3/21: Tell President Biden: No More Fossil Fuels near the Great Lakes! Deadline 3/22.

This is a great tutorial on Enbridge’s history with Line 5.

A written synopsis of Enbridge’s compliance issues and Line 5’s safety here.

Last January, President Biden committed to correcting environmental injustices and challenged the fossil fuel industry to stop exacerbating the climate crisis. Right now, in Wisconsin, he has the opportunity to follow through on this commitment.

Last month, hundreds of people took the time to protest the expansion of the Line 5 tar sands pipeline through Wisconsin, uplifting the threat it poses to tribal treaty rights, local waterways, and the Great Lakes.

Now, 35 organizations (28 from Quebec) including Équiterre, David Suzuki Foundation, Eau Secours, Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures Québec and The Council of Canadians have sent a letter supporting the closure of Line 5 (attached). Their message is clear: this pipeline is too dangerous and those fighting to keep it open do not speak in our name. (Excellent report on alternatives here.)

 Now, we must join them to call on the Biden Administration to reject Line 5’s permit to drill under White River which would devastate the water quality of Lake Superior. 

Submit your comments HERE before March 22: Tell the Biden administration to reject Line 5 and protect the Great Lakes from more fossil fuel pollution!

The Sierra Club has created the model letter below you can submit as is. However, as IDENTICAL COMMENTS are usually culled, slightly rearranging sentences and adding personal comments will make your efforts more effective.

Here is their model letter – we’ve added some notes in red where you could add your thoughts…:

(Introduce some original text at the beginning – why this issue is important to you – your experiences with the trauma of oil spill (easy for us west-coasters), how the original process disrespected the rights of native people, the risk Canada and Enbridge are shoving onto us for their own profit…etc.)

Thanks for deciding to evaluate Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 expansion in WI under the individual CWA 404 permit program. Adding a virtual public hearing and a comment period for a draft EA would be even better. A project that endangers the Great Lakes deserves an extremely thorough review.

(I expect more from Biden…)

Given the welcome steps that Pres. Biden took to restore the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, I hope that your review will consider, at least: (1) the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts, (2) all connected actions, including the proposed Line 5 tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac; (3) the GHG emissions projections for the continued use of the entire Line 5, which this new segment would allow, and (4) alternative approaches – including a decommissioning alternative – that would minimize environmental and public health costs.

(The whole process that got us to this point was flawed… (Watch the movie at the top.)

I urge you to review Line 5 in its entirety, since no EIS was prepared in 1953. Please ensure that tribes and local communities can meaningfully engage with the Line 5 permitting process and that climate change and environmental justice goals are fully considered. Regarding the navigable waters of the U. S., the Corps should consider potential impacts to the White River, where Enbridge plans to use horizontal directional drilling (HDD). Using it in the recent installation of the new Line 3 in MN, Enbridge caused at least 28 frac-outs, where drilling fluid, mixed with fine-grained bentonite clay, escapes onto land, into surface waters and underground spaces. These releases of drilling fluids cause a host of adverse impacts to waterways, including the smothering of aquatic organisms and the reduction of food availability and fish spawning and refuge sites.

(Enbridge history shows that they don’t deserve to more chances at disaster.)

The Corps should investigate the cause of the frac-outs, and whether there are any mitigation measures that might prevent frac-outs or reduce the severity of the impacts, before blindly approving a project that could cause the same irreparable damage. Regardless, the risk is too dangerous to take. The 2018 Greenpeace report “Dangerous Pipelines” concluded that an Enbridge pipeline leaks or ruptures every 20 days on average. Based on the numbers of frac-outs, spills, and aquifer breaches on the recently built Line 3 pipeline in MN, Enbridge has proven that it cannot be trusted to protect WI’s precious water resources.

(We know that this profits Canada. How is this helping us get past our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and the toxic regimes that sell them?

The Corps should consider climate change. Pres. Biden has a goal of cutting our C02 emissions in half by 2030, but they’re still rising! If you grant a permit for this expansion, you’ll be locking in an aging fossil fuel pipeline for decades to come, just as we need to drastically cut back on fossil fuel combustion. The WI DNR’s draft EIS claims that since this project is a reroute, it won’t affect the amount of fossil fuels burned. But if you accept that logic, Enbridge can replace an entire line, section by section, resulting in decades more of fossil fuel use.

