Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the May 13, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. As many of you know, yesterday was the deadline for Enbridge Energy to cease operations on the Line 5 pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac. On Tuesday, the Governor threatened to go after Enbridge’s Line 5 profits if the company defied her order to shut it down. Michigan LCV has been monitoring developments every step of the way, and a number of our board members and our Creative Content Manager, Samantha Shubert, are present at the Mackinac Straits today to show support for the Governor’s actions and tell the story as things continue to unfold.
This week’s edition of Three Things takes a look at the Line 5 situation, provides the latest from Lansing on anti-voter legislation, and summarizes Michigan LCV’s recent multimedia work as we continue to expand the reach and depth of our storytelling.
1. Line 5: Enbridge’s defiance/illegal operations and where we go from here
Last November, Gov. Whitmer announced that she was revoking the easement agreement between Enbridge Energy and the State of Michigan that allowed the Canadian oil company to operate its Line 5 pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac. The Governor’s action was the result of Enbridge’s blatant and continued disregard of pipeline maintenance, numerous safety violations, and the company’s general lack of care and concern about the health of our Great Lakes. Gov. Whitmer gave Enbridge 180 days to cease operations on the pipeline or be in violation of the terms and Michigan law.
Leading up to the deadline date, which was yesterday, Wednesday, May 12th, several things took place, both in Lansing and across the state.
In Lansing, Republican legislative leadership held two hearings on Line 5 and its future in Michigan (one in the House Transportation Committee and the other in Senate Energy Committee) despite the fact that the Legislature plays absolutely no role in the future of the pipeline. Both hearings focused on the false narrative being pushed by Enbridge and friends that the state of Michigan will be in a precarious position without the oil and natural gas flowing through the Straits.
And as a stark indicator of Republican caucus “priorities,” Senate Republicans introduced and passed an amendment in the DNR’s budget that would put taxpayers on the hook for Enbridge’s legal fees should the state’s lawsuit re: the revocation of Enbridge’s easement agreement be unsuccessful. Imagine that: Michigan taxpayers paying legal fees for a Canadian oil company. Unbelievable, but the Senate passed the amendment on a strictly party-line vote.
To counter the idiocy taking place in the State Capitol and to help educate and engage the public, the Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition released a new video directly challenging Enbridge’s false claims and highlighting their track record of neglect when it comes to Line 5. It is a video worth watching and sharing with friends.
And, in a rare and historic move, the Bay Mills Indian Community (BMIC), whose land the Line 5 pipeline runs through, passed a resolution banishing Enbridge from their land and reservation. This move includes all territory ceded to the Bay Mills Indian Community specified by the Treaty of 1836, which gives the tribal communities in the area the perpetual right to hunt, fish, and gather on the land and in the waters. This includes the Straits of Mackinac and much of the land that the Line 5 pipeline traverses. As the BMIC resolution made clear, banishment is not something that is taken lightly, and is the result of Enbridge’s “weaponization of tribal culture and sovereignty” in order to gain an upper hand and pump oil through the pipeline.
“Enbridge’s continued harm to our treaty rights, our environment, our history, our citizens, and our culture, is a prime example of how banishment should be used. Banishment is a permanent and final action that is used to protect all that we hold dear.”
~ President Whitney Gravelle of the Bay Mills Executive Council
Given the full court press the Canadians have been putting on Gov. Whitmer over the past many months, it was good to see an opinion piece placed in the Toronto Star by Michelle Woodhouse of Environmental Defence Canada in advance of the shutdown deadline. Ms. Woodhouse begins her piece by saying:
“The Canadian government is going to bat for yet another pipeline — Enbridge’s Line 5. But before it goes too much further, the government should fact check Enbridge’s self-serving claims and think twice before it puts the Great Lakes in danger.”
All that said, the deadline has passed and Enbridge–blatantly ignoring Gov. Whitmer’s order– is now operating the Line 5 pipeline illegally, while continuing to put the Great Lakes, Michigan’s economy, and our way of life at risk.
In anticipation of Enbridge’s refusal to comply with the law, on Tuesday Gov. Whitmer threatened profit seizure, while also making it very clear that Enbridge is now trespassing on state land.
“Please be advised that Enbridge’s continued operation of the Straits Pipelines after May 12, 2021 is at its own risk,” Whitmer wrote. “If the state prevails in the underlying litigation, Enbridge will face the prospect of having to disgorge to the state all profits it derives from its wrongful use of the easement lands following that date.”
