May 19

House Bill 5205 Is An Attack On Pure Michigan!

Update December 7th, 2014: we’ve just learned, thanks to this DeSmogBlog article, that Michigan’s “Burn Bill” HB 5205 has just been passed by the Michigan House of Representatives! Leave it to “Pure Michigan” to attempt to redefine “renewable energy” to allow for burning tires, and all manner of different wastes which should never be used to generate energy, let alone be recharacterized as “renewable” energy.

We took a stand against this disastrous and dubious bill last summer with the Backbone Campaign, see below. But, as you can tell, it wasn’t enough.


Update: check out this video of our flash mob at the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing!

Here are a few pics from our demonstration yesterday! More pics and video coming hopefully soon. In the meantime, check out this awesome article about the protest and the Backbone Campaign’s Great Lakes Basin Action Camp that helped make it possible! And if you’d like to support their continued proliferation of artful and creative protest tactics, consider supporting them financially!

Flash mob in the Michigan Capitol Rotunda.  A line of students on a field trip crossed us as we sang.

Flash mob in the Michigan Capitol Rotunda. A line of students on a field trip crossed us as we sang.

Outdoor theater depicting Enbridge's destruction of the Kalamazoo river after the indoor flash mob.

Outdoor theater depicting Enbridge’s destruction of the Kalamazoo river after the indoor flash mob.

Rep. Nesbitt, right, and his toxic "pet" coke, left, as part of outdoor theatre.

Rep. Nesbitt, right, and his toxic “pet” coke, left, as part of outdoor theatre.


Lansing, MI – Monday, May 19th, 12:30pm – Dozens of Michigan residents and activists performed a flash mob on the state capitol today to express their distaste with HB 5205, an Orwellian proposal from Representative Aric Nesbitt that would reclassify toxic waste as “renewable energy”. Activists danced and sung multiple rounds of “Restore Pure Michigan”, an adaptation of Lorde’s “Royals” in the rotunda of the capitol. They then marched out and continued with an outdoor theater mocking and drawing attention to Nesbitt’s wreckless disregard for Michigan’s well-being. Prominently displayed in the background was a sign reading “Pure Michigan? Stop Nesbitt’s Toxic Plan,” to demonstrate the abhorrence of Nesbitt’s toxic proposed legislation.

Theatre Demonstration in front of sign reading "Pure Michigan? Stop Nesbitt's Toxic Plan"

Theatre Demonstration in front of sign reading “Pure Michigan? Stop Nesbitt’s Toxic Plan”

HB 5205, which activists call Nesbitt’s “Toxic Burn Bill”, threatens the clean air of all Michigan residents. Nesbitt’s proposal would severely broaden existing criteria as to what constitutes renewable energy. It would enable facilities to burn recyclables and petroleum coke, a controversial byproduct of refining tar sands, to generate fuel and receive tax incentives in return. By reclassifying waste products as renewable energy resources, HB 5205 would grant special favors to large polluters.

“Incentivizing waste incineration would be devastating to the health of Michigan residents,” said Jake McGraw, with the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands. “These facilities aren’t green, they emit toxins like dioxin, mercury and PCBs.”

Representative Nesbitt has drawn significant criticism for his attacks on Michigan’s environment. Last year he received an approval rating of 26% from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Earlier this month governor Snyder received the same failing score from a Sierra Club evaluation.

HB 5205 is scheduled for a hearing in the Energy and Technology Committee on Tuesday, May 20th.

“This bill will undo over 20 years of environmental justice work in Michigan,” said Charity Hicks, an environmental justice advocate from Detroit.

The demonstration was held by the Backbone Campaign, an organization specializing in creative and artful protest tactics, in conjunction with organizers from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands.


House Bill 5205 Is An Attack On Pure Michigan!

Under this bill sponsored by Rep. Nesbitt, corporate polluters would be allowed to burn various forms of municipal waste and be rewarded in turn with “renewable energy tax credits”. House Bill 5205 would change the definitions of “renewable” and “cleaner” energy to include fuel dubiously derived from:

  • coal
  • pet coke, a by-product of toxic tar sands
  • industrial waste
  • electronic waste

In short, this bill will let corporate polluters put our air, land and water at risk by burning our industrial and city waste, and in return they’ll be rewarded with our tax dollars! Crazy, isn’t it? Read about HB 5205 online here, or go to

Members of the House are meeting Tuesday, May 20th at 8:30am in the Michigan Capitol Building. Let them know what you think about this bill in person! Or contact Nesbitt at (517) 373-0839,, or call your own representative and urge them to vote HB 5205 down.

