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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hears public on Line 5 • Wisconsin Examiner

On Tuesday, hundreds of residents congregated at the Northwood Technical College in Ashland for a multi-session public hearing on the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline project. The hearing focused on the proposed construction of a new segment of the pipeline, some 40 miles of which would be constructed around and upstream of the Bad River Reservation.

During Tuesday’s hearing opponents of Line 5 called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject the Canadian company’s application to build the additional 40 miles of pipeline. The new segment would cross nearly 200 bodies of water in the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan watersheds, environmental advocates say.

During the first session, according to Sierra Club monitors of the public hearing, 29 people testified in favor of Line 5 and 40 testified against it.

“We are here today because Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 proposal represents a clear threat to the health and safety of Wisconsin communities and the natural resources on which we all depend,” said Elizabeth Ward, of the Sierra Club of Wisconsin.

Tribal Council member Dan Wiggins Jr. at the Line 5 press conference. (Photo courtesy of Midwest Environmental Advocates)

Over the last decade, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has struggled against the Canadian-owned pipeline. In late 2022, U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that Enbridge had been trespassing on sovereign tribal land since 2013. The ruling was followed up by a decision by Conley in June 2023 ordering Line 5 to cease operating on the reservation by June 2026. The shutdown order is currently on appeal.

The Bad River Band is calling for Enbridge to cease trespassing and shut the pipeline down. By continuing its trespass, the Band argues that Enbridge is violating the tribe’s sovereignty as well as treaty rights. Efforts to reroute the pipeline around the Bad River raised concerns for the Band, as the pipeline would still be in a position to affect water sources on tribal land.

“What Bad River has been facing since 2013 is an illegal trespass on our reservation,” deputy director of the Bad River Band’s Mashkiziibii Natural Resources Department Dan Wiggins Jr. said during a press conference. Wiggins, who is also a member of Bad River’s Tribal Council, added, “We struggle to see why it is so hard to protect our waters and our land.”

The decades-old project, which daily carries up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas across its 645 mile length, has polarized communities. Supporters of Line 5 say it’s modern, safe, and needed to maintain American energy independence, keep energy prices down and provide good paying jobs to Wisconsinites. Enbridge and its supporters have also claimed that shutting down or disrupting the pipeline carries foreign policy implications with Enbridge claiming that the Transit Pipelines Treaty signed between the U.S. and Canadian governments in 1977 and the U.S. All Writs Act— which dates back to 1789 in its original form — override the Bad River Band’s ability to block the pipeline.

The more than 70 year-old pipeline has a  history of leaks and ruptures and has accumulated a diverse coalition of opponents. A catastrophic 2010 spill from a different Enbridge pipeline, Line 6B, into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, leaving a legacy of environmental contamination as well as respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological health problems  among residents of local communities near the spills. Some of the people affected by the Line 6B spill testified at Tuesday’s hearing. Near the Bad River, a changing climate in Wisconsin has increased the tempo of shoreline erosion, bringing more powerful storms and more frequent flooding. In some cases, single storms have eroded up to 21 feet of shoreline. During federal court proceedings in May 2023, attorneys for the Bad River Band played aerial drone footage showing a large tree and four feet of shore ripping away from the bank and sinking into the river’s rushing waters.

Tribal Council Member Robert Houle Speaking at Press Conference. (Photo courtesy of Midwest Environmental Advocates) Tribal Council Member Robert Houle Speaking at Press Conference. (Photo courtesy of Midwest Environmental Advocates)

If the pipeline were to be exposed by a flash flood, the Band warns, then a large spill could occur. The crude oil and natural gas carried by Line 5 would contaminate the river and the ecosystems sustained by it. During the May 2023 court hearing, witnesses for Enbridge said it could take up to five days to organize a pull purge of the pipeline, which would prevent a rupture. Flooding has also cut off  access to the riverbank for as long as 90 hours, which could delay a response to a rupture.

“With [Enbridge’s] deep pockets, they’ll do everything they can to get their way.” said Robert Houle, a member of the Bad River Band’s Tribal Council during the Tuesday press conference. They promise the sun, the moon and the stars. “They promise new jobs and money — but we need clean air and clean water.”

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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2024%2F06%2F05%2Fu-s-army-corps-of-engineers-hears-public-on-line-5%2F by Isiah Holmes

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