Three Things Thursday: June 22, 2023
Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the June 22, 2023 edition of Three Things Thursday! This week I take a look at the recent judicial decision in Wisconsin pertaining to Line 5 and a committee hearing on clean energy in the Michigan Senate. I also introduce you to a new Michigan LCV staff member. Let’s jump in!
1. Line 5 Update: Federal judge rules Enbridge must pay Bad River Band $5 million, shut down pipeline in three years
In May, I wrote about the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians’ ongoing battle against Enbridge Energy to shut down Line 5, which runs through a portion of the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin.
At the time of my last update, the Bad River Band had been seeking an emergency shutdown order for Line 5 after spring flooding caused massive amounts of erosion along the banks of the Bad River near where the pipeline is buried underground. The Michigan Advance reported the erosion was so bad just south of the pipeline that “3 to 4 feet of riverbank [were] lost in a 40-to-50-hour period.”
The emergency shutdown request was the latest flashpoint in a legal battle that started in 2019 when the Bad River Band sued Enbridge for continuing to operate the pipeline on tribal land after the company’s 20-year easement expired in 2013. Despite the evidence that the erosion was causing a significant and heightened risk of an oil spill, Judge William Conley ruled that there was no immediate threat and that Enbridge could continue to operate the pipeline.
Late last week, however, Judge Conley made another decision on the trespassing element of the case, and ruled that Enbridge must pay the Bad River Band more than $5 million in pipeline profits and shut down Line 5 within the next three years. An end date for the pipeline on the Bad River Reservation is HUGE news – a development that could be a game changer to bring about an orderly, planned transition away from Line 5 in the region and closer to alternatives that present less risk for our environment, economy, and public health.
The ruling confirms that Enbridge has been trespassing on the Bad River Band’s land and the serious threat that Line 5 poses to our Great Lakes.
As Judge Conley wrote in his decision:
“Enbridge has and continues to commit conscious and willful trespass by operating Line 5 on the Band’s 12 former-allotment parcels for which 20-year rights of way expired in June 2013, making an appropriate remedy necessary to address the violation of the Band’s sovereign rights and to take away what otherwise would be a strong incentive for Enbridge to act in the future exactly as it has here.”
Judge Conley’s ruling means that Enbridge will be held (somewhat) to account for their blatant disregard for the Bad River Band’s tribal sovereignty and that the company has been ordered to “implement a December 2022 monitoring and shutdown plan” for Line 5 that charts a path towards a permanent shutdown.
It is important to note, however, that the $5 million penalty ordered by Judge Conley is a small fine for a company like Enbridge, which earns millions of dollars in profits each day. Given this relatively small fine, there is a danger that Enbridge (and other fossil fuel companies following the case) will consider $5 million simply the cost of doing business as they continue to ignore and disrespect indigenous tribes and other communities around the world.
And, unfortunately, the ruling does not mean Enbridge has to shut down Line 5 immediately. They’ve been given a 3-year deadline, which is good, but Enbridge has already announced an appeal and they believe that 3 years will allow for Line 5 to be rerouted around the reservation (but still remain in the Bad River watershed). Outside experts agree that a reroute will be very tough to complete in 3 years, so we anticipate that Enbridge will use as many tactics as possible to keep Line 5 open and their immediate appeal is one of them.
While Judge Conley’s decision is a solid step in the right direction, we believe he has given far too much deference to Enbridge on actions related to safety moving forward. The risk of a Great Lakes oil spill remains extremely real, so the Michigan LCV team is closely monitoring the situation with our partners in both Wisconsin and Michigan and we will continue to advocate for a much more expedient shutdown.
We will also keep the spotlight on President Joe Biden who has the authority to step in to force a shutdown, which is something I raised last week when I had a brief opportunity to speak with the President directly.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates. In the meantime, I urge you to use our one-click advocacy tool to send a message to President Biden urging him to back Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and shut down Line 5 for good.
2. Senate Energy Committee holds hearing on 100% clean energy bills
Today, Michigan LCV State Government Affairs Director Nick Occhipinti testified before the Senate Energy and Environment Committee in support of the Clean Energy Future Plan, the package of bills introduced earlier this spring that is key to actualizing many facets of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan.
Introduced by Senate Majority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) and Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Township) in April, the Clean Energy Future Plan is a top priority for Michigan LCV. Michiganders are already experiencing first-hand the impacts of the climate crisis: more frequent extreme weather that causes flooding and power outages, catastrophic wildfires that prompt air quality alerts and health concerns, and more. The Clean Energy Future Plan – and the tenants of the MI Healthy Climate Plan – offer Michigan an opportunity to not only change course and address these climate impacts, but create good paying jobs, lower costs for families, and protect the health of Michiganders in the process.
As my colleague Nick emphasized in his testimony, the Clean Energy Future Plan is an integral first, meaningful step towards addressing climate change in Michigan. The plan will transition Michigan to 100% clean energy, reduce pollution in our air and water and move our state to a more reliable, sustainable energy system.
While we are excited to see the Clean Energy Future Plan start to move in Lansing, the legislature is about to take a long summer break. We need your help to make sure our lawmakers keep the momentum and focus over the next many weeks while at home, and get back to work first thing in September to pass this important legislation. I invite you to use our one-click action tool to communicate with your legislator, encouraging them to support our clean energy future!
Big thanks to Nick and the entire State Government Affairs team for their hard work in Lansing!
3. New Michigan LCV Staff Spotlight: Batoull Haidar
This week, I’m thrilled to welcome Batoull Haidar, our new Operations and Finance Administrator, to our family.
Batoull was born and raised in Dearborn and has always had a passion for community service. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at UM-Dearborn (Go Blue!), Batoull was president of the Arab Student Union and on the board of Students for Orphan Relief, and she was always bouncing around campus and the community trying to help others. Batoull went on to get her masters in public administration and policy.
Batoull’s most immediate background is in real estate where she loved working with families to fulfill the “American Dream” and buy their first home. Throughout her time in this sector, Batoull did all she could to find ways around the historic barriers to home ownership that still exist for recent immigrants and “nontraditional” home buyers.
In her free time, Batoull loves reading and relaxing. As she shared with me, “Michigan has the biggest and best lakes”, so she especially loves spending time at the beach!
Welcome to the team, Batoull!
Thank you so much for your support of our work! There’s certainly never a dull moment.
Until next week….