The Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI-CATS) began a campaign designed to disrupt the expansion of Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline in July. Monday, activists staged a “tree sit” in the area under construction.
Enbridge’s pipeline system in Michigan ruptured in 2010, spilling over 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and a smaller creek. It was the largest inland oil spill in history. Enbridge was faulted by the National Transportation Safety Board for failing to take necessary steps to prevent the spill. After three years, the clean up is still ongoing. On Monday morning, Jessica Clark allegedly climbed a tree where she remained until around 2:30pm, when law enforcement removed her. A second suspect was taken into custody by La Porte County Sheriff’s Department and her vehicle was towed from a nearby residence. Chief Deputy Sosinski said «They can delay as much as they can, but that will not stop the pipeline from being put in,» a statement that makes many wonder if local law enforcement can treat protesters fairly. The Lansing State Journal reported that an Enbridge contractor was paying Ingham County to have deputies provide security at a rate of $54 per hour, per deputy. Four other activists are already facing felony charges for their opposition to the company’s expansion plans. Barbara Carter, 22, provided her motivation for participating in the campaign in a statement “I feel a moral obligation to stand up against the destroyers of the world and to shine a spotlight on them; I feel as if I have no choice. They will stop at nothing and so it is up to us. The future rests in ALL of our hands. I refuse to sit back and watch the greedy and power hungry profit off of the destruction of the planet any longer. I will do whatever I can to create change.” Lisa Leggio, mother of two, is facing a charge of resisting/obstructing/assaulting an officer for her part in MI-CATS civil disobedience actions said in a statement “Enbridge is currently expanding 6B and upon completion its capacity will be nearly doubled to 800,000 barrels per day. And if that’s not bad enough, they are expanding under the pretense of repairing, bypassing laws and regulations typically mandated in an expansion protect.” Vicci Hamlin, a 60- year-old great-grandmother, who has also been arrested for her activities related to her Embridge opposition had this to say “The older I get, the less I have to say and the more I am free to do. I am proud and yet humbled to do my small part.” Chris Wahmhoff, 35, says he took a skateboard into one of the new pipelines on June 24th and succeeded in shutting down construction operations all day. In a statement on the MI-CATS website he says “I am willing to go to prison and proudly join others willing to do the same…” As the clean up from the first oil spill and construction on the expansion is still underway, there is likely no end in sight for the protests.