Music and NPR News for Central and Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Some tribes can now participate in Line 5 permitting process

"Oil barrels" by IFPRI is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Some Michigan tribes can now legally intervene in the controversial Line 5 permitting process.

The move comes as the energy company Enbridge wants to put the pipeline in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

Four tribes will take part in the permitting process to relocate Line 5, after a ruling from a state judge last week.

The decision allows them to protect their treaty rights that go back to 1836, when tribes ceded their land to the U.S. government.

In exchange, they reserved the right to fish in the Great Lakes.

Line 5 poses a threat to those rights, says Bryan Newland, the Tribal Chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community.

“It is really hard to maintain the right to fish in waters that have been polluted by an oil spill,” said Newland.

Back in the 1950s, when Enbridge first installed Line 5, the state did not allow tribes to participate in negotiations. Now, that’s changed.