The Michigan LCV team has been prepared for this outcome, fully expecting Enbridge to live up to its track record of ignoring the authority of Michigan’s leaders, as well as indigenous peoples in Michigan. We swiftly issued a statement condemning the company’s actions. You can read our full statement here.
I also encourage you to check out some of our Line communications, which we have been creating and releasing over the past many weeks:
- A promotional video for our May 4 Line 5 webinar
- Full recording of our Line 5 webinar
- “Ticking Time Bomb” ad
- Our counter to Enbridge’s misleading TV ad
We are also engaged in several events taking place in different parts of Michigan today:
The Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition is organizing several protests, including one in Lansing and one in Mackinaw City. This may be late notice, but you can still register and participate in these events by visiting their website, here.
Indigenous groups will be an essential part of today’s events. A great resource for more information is the MackinawOde (Heart of the Turtle) website, which has detailed infographics and information about what is happening today.
Wolfpack member Robb Kerr, along with Michigan LCV Board members/Wolfpack members Phil Roos and Janis Bobrin, at the Straits today
Michigan LCV board member/Wolfpack member Janis Bobrin; NWF’s Leeanne Chadwick; Wolfpack member Susie Cannell; Michigan LCV Board member/NWF Board member/Wolfpack member Bruce Wallace; and Michigan LCV Board member/NWF Board member/Wolfpack member Phil Roos at the Straits
Members of the Bay mills Indian Community and activists march to Enbridge’s Mackinaw City pump station to deliver an eviction notice to Enbridge Energy for its continued trespassing and defiance of the shutdown order.
Finally, I want to remind you that we now have a new advocacy tool that is accessible on our Take Action Page. I invite you to check it out and make your voice heard.
2. Anti-voter legislative update
This week featured yet another Senate Elections Committee hearing on additional components of Republican’s 39-bill package, which is aimed at dismantling our election process and voting rights in Michigan. The focus this week was on bills relating to the rules around poll challengers at voting locations and early, in-person voting.
Here’s a look at the bills discussed this week:
- These bills focus on poll challengers and who is allowed to observe the vote tabulation process at polling places.
- Senate Bill 290 would eliminate non-partisan poll challengers in our elections, removing crucial transparency and introducing a decidedly partisan aspect to the poll observation process.
- Senate Bill 309 would grant poll challengers new powers to challenge voters as well as the ability to demand written explanation for their removal if they violate challenger rules, increasing the risk of intimidation for poll workers and voters. Voters should be free to cast their ballots without fear of being threatened by poll challengers.
- Senate Bill 300 would introduce one day of early voting on the Saturday before Election Day. While we support allowing early, in-person voting, one day is not adequate. We are pushing for the bill to be amended and expanded to allow for at least several weeks of early, in-person voting. For reference, 19 days is the average among states that allow early voting.
As always, our Government Affairs and Democracy For All teams have been hard at work in collaboration with numerous coalition partners, preparing a sharp response and taking action during the hearing. We also provided Michigan LCV members with an easy way to take action and contact their senators. If you didn’t have a chance to send your senator a message this week, there will be more opportunities for action in the near future, as we anticipate additional hearings on this terrible bill package in the weeks to come.
3. Multimedia matters a lot!
Understanding the power of multimedia, the Michigan LCV team is constantly exploring new ways to get the word out about our work, as well as support others in the creation of video and film to capture people’s attention and imagination.
Over the last week, our communications team put together a fun recap video highlighting Michigan LCV’s work in the month of April. While it doesn’t encompass everything, it provides a great sense of the Michigan LCV team in action! We plan to publish these videos at the end of each month as a quick and easy way to keep you up-to-date on our work. Click here to watch April’s recap.
Also important to note is a new film on the military’s role in PFAS contamination called No Defense, which is being screened in states across the country. This documentary was written and produced by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sara Ganim and PFAS contamination stemming from the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda is the focal point. As it is being rolled out nationally, No Defense was recently featured in an article in Ms. Magazine, which is terrific.
You may remember that Michigan LCV partnered with the Wolfpack and National Wildlife Federation to host an early screening of No Defense at the Michigan Theatre in February 2020. We intend to use our channels to amplify the film and continue raising awareness about this important issue impacting communities in Oscoda and across Michigan.
As always, thank you for all you do to support our work. Until next week…..