Battle Heats Up Over Enbridge Pipelines in the North

January 12, 2017 by Barbara With

John Bolenbaugh speaking to a full house at the Black Cat Cafe in Ashland, January 9, 2017. Photo: David Joe Bates

John Bolenbaugh speaking to a full house at the Black Cat Cafe in Ashland, January 9, 2017. Photo: David Joe Bates

Enbridge whistleblower John Bolenbaugh made a series of appearances around Lake Superior this week, speaking about his experiences with an Enbridge oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010.

Bolenbaugh’s truth-telling forced Enbridge to re-clean several dozen areas that had been approved as 100% clean by Enbridge, the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. His exposure forced Enbridge to re-clean the cover-up areas and re-dredge the river at an estimated cost of $600 million.

Bolenbaugh traveled through the Chequamegon Bay region for three days, bringing his message to packed houses. From the Bad River Lodge and Casino Conference Center, to Blue Wave and Black Cat in Ashland, through Washburn, Bayfield, and Red Cliff, people crowded into venues to hear his first-hand account of the Enbridge oil spill that happened in his back yard, and his efforts to bring it to light.

Bolenbaugh brought the documentary videos he made during the oil spill in Kalamazoo showing the oil company not just covering up the damage from the spill, but harassing him as he attempted to bring the truth to light. He stressed to audiences that all pipelines leak, no matter what the oil companies say, and that the oil running through the pipelines is being shipped overseas and is not for domestic use.

He also addressed the Ashland City Council meeting, and the events were attended by the mayor of Ashland, members of the Ashland, Bayfield and Washburn city councils, and the Ashland and Bayfield county boards. Bolenbaugh then headed to Superior, WI where he held a press conference.

Enbridge faces an uphill battle in the region. Last week, the Bad River Tribal Council passed a formal resolution not to renew the easement for rights-of-way of Line 5 through the Bad River Reservation and called for the decommissioning and removal of the pipeline from the Bad River watershed.

In Michigan, entrepreneurs from across the state announced the formation of The Great Lakes Business Network. The group, which includes representatives of the craft beer, food and tourism industries, and national outdoor retailer Patagonia, intends to spur legislative to decommission Line 5, which pumps more than 20 million gallons of oil per day between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan through the Strait of Mackinac which connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

23 million gallons of oil and petroleum products flow through two rusty old pipelines piercing the heart of the Great Lakes, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. Photo: flowforwater.org

23 million gallons of oil and petroleum products flow through two rusty old pipelines piercing the heart of the Great Lakes, just west of the Mackinac Bridge. Photo: flowforwater.org

According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Enbridge is operating under a violation of their agreement. It does not have a sufficient number of ground supports on the underwater section of Line 5 that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, despite Enbridge’s claim that they do.  In a letter to Enbridge last October, Schuette state, “It is undisputed that the State of Michigan required that the pipelines be supported at least (every) 75 feet. That support spacing requirement was and remains a legally binding condition of the Easement.”

Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, stated in a follow-up press release, “It is an embarrassment that in Michigan, the Great Lakes state, Enbridge has continued to pump oil under the Straits of Mackinac, leaving a primary source of our state’s drinking water and one of our main economic drivers at risk. The violation notice issued today by state leaders should serve as a wake-up call.”

Video by Paulette Moore

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