If HB 5205 passes, this infamous nuisance, a toxic 3-story pile of petroleum coke recently blocking views along the Detroit River, would essentially be reclassified as “cleaner” energy!

If HB 5205 passes, this infamous nuisance, a toxic 3-story pile of petroleum coke recently blocking views along the Detroit River, would essentially be reclassified as “cleaner” energy!

Oct 13

Chris Wahmhoff to Stand Trial


chris pretrial meme

Calhoun County, MI — Pretrial motions will be heard by Calhoun County on Monday for the pending trial of pipeline protestor Chris Wahmhoff. This man, who skateboarded into the expansion project of Enbridge Line 6B in June 2013, now faces potentially two years in prison. The case had been dismissed two times by Calhoun County Judge Kingsley, however the Michigan Supreme Court has overturned the dismissal and recently refused to read an appeal from Wahmhoff’s attorney.  Now with trial pending, the protestor’s legal team will be bringing motions for expert witnesses on climate change as a part of their defense.

“I intend to bring in some experts about climate change,” Royal said. “The defense is that it was a necessity because global climate change has reached a degree to harm humans and all living species and  people like Chris Wahmhoff have to take action to bring this to a stop.”
-Attorney John Royal of the National Lawyers Guild, and head council for the defendant

The Enbridge pipeline protester -— now a candidate for U.S. Senate — will stand trial over his daylong occupation of the under-construction pipeline in which he took a skateboard into an expansion piece of Enbridge Line 6B, a pipeline that ruptured in 2010 causing the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, an oil spill that even Enbridge has admitted cannot be fully cleaned.

“It is my hope that people see  this is a direct effect of climate change, and that people learn that places like our river, BP, Bhopal, and Athabasca, have been directly and permanently changed. They have been destroyed by new kinds of fossil fuel technology that has the destructive power of a weapon of mass destruction. Wildlife are killed in the blast, and our communities suffer the fall out. Places like Mackinac need to be addressed before we lose 20% of the entire world’s water supply, and communities like ours need adequate medical and scientific support.  Most importantly the oil and gas industries need to be stopped.”
-Chris Wahmhoff

Oct 07

Oil & Water Don’t Mix Demand Action from Snyder

October 6, 2014
Contact: Andy McGlashen, Michigan Environmental Council
(517) 420-1908 |

Business Owners and Great Lakes Groups: Gov. Snyder
Must Immediately Open Hearing on Straits of Mackinac Oil Pipelines

Representatives of more than a dozen environmental groups, businesses, and governments—and thousands of citizens—today called on Gov. Snyder to take swift and meaningful action to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill from a pair of 61-year-old Enbridge pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign contends that Michigan is long overdue in applying state law—specifically, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act—to the aging “Line 5” pipelines. The law requires the state to conduct an open public process to evaluate the likely risks and impacts to not only the Great Lakes waters and ecosystem, but also the affected communities, in the event of an oil spill. This public process, in turn, would address the question of whether the Enbridge oil pipelines in the straits warrant greater regulation, repair, replacement, or removal.

Members of the campaign in July sent the governor a letter formally requesting he immediately open a transparent, public proceeding to evaluate the threat the pipelines pose and determine what actions should be taken to prevent a catastrophe. Mayor Margaret Doud of Mackinac Island last month sent the governor a similar letter.

“A leak in the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac would be a major disaster for all of us who live within the reach of the Great Lakes. The water supply on Mackinac Island would be shut down and the economic vitality of the island would be seriously damaged. Island residents would have to be evacuated,” said George Goodman, member of the Board of Trustees of the Mackinac Island Community Foundation and a Mackinac Island resident. “The governor must take immediate steps to reassure the citizens of Michigan that Enbridge is operating in full compliance of the state’s 1953 easement.”

To date, Gov. Snyder has created a pipeline safety task force—which meets behind closed doors—but has not initiated the open review such a significant threat to the Great Lakes requires. The pipelines push almost 23 million gallons of oil a day through the straits.

Computer simulations this summer by the University of Michigan and the National Wildlife Federation showed that strong, erratic currents make the Straits of Mackinac “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes,” according to U-M researcher David Schwab. A possible million-gallon oil spill there would foul shorelines from Wilderness State Park in Lake Michigan to Rogers City in Lake Huron, including tourist hotspots like Mackinac Island and Beaver Island.

“As someone who looks at this issue from a twofold perspective—Northern Michigan-born and raised, and owner of a third generation family business that relies solely on the Straits of Mackinac for its income—three words come to mind: ‘Water is life,’” said Chris Shepler, owner and operator of Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, which has been providing passenger transport to Mackinac Island since 1945. “I only hope that we, as a state, take a strong look at what Enbridge is currently doing and wants to do under the Straits of Mackinac.”

