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Health, Science and Environment

Five Michigan tribes could sue if state cannot get Line 5 pipeline removed from the straits

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Five Michigan tribes could bring a lawsuit against Enbridge Energy if state efforts to remove the line 5 pipeline from the straits fail.

As first reported in the Detroit News, tribal leaders have discussed bringing a lawsuit against Enbridge if the state’s own efforts to remove the line 5 pipeline fail.

The five tribes, organized under the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, are all guaranteed fishing rights as part of an 1836 treaty with the federal government.

Enbridge is currently being sued by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to have the Line 5 pipeline removed from the straits.

The state is also being sued by the Canadian company. Enbridge sued in June, arguing that Michigan should abide by a plan the company reached with Governor Snyder to build a tunnel to house the pipeline.

Aaron Payment is the Chairperson for the Sault Saint Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

“We will fight to protect our natural resources and our treaty rights. Tribes are persistent, we don’t give up, and we usually end up winning,” he said.

Payment said it is the duty of the Attorney General and Governor to protect the waters of the Great Lakes.

“We believe that includes protecting our fish and our natural resources,” Payment said. “A treaty doesn’t make any sense if we don’t have any fish to catch.”

Payment said the tribes will only bring a suit if the state fails to have Line 5 removed from the straits or if Enbridge Energy moves forward with plans to build a tunnel.

“If we do file suit it will be a huge undertaking,” he said. “The expenses will be phenomenal. I have no concern that we’ll be able to raise the revenue to fight a big company like Enbridge.”

A spokesperson for Enbridge Energy, which controls the pipeline, said they are committed to a forthright and sincere engagement with Indigenous people about projects that potentially affect them. 

You can read their full statement below:

Enbridge is committed to forthright and sincere engagement with Indigenous people about Enbridge projects and operations that potentially affect them. We aim to develop mutual understanding through open, timely, two-way communication.

We are committed to early engagement and meaningful dialogue with Indigenous people along our pipeline rights-of-way, based on mutual respect and trust. Enbridge recognizes and respects the history, uniqueness and diversity of Indigenous people in both Canada and the United States.