Bad River Band of Ojibwe sues Enbridge

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By Winona LaDuke

On July 23, the Bad River Band of Ojibwe filed a law suit against Canadian based Enbridge Company, seeking to force removal of the Line 5 pipeline. For 66 years the pipeline has crossed the Bad River Reservation and run through the watershed of the Bad River and Lake Superior. Most of the easements expired in 2013, and the tribe says Enbridge is trespassing and they want the pipes out.

The complaint, filed in Federal Court says, “Fifteen of the easements expired on June 2, 2013, as their renewal was expressly “limited as to tenure for a period not to exceed 20 (Twenty) years … ending on June 2, 2013[.]” In those same easements, Enbridge expressly promised that the company would “remove all materials, equipment and associated installations within six months of termination, and … restore the land to its prior condition.” Rather than doing so, or seeking the Band’s consent to a renewal of the easements prior to their expiration, Enbridge has continued to operate the pipeline as if it has an indefinite entitlement to do so. This constitutes an unlawful possession of the subject lands, and an intentional, ongoing trespass upon them.”

“No amount of compensation is worth risking Wenji-Bimaadiziyaang – an Ojibwe word that literally means ‘From where we get life’. It’s time to end the imminent threat the company is presenting to our people, our rivers, and Gichi-Gami (Lake Superior)”, Chairman Mike Wiggins said.

The Line 5 Enbridge pipe begins in Superior, Wisconsin at the Husky Oil Refinery. It is fed by the Enbridge Main line which crosses the Red Lake, Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Reservations; including Line 3.

The pipeline continues to the Straights of Mackinac, where another Enbridge pipe similarly old, lays on the bottom of Lake Huron. Deep concerns have been raised about the safety of that pipeline as well. Built in l953, and installed in the Termination Era, Line 5 carries 23 million barrels of tarsands oil annually through the Great Lakes.

Bad River has twelve miles of Enbridge pipe crossing the reservation. In a number of places the pipe is visible, due to torrential flooding and climate change impacts on the reservation. The tribe has expressed major concerns about the pipeline for a number of years. The wild rice beds within the Reservation stand as the largest remaining beds on the Great Lakes and among the largest and healthiest left in the world.

Bad River Tribal Council Member Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings said, “The Tribe has commenced litigation because we must stop the operation of line 5 in order to protect current and future generations from a potential catastrophe. We will not allow a foreign energy company to endanger our lifeway. As Anishinaabe, it’s really quite simple to us, ‘Giishpin ganawendamang iw nibi, giga-ganawenimigomin – If we take care of the water, it will continue to take care of us.’”