Wisconsin tribe wants pipeline moved from its reservation

Updated: 2:25 p.m. | Posted: 11:57 a.m.

A Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin is calling for the removal of a pipeline from its reservation after 64 years of operation.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's tribal council voted Wednesday to refuse to renew several easement rights of way for Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that expired in 2013.

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The resolution passed by the band's council also calls for the decommissioning and removal of the pipeline, which runs for about 12 miles across the reservation that lies east of Ashland, Wis., on the shore of Lake Superior.

"Even a minor spill could prove to be disastrous for our people," Bad River Tribal Chair Robert Blanchard said in a statement.

It isn't clear whether the tribe's request must be met.

Officials with Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc. said Friday it has easement agreements with the tribe stretching into the 2040s, and that the easements within the reservation that expired "do not represent our entire relationship with the Band."

Band officials conceded that Enbridge may not comply with its wishes.

"We want them to decommission the line and stop pumping oil, as soon as possible," said tribal council member Dylan Jennings. "But we also recognize they have money at stake and they're going to fight us on this. We're prepared to do all we can to make sure our resources are protected."

Line 5 was built in the early 1950s. It carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day from Superior, Wis., east to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they are used to make propane and petroleum products.

Enbridge said it was surprised by the band's decision, and will review it in detail before determining its next steps.

"In addition to working toward a mutually beneficial agreement, Enbridge also worked with the Band's cultural resources, natural resources, and legal departmental staff to maintain safe pipeline operations within the boundaries of the Reservation," the company said in a statement.

The Bad River Band's decision comes amid an ongoing protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline in which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes have argued the project threatens drinking water and tribal cultural sites.

Jennings said his tribe stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock tribe, but added that this decision on Line 5 was long overdue.

"This is something we're not only doing for our community but the whole surrounding area," Jennings said. "It's a ticking time bomb dealing with pipelines, and history has shown that."