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Activists call on Biden to back Michigan in Line 5 dispute


ST. IGNACE, MI (MPRN)— A coalition of environmental activists and tribal leaders urged President Joe Biden Tuesday to back Michigan’s effort to shut down an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Sean McBrearty, a leader with the advocacy group Oil and Water Don’t Mix, said he would deliver more than 30,000 petition signatures to elected officials calling on the Biden administration to oppose Canada’s efforts to keep the line open. Canada invoked a decades-old treaty last week to force negotiations between the two countries.

The Canadian company Enbridge operates Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. The company said the oil it moves is crucial to heating homes and businesses in the Upper Peninsula and Canada, and the pipeline is the safest way to transport it.

McBrearty said the pipeline presents an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“This fight is not really about Enbridge’s fuel. This fight is about Michigan’s water, and today we call on President Biden and his administration to stand with our governor and help us protect the Great Lakes,” he said.

The pipeline’s path under the Straits runs near the Bay Mills Indian Community, where Whitney Gravelle is the chairwoman. She said tribal nations signed a treaty with the U.S government that predates the treaty with Canada by more than a century and should take precedence over the 1977 treaty that Canada invoked last week.

“Bay Mills Indian Community, and I know other tribal nations here in the State of Michigan, call on this administration -- the Biden administration – Gov. Whitmer, the State of Michigan, and the government of Canada, to honor their commitments and stand with tribal nations in our fight to protect the waters of the Great Lakes,” Gravelle said.

Tribal nations have been urging the U.S. federal government to intervene for months. Now, Gravelle said, Canada has pushed the Biden administration into the feud.

Canada’s foreign minister, Marc Garneau, said Line 5 is key to his country’s energy security.

The U.S. state department has not responded to questions about how it will approach negotiations with Canada.