it to help a Canadian company deliver Canadian oil to Canadian markets at the expense of our tribal treaty rights.

One thought on “Breach of Trust: How Government agencies are working with Enbridge, Inc. to Jeopardize Tribal Treaty Rights

  1. Lynn Fraze September 5, 2018 / 5:47 pm

    Bryan, the lobbyist renting Scott Pruitt (EPA) a room in Washington for $50 a night was a lobbyist for Enbridge. Go figure. Thanks for sharing this information! Lynn

Comments are closed.