Here’s a synopsis of troubling factors you can add to the letter.:

  • An anchor strike from a ship in peril in 2018 gashed and dented both underwater pipelines
  • Enbridge contractors severely damaged pipeline supports in 2019, but all Enbridge safety measures missed the damage, which wasn’t even discovered until June 2020 – at which point the pipeline was temporarily shut down to inspect the damage (subsequently reopened)
  • The tarnished safety record of Enbridge, Inc., the Canadian company that operates the pipeline including the largest inland oil spill when its Line 6B spilled 1.1 million gallons of tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in 2010
  • There are ongoing issues of compliance with the contract between the pipeline company and the State of Michigan (the Easement) including 8 known violations 
  • The age, location, and questionable condition of the pipeline
  • An increase in the volume and pressure of fluids moving through the pipelines
  • The lack of transparency about safety inspections and what petroleum products are being transported through Line 5 in the Great Lakes
  • The existence of safer routes!
  • The lack of proactive regulatory environments in Michigan and at the federal level
  • University of Michigan scientists modeled the currents in the Straits of Mackinac and called it “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.”
  • Line 5 is a shortcut for Canada’s benefit with less than 5 to 10% of the product used in Michigan. The government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backs Enbridge, saying that the pipeline’s continued operation is nonnegotiable. It recently invoked a provision in a 1970s-era treaty to defend the line’s operation, raising the matter to the international level. 
  • Scientists warn that we have less than 10 years to reduce carbon emissions by half or face dire consequences from a dangerously overheating climate. It is even more urgent to move away from dirty fuels like the ones carried by Line 5

Here’s the Sierra Club’s letter.

Last January, President Biden committed to correcting environmental injustices and challenged the fossil fuel industry to stop exacerbating the climate crisis. Right now, in Wisconsin, he has the opportunity to follow through on this commitment.

Despite consistent opposition by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Enbridge, the Canadian company behind the construction of the tar sand pipeline called Line 5, is attempting to expand the pipeline in northern Wisconsin. Enbridge is specifically trying to get a permit that allows them to disturb and drill under the waterways of White River, which feeds into the waters of Bad River and Lake Superior.

We must ensure that Enbridge doesn’t receive the 404 permit to drill under this critical waterway. The Biden administration and their federal agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, are taking public comments on this permit and we need to create a major show of opposition to get their attention. 

“The notion that Line 5 is necessary is obsolete and it’s time for Line 5 to go,” commented Mike Wiggins, Chair of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa last month during Line 5’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) public hearing.1It was one of the numerous times that indigenous voices raised concerns about the presence of the Line 5 pipeline in this region.

Notably, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Bad River Band) requested that Enbridge remove Line 5 and not install a pipeline in the Bad River watershed. The Bad River Band has the treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather in this ceded territory and has the authority to dismiss any unwelcome projects from their land. 

Yet, in response, Enbridge has moved forward with its expansion just south of the reservation. This expansion is still within the watershed drilling into Bad River’s largest tributary (White River), violating their rights and posing a major risk to the treasured watershed. The entire region provides important sources of drinking water, food, and medicines to the Bad River Band.

Any accident, leak, or disruption from Line 5 fluids could contaminate the water quality of the watershed and wash up in the Bad River Band Reservation.2Anything that impacts this waterway will end up in the connecting Lake Superior and impact the livelihoods of its surrounding communities too.

President Biden and his administration must act now to stop Line 5’s construction and prevent the damage it will inflict on the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior.

The proposed construction under the White River would extensively damage the waterways crucial to aquatic ecosystems. In their proposal, Enbridge announced that they intend to drill beneath the White River using a method called horizontal directional drilling (HDD). If this sounds vaguely familiar, then you might have heard about the disastrous installation of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota. 

During this process, they breached an aquifer that leaked approximately 100,000 gallons of water a day during a drought last year. It took almost one year for them to stop the breach. Additionally, they created 28 frac-outs, unintentional releases of drilling fluid, into the groundwater and land near the Mississippi River. These drilling fluids can cause a litany of damage to the aquatic ecosystems including smothering of organisms and reduction of food availability.3This is what Line 5 has in store for Wisconsin. Even worse, it’s being led by the same company in charge of this Line 3 catastrophe. 

This comment period is an important opportunity for all of us to make it clear that the public supports a clean, healthy, just future — not one reliant on fossil fuels – and that we’ll continue to show up in support of the future we want until it’s built.

Elizabeth Ward
Chapter Director
Sierra Club Wisconsin Chapter

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