On the evening of Tuesday, April 18, dozens of residents came out to support a Kalamazoo County resolution to shut down Enbridge Line 5. Line 5 is corroding in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac and is widely recognized as a potential source of a devastating oil spill. As both wild and domestic riparian communities within the county suffered from the impacts of the 2010 Enbridge tar sands spill in the Kalamazoo River, this meeting saw nearly 2 hours of passionate public comment.
Most of the attendees at the meeting had come to here the presentation and discussion of the resolution. Instead, they found out it had been removed from the agenda due to a strategy formulated around political party lines. The democrats felt that since they were one person short, they would wait to present the resolution on a later date. This was the second delay experienced by advocates of the resolution. The board’s chair, Dale Shugar, prevented the resolution from being presented at the April 4th meeting. (see resolution at bottom of story)
The board hears public comments at the beginning of the meeting (7 pm); but by 8 pm people were shaming commissioners, sending them warnings, as well as demanding answers. During one residents’ comments about the terminal illness they were diagnosed with after spending time on the oil laden river, the audience grew its courage to defy orders from Dale Shugar to maintain quorum and began cheering as people gave their statements. As a local women declared, ” if you sit on this board and stand against (the resolution to shut down line 5) you are an enemy of this community”, people whooped, hollered, banged on chairs and walls to show their approval for the dissenting words. Shugars hastily called a recess, which lasted for 15 or 20 minutes. The Republicans retreated to a back room, while the Democratic commissioners came out to talk to crowd. They said things such as how everyone in the crowd needs to do a better job at educating the entire board about Line 5 and that their 5-4 party line vote strategy should be respected. This was met with a mixture of approval and open disapproval.
The regular meeting was able to resume sometime around 9 pm after the recess was over and the second round of public comment was completed.
Why did continuous disruptions occur about a symbolic statement? During this same meeting another agenda item was not kicked down the road. The County Board of Commissioners had another Enbridge discussion scheduled. It was proposed that they get a grant for $47,000 from Enbridge to enable the Sheriffs Department to patrol the river. (see document below)
Twice now has this board delayed the resolution, and the anti-Line 5 crowd more than doubled this time. People are showing their determination to neither be be bought nor sold on this issue. We don’t need Enbridge money, we need the Great Lakes. We need to stand with communities along Line 5 to prevent the experience we endured in 2010.
GREAT LAKES, GREAT TIMES!
SHUT DOWN LINE 5!