Aaron Payment, Tribal Chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, added, “As natural stewards of the land and with both a sacred responsibility over the water and shared legal authority over our Great Lakes fisheries, American Indians in Michigan are extremely concerned with the imminent threat of a spill of a million gallons of oil.”

While the federal government oversees pipeline safety, legal experts say Gov. Snyder has the authority and duty—provided by the public trust doctrine, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and Enbridge’s 1953 easement with the state—to protect the Great Lakes by ensuring the company is doing all it can to prevent a spill in the straits.

“Gov. Snyder must act as a state trustee under this law. Instead, he continues to say publicly that it is up to the federal government to make sure that the pipelines are safe,” said Liz Kirkwood, an attorney and executive director of FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes public policy group. “On the contrary, the Enbridge oil pipelines in the straits are very much a state issue. Without obtaining an easement from the State of Michigan in 1953, Enbridge simply could not have built nor continue to operate these pipelines in state-owned waters. That is why the state retains primary authority over these oil pipelines.”

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign continues to gain support from Michigan businesses and communities, and already is backed by more than 2,400 individuals who have signed a letter urging Gov. Snyder to take charge and prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.

“People are shocked when they first learn about the Enbridge oil pipelines lurking at the bottom of the straits,” said Jim Lively, Program Director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. “Many people wonder whether oil pipelines should have ever been allowed in the Great Lakes in the first place. It’s time to get some answers to the public’s questions and determine the fate of these pipelines.”
· Underwater footage of the oil pipeline and a TV spot available at

· University of Michigan simulation of a straits oil spill available at

For More Information:

To obtain more information, including the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign fact sheet, “Challenging Enbridge’s ‘Line 5’ Oil Pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac,” visit

Here’s the video from the press conference yesterday!



Sep 26

Beyond the People’s Climate March: Where Were you During the #Flood?

This piece was written by a Boston-based group of 13 young people who were arrested in #FloodWallStreet.


Recognizing this crucial moment in history, people, especially privileged youth, came out in droves from across the country to the People’s Climate March. They were there to tell a story en masse: that change will come if enough of us demand climate action from our leaders. Yet when it came time to tell the more honest story, that those at the root of this crisis are the corporations and Wall Street profiteers making fortunes off of the suffering of billions, we lost almost everyone. We went from 400,000 at the People’s Climate March to 3,000 at #FloodWallStreet. When it finally came time to stand our ground, to sit on Wall Street and put our bodies on the line, our numbers dwindled from 3,000 to 102.

102 were arrested at the intersection of Broadway & Wall Street

We do not aim to devalue what was accomplished at #FloodWallStreet. We have so much love and gratitude for the organizers that put tireless work into the action, and everyone that showed up. It was incredibly powerful and effective to shut down a major intersection in the heart of the most important financial district on the planet. But it’s too easy to walk away from this patting ourselves on the back and waiting for the next big mobilization. This isn’t about making anyone feel guilty. Our intent is to push everyone, including ourselves, to think about what it will take to really live up to Frederick Douglass’s oft-quoted truth: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

We feel frustrated that #FloodWallStreet fell short of its potential to be a game-changing moment in the climate justice movement. We felt that it was a mistake for the organizers to declare the action a success a few hours after taking the street, telling folks: “feel free to go home. We did what we came to do.” But we hadn’t — the action was about disrupting business as usual at the NY Stock Exchange, or if that was not possible, escalating through civil disobedience. Instead, much like the People’s Climate March, folks were ready to call it a day after a couple of hours of chanting in the street.

One reason people actually stayed is because some of us and others mic-checked to the crowd: “from the looks of it, we’re now flooding Wall Street. This is our target. Let’s stay until we are forcibly removed!” When the dispersal order came shortly thereafter, most of the remaining folks left. When the arrests started, only 3% of the original 3,000 of us remained. The crowd of spectators was three or four times larger than the bloc actually risking arrest. Many protesters who soap-boxed with mic-checks abandoned the fight when they were called upon to match their words with actions.

We understand that there are critical support roles for arrestable action, that it takes privilege to voluntarily risk arrest, and that there were many who could not afford to do so. But #FloodWallStreet was framed as a direct action against climate profiteers, and over 1,000 people specifically signed up to commit civil disobedience. It happened between the biggest climate march in history and a major UN Climate Summit, in a city that was, at that moment, hosting a historic number of climate activists. We were in the belly of the beast, the epicenter of global capitalism, at a crucial moment to indict Wall Street for fueling the climate crisis and environmental racism. Could there be a more appropriate moment for thousands of people to put their bodies on the line for climate justice?

