Grand Traverse Band objects to settlement for oil pipeline spills


On July 26, 2010, a 30-inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge Inc. ruptured near Marshall, Michigan, and contaminated Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River with hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil. Photo by Environmental Protection Agency

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is objecting to a $177 million settlement between the Obama administration and an energy company with ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline, Inside Climate News reports.

The Department of Justice announced the settlement in July to address oil spills in Michigan and Illinois. As part of the deal, Enbridge Energy Partners agreed to improve conditions along a system of pipelines throughout the Great Lakes region.

One of those pipelines, known as Enbridge Line 5, crosses through tribal territory. Yet the Grand Traverse Band hasn't been consulted even though the settlement affects its rights under the 1836 Treaty of Washington.

The tribe was never asked about the pipeline itself either. To address the concerns, the tribe is calling for a full environmental review of Line 5, Inside Climate News reports.

"What we would like is for them to understand there are serious environmental questions about the continued operation of Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac," William Rastetter, the tribe's longtime attorney, told Inside Climate News.

Additionally, the Grand Traverse Band and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe have joined a lawsuit that challenges whether Line 5 was properly approved by the federal government.

“The Anishinaabeg have lived in this territory since time immemorial and have indigenous rights to the natural resources,” Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment said last month. “Our rights are largely a matter of settled law though a federal consent decree that calls for joint management of the resource."

Both the Grand Traverse Band and the Sault Tribe are supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its battle against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. Enbridge is an investor in the controversial project, which is on hold pending the outcome of legal and regulatory actions in Washington, D.C.,

"Both of these pipelines are scars across land and water that could injure not only treaty protected rights of Native Americans but also the land and water inheritance of all Americans, Grand Traverse Band Chairman Sam McClellan said in a press release. "If we are to take these risks with our common resources, then at a minimum, both the federal government and the pipeline companies need to be held to the highest environmental and legal standard of review to ensure the safety of land and water for all Americans."

Amid the battles over Line 5 and Dakota Access, Enbridge withdrew plans for the $2.6 billion Sandpiper crude oil pipeline. The project would have crossed through treaty territory in Minnesota.

Read More on the Story:
Government Delays Pipeline Settlement Following Tribe Complaint (Inside Climate News 9/20)
Michigan Tribe Aims to Block Enbridge Pipeline Spill Settlement (Inside Climate News 9/13)

Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Lodging of Proposed Consent Decree Under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act (September 9, 2016)

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