It is inspiring to see the progress that can be accomplished in as little as four months. I began working with Food & Water Watch in Michigan this past May, right after I finished college. Right away, I went to work with a coalition of Michigan groups in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to stop the frightening monster beneath the Straits of Mackinac – Line 5.
Line 5 is a pair of 62-year-old pipelines operated by Enbridge (a giant energy corporation) that transports oil and gas from Canada, and poses too great of a risk to the Great Lakes. The Lakes provide drinking water for 35 million people, are home to numerous flora and fauna, and are essential to our Michigan way of life.
In the short months that I have worked with Food & Water Watch and the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, Michiganders have not gone a week without seeing concerns raised around Line 5 in the media! It all started for me when I participated in a rally in Mackinaw City at the end of May to call on the Governor and Attorney General to shut down Line 5. While our rally was taking place in Mackinaw City, Michigan lawmakers were making their way to the Mackinac Policy Conference that was taking place on Mackinac Island. Serendipitously, I was able to get into the conference and disrupt Governor’s Snyder’s speech. As he was discussing Michigan’s future, I stood up amid the crowd of 1,700 people with conviction and told him, “To keep Michigan pure, it’s time to shut down Line 5.”
As more and more people were beginning to learn about Line 5, we wanted to point to Enbridge’s history of operating pipelines in Michigan. In 2010, Enbridge allowed toxic tar sands oil to leak into the Kalamazoo River for 17 hours before responding. It would be outrageous to trust them with operating a 62-year-old pipeline through the Great Lakes. So, on July 25 we acknowledged the five-year anniversary of the disastrous Kalamazoo River oil spill by supporting the communities of Marshall, Battle Creek, and Galesburg, which have yet to recover from this ruin. Enbridge has taught all of us by example what their negligent company is capable of; incidents like these tell us why Line 5 needs to be decommissioned immediately.
Enbridge oversees not just Line 5, but also a network of tar sands pipelines that the company is trying to expand in the Great Lakes region and across the country. These pipelines, especially the ones that transport tar sands oil, are turning communities into sacrifice zones from Alberta, Canada to Detroit, Michigan and beyond.
Food & Water Watch has been working tirelessly on this issue, and in the time I’ve been with the organization, we collaborated with our volunteers and allies to recruit 186 businesses and organizations to sign a letter addressed to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette urging them to immediately decommission Line 5. This letter was delivered to Snyder and Schuette three weeks ago in Lansing.
The pressure to shut down Line 5 is on, and Attorney General Schuette even said, “the pipeline’s days are numbered.” But our work isn’t done yet!
So what’s next? This September, Food & Water Watch, along with local groups like Idle No More, will assist in organizing the Pipe Out Paddle Protest– a flotilla of kayakers and activists committed to shutting down Line 5. Stay tuned!