While being processed in jail, some comrades next to us were a 17 year-old high school student and woman of color, and a 63 year-old man from Chicago, IL who missed his flight as we sat over-night in jail. We shared cells with women who would have to fly back from Oakland, CA and New Orleans for their court date. Where were the thousands of privileged college students from the Northeast who work for “climate justice” on campus? Where were the devoted organizers of dozens of climate nonprofits who claim this to be the final window for climate action? Where were the local NYC organizers who called for this action and prompted so many to risk arrest? Standing on the sidelines or watching the livestream from home at those key moments won’t cut it. Proclaiming our solidarity with frontline communities and denouncing capitalism is meaningless if we are not willing to make sacrifices for those beliefs. Particularly when those who’ve faced the most devastation have been at the frontlines of resistance for years.

We’re saddened by the dramatic dissonance between the magnitude of the climate crisis and the level of radical resistance on the ground, particularly from activists who we know care deeply. As we spent all day at the People’s Climate March handing out fliers and spreading the word about #FloodWallStreet, we heard the same excuses from our allies: “I can’t miss class.” “I have work.” To our privileged peers who know they can take a day off and survive: do we really think we will ever get the change we need by conveniently fitting protests into our weekend plans? If we are not willing to give up a single day of class or work to take action against the global profiteers of injustice, how the hell do we expect to change anything?

Over the coming decades, as frontline communities continue to bear the brunt of the climate crisis, as cities drown and droughts leave dinner tables empty for the most vulnerable, how will we look back at our role in this crucial moment? The days of work and classes missed will mean nothing. Our only regrets will be our failures to act courageously when we had the chance.

So let’s recognize those rare moments when we’re in the right place at the right time and we have power–and seize them. If the 3,000 people that came to #FloodWallStreet had stayed when the time came to face consequence, there would have been too many of us to arrest. Imagine if thousands of us continued to hold Wall Street through the UN Climate Summit. Only then would the story grow beyond the scuffle with the cops and that one polar bear who got arrested. Only then would the story of how capitalism = climate chaos be pressed onto the world stage.

If our generation wants to see climate justice in our lifetime, we need to step it up. We must work together to take advantage of high impact moments, and be willing to make real sacrifices when the opportunity is ripe. Coming home from NYC, let’s continue to organize, to build deep relationships and resilient communities to weather the storm. But let’s also remember that to end this madness it’s going to take privileged people putting their bodies on the line, again and again and again.


Emily, Martin, Abbie, Noah, Marisa, Shea, Evan, Bobby, James, PJ, Andrew, Kristina, Naveh

Sep 11

All Charges Dropped Against MI CATS Tar Sands Protestors!

Or, in the words of Al, “We fought the law and we won… We fought the law and we won!!!”

Media Contact: Jake McGraw, (810) 923-2709

Victory: Anti-Tar Sands’ Protesters Fought the Law and Won!    

Oakland County, Michigan- September 11, 2014 After their wrongful arrest during a July protest, charges against environmental activists Al Smith and Jake McGraw have been dropped.

Jake and Al post pre-trial

Jake and Al post pre-trial

On July 24th in memory of the 2010 Tar Sands disaster in the Kalamazoo River, over 20 protesters gathered for an afternoon of speeches, music, and, resistance to the controversial Enbridge line 6B. During the protest Al Smith and Jake McGraw were wrongfully arrested on the Polly Ann Trail outside of a Precision Pipeline staging area in Oxford, adjacent to Lakeville Elementary School. They were taken into custody and charged with failure to obey a police command and mass picketing. This morning both charges were dismissed in Rochester Hills District Court.

“It is a clear conflict of interest for a corporation such as Enbridge to contract local police forces as their private security guards. The dismissal of our charges is evidence of this conflict. We were acting within our first amendment rights to peacefully protest. We were wrongfully arrested in violation of our civil rights. I was assaulted by a security guard that day. Today, we were vindicated thanks to the commitment to justice by our National Lawyers’ Guild attorney Denise Heberle.” Jake McGraw, from Hartland Michigan.

Enbridge continues to wreak havoc on the environment. After their 2010 Tar Sands disaster, when over one million gallons of tar sands oil spewed into the Kalamazoo River, Enbridge has been expanding the leaky pipeline 6B and more than doubling its capacity, all under the guise of piecemeal repairs to avoid a more thorough and inclusive permitting process. The expansion is a part of the dubious Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion project. If the Alberta Clipper is approved, Enbridge intends to pump 800,000 barrels of tar sands through the Great Lakes per day. Tar sands oil is one of the planet’s dirtiest sources of energy and Enbridge has a long history of neglect and resulting spills, placing communities all along the pipeline routes at risk of another disaster.

The men are members of a larger coalition called the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI-CATS), the coalition is composed of survivors of the 2010 spill, affected residents, and, concerned citizens from across the Great Lakes region. MI-CATS is a part of a grassroots push to halt all tar sands pipelines, stop climate change, and protect fresh water for generations to come.


Aug 25

Protestors Lock Themselves to Pipeline Truck in Opposition of Enbridge Line 6B Pipeline Expansion

Update — Tuesday, 4pm – after spending probably about 6 hours waiting outside the jail and getting little to no reliable information throughout the day from the jail as to Duncan’s processing status, Duncan was finally freed a little after 3pm! Throughout the day jail house employees and police officers repeatedly approached us asking us why we were staying outside of the jail for so long, and after repeatedly mentioning Duncan and asking about his status, they must’ve realized we weren’t going to leave without him. :)

Like Dylan, Duncan was released without charges citing “pending investigation”. So, there are no legal costs just yet. However, if you’d like to support MICATS in future legal expenses associated with Dylan and Duncan’s arrests or in our organizing efforts generally, please donate! visit

Update — Tuesday, 10am – Dylan and Duncan were both arrested by about 9:30am yesterday. Dylan was released by about 6pm with no bond or charges, having been told his charge is “pending investigation” (aka, we think, they don’t quite know what to charge these protestors with). Duncan, on the other hand, is still in jail and we’re working to get him out as soon as possible, probably sometime today.

Also, check out the video of yesterday’s pipeyard lockdown below! If a video isn’t appearing below, try this one instead.

Fox 2 in Detroit also gave us some awesome coverage, with videos from action and interviews from cats. We like how they choose to call Enbridge’s work on line 6b an “expansion” instead of repeating the Enbridge lie and calling it a replacement. Thanks Fox 2!

Fox 2 News Headlines


Check out some more pics from the protest and thereafter below! Thanks to Valerie Jean for most of these awesome photos.

MICATS supporters standing outside of jail waiting for Dylan and Duncan to come out!

MICATS supporters standing outside of jail waiting for Dylan and Duncan to come out!




This is what a bottleneck looks like- pipeline workers delayed in getting to their worksites

This is what a bottleneck looks like- pipeline workers delayed in getting to their worksites


Duncan and Dylan are some brave cats!

Duncan and Dylan are some brave cats!


Standing in solidarity with all creatures impacted by tar sands spills

Standing in solidarity with all creatures impacted by tar sands spills


light brigade fun

light brigade fun


Oxford, Michigan – Monday, August 25, 2014 – at about 7:30am this morning, two men locked their necks with bicycle U-locks to a pipeline construction truck, immobilizing it, as it was exiting a Precision pipeline storage yard at 3565 East Lakeville Road. This action has resulted in a back-up of trucks that have been blocked from exiting the pipe yard. At the time of this writing, there is a police presence around the two persons locked to the truck as well as dozens of other supporting protestors.

Precision Pipeline, who runs the pipeline storage facility, is hired by Enbridge to expand Line 6B. In 2010, Line 6B ruptured in Marshall, MI spilling over 1 million gallons of toxic tar sands and diluents into Talmadge Creek, impacting 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River. Four years later, Enbridge states that the Kalamazoo River is the cleanest it has ever been while dragging its feet in clean-up efforts. Simultaneously, Enbridge states that the river will never be completely clean, and has meanwhile been expeditiously expanding the 6B pipeline system to carry a higher capacity of tar sands oil.

Acting to disrupt Precision Pipeline, 20-year-old Duncan Tarr and 21-year-old Dylan Ochala-Gorka, both Michigan residents and organizers with a group called the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS), demand a halt to Enbridge’s expansion of line 6B as well as restitution for those still suffering from effects of the 2010 tar sands disaster.


“At one time there were woods that no one owned. Now our planet has been bought up, torn apart, and exploited for the profit of a few,” said Tarr. “My act of defiance is an act against this machine, meant to slow and halt its destruction, and protect the earth.”

This is not the first time MICATS protestors have protested at this storage facility right-of-way. Last month, on July 24 2014 and in commemoration of the 4-year anniversary of the Kalamazoo tar sands disaster, about 20 protestors held signs, chanted and repeatedly crossed paths with vehicles entering and exiting the storage facility, and two protestors were arrested.






And neither is MICATS the only organization opposing Enbridge operations. Earlier this month, protestors under the banner “Dam Line 9” occupied a construction site for Enbridge Line 9 for a week, resulting in arrests and eviction. Line 9 is a natural gas pipeