Line 5:
It’s Time to Defuse the Ticking Time Bomb

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Tell the Army Corps not to fast-track a dangerous pipeline!

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Line 5 is a disaster waiting to happen.

The pipeline threatens tribal sovereignty, climate, land, and water, including the Great Lakes, source of 10% of the world’s surface fresh water. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and their allies are in a protracted struggle to shut down the pipeline. 350 Wisconsin stands in solidarity with the Band.

Will you join us? Read on to learn more and then email Britnie Remer to find out how you can help.

The Struggle to #ShutDownLine5

The Line 5 pipeline transports about 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids daily from Superior, Wisconsin, through Michigan and ultimately to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. Built in 1953, this aging pipeline is owned by Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company. The oil originates in the oil sands of Alberta, transported from there to Superior via Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper pipeline. Thus, despite the company’s penchant for giving different names to different pipeline segments, Line 5 and the Alberta Clipper are in actuality one pipeline that carries oil from Edmonton to Sarnia. Wisconsin is just a shortcut Enbridge uses to move Canadian oil from Canada back to Canada. For our state, it’s all risk—no reward.

A 12-mile portion of the pipeline bisects the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which borders Lake Superior. Several of the easements that allowed Enbridge to use the tribal territory expired in 2013, and the tribe demanded that the company remove the pipeline—not just from their territory, but from the entire watershed. Enbridge refused, and the Bad River Band filed a federal lawsuit. US District Court Judge William Conley presided over the October 2022 bench trial.

Fearing that it would likely lose this legal challenge, Enbridge sought approval for an alternative route from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). But the company’s proposed course just barely skirts the edge of the Bad River Reservation, such that any spill would contaminate the watershed that contains the entire reservation. Even though the proposed pipeline segment would lie outside the reservation, any spill from it would travel downstream and into Lake Superior.

The Bad River Band took Enbridge back to court in May 2023 after spring flooding caused severe erosion, bringing the Bad River within 11 feet of the pipeline at a meander. The Band cited an imminent threat of rupture and demanded the immediate shutdown of the pipeline.

The Bad River Meander is shown completely inundated with water during a spring flood event. The Line 5 corridor is visible running through the middle of the meander where vegetation has been cleared.

On June 16, 2023, Judge Conley affirmed that Enbridge has been trespassing on the Band’s land since 2013 and ordered the company to shut down Line 5 within three years and pay more than $5 million in profits to the Band.

This is what Band Chairman Mike Wiggins had to say about the court’s ruling:

“The Band appreciates the Court putting an end to Enbridge’s flagrant trespass and disregard for our rights. Tribal sovereignty prevailed over corporate profits. But the Band’s victory is not a cause for unqualified celebration. We are under no illusion that Enbridge will do the right thing. We expect them to fight this order with all of their corporate might. This is just one step in protecting our people and water.”

The Band’s lawyers stated that three years is more than enough time for Line 5 to suffer a catastrophic rupture and that the $5 million financial penalty is insufficient to discourage future violations of Indigenous sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the DNR has had its work cut out for it, reviewing more than 32,000 comments received in response to its draft environmental impact statement on Enbridge’s proposed reroute—the largest number of comments received on any energy project in some 20 years, according to a DNR representative. The majority of comments pointed to climate change, treaty rights, waterways, wetlands, and Lake Superior as areas of concern. The final version of the DNR’s environmental review will be used to decide whether state permits are issued for the reroute project.

Of the 32,000+ comments, 63% called on the DNR to reject permits for Line 5. The joint 350 Wisconsin/Sierra Club Wisconsin Tar Sands Team analyzed every one of the comments and found it absolutely clear that Wisconsin doesn’t want Line 5. The team’s full report is available here.

Report of the joint Tar Sands Team of 350 WI and Sierra Club WI

On April 8, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) weighed in for the first time, submitting an amicus brief in the case. The DOJ agreed that Enbridge is trespassing illegally on Tribal lands and urged the court to increase the penalty imposed. But it did not call for an immediate end to the company’s ongoing trespass.

And in the neighboring state of Michigan…

Calls to decommission Line 5 are also coming from Michigan. There, the pipeline crosses the Straits of Mackinac, which has been called the worst spot in the Great Lakes for an oil spill. Environmental groups, tribes, and Michigan’s governor and attorney general are locked in an ongoing battle with Enbridge, demanding that the company remove the pipeline from the Straits. The simulation below shows how an oil spill beneath the Straits could devastate Great Lakes ecology, wildlife, and coastal communities.

Video: University of Michigan Water Center

In the words of Beth Wallace, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Campaigns Manager, we can’t continue to play Russian Roulette with the Great Lakes. It’s time to shut down Line 5!

Why We Must #ShutDownLine5

Enbridge’s plan to reroute Line 5 around the Bad River Reservation raises issues of tribal sovereignty, environmental racism, climate change, eminent domain, and disaster prevention.

  • Tribal sovereignty and environmental racism. We find it appalling that Enbridge is seeking to override the treaty rights and the wishes of the Bad River Band and put its water, land, and wild rice beds at risk. We #StandWithBadRiver.
  • Climate change. With the IPCC telling us we have just a few years in which to maybe, just maybe, avoid the very worst impacts of climate change, it’s nothing short of mad to be investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure. We say #NoNewPipelines!
  • Eminent domain. Enbridge asked the Public Service Commission to grant it the authority to appropriate private land for the new segment of Line 5. The company withdrew its application after obtaining needed easements, but we continue to say #NoEminentDomainForPrivateGain!
  • Spills—not a question of if, but when. Enbridge was responsible for more than 800 spills between 1999 and 2010. In fact, the company has been responsible for the largest inland oil pipeline spills in US history—the 1991 Line 3 rupture in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and the 2010 Kalamazoo River disaster. Line 5 itself is estimated to have spilled at least 1.13 million gallons of toxic oil in 29 incidents since 1968. A rupture of the proposed new Line 5 segment at the crossing of the Bad River would shoot toxic oil down the waterfalls of Copper Falls State Park, into the Bad River Reservation and the Kakagon Sloughs, the source of wild rice for the Bad River Band. From there, it would pour into Lake Superior. Enbridge is asking us to prioritize the continuing transport of oil through our state over the protection and preservation of the largest freshwater lake on the planet. We say no! We must #ProtectTheWater — #WaterIsLife!

You Can Help!

  • Join the team! Email Britnie Remer to get involved.
  • Write or call President Biden, Governor Evers, and Senator Baldwin to urge them to reject Line 5:

The time is now!