Northern Wisconsin Tribe Seeks Removal of Pipeline from Land

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa announced that it will not renew some of its easement agreements with Enbridge Energy Partners, a major pipeline company.

Enbridge’s Line 5 runs through norther Wisconsin and transports about 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil and natural gas. Segments of the pipeline cross tribal lands.

In the wake of protests against the development of the Dakota Access pipeline, which galvanized national attention on issues of native land rights and clean water, the decision not to renew the easements represents yet another gesture of local opposition to the fossil fuel industry.

Enbridge was caught by surprise and its spokesperson told Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) that the company hopes to work with the tribe to find a resolution.

According to WPR, however,  Bad River Tribal Spokesman Dylan Jennings explained that “No form of compensation or negotiations will change our decision. We stand pretty firm on this. It’s not about the money. It’s about the environment and what we leave behind for our next generations.”

The tribe seeks to have the pipeline removed from its land, but recognizes that the situation is uncertain and a complex legal battle may lay ahead.

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Trans Mountain Expansion

The Canadian government recently approved a proposal to expand an existing pipeline to transport bitumen from Alberta to Vancouver for export to international markets. The Trans Mountain Expansion project is spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government’s approval of the project in late November.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain

The project will create a “twinned pipeline,” expanding capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. It represents a significant boost to Alberta’s struggling oil industry.

But pipeline expansion will also cause increased oil tanker and barge traffic out of Vancouver. According to The Guardian, “Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic would be disastrous for the resident orca whales – a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US.”

In addition to the impact on orca whales, The Guardian reports that dozens of municipalities and First Nations communities have declared opposition to the project. The existing pipeline has operated since the 1950s and over 80 spills have been reported. The Trans Mountain runs through several populated areas.

Several lawsuits are seeking to overturn the federal government’s approval of the pipeline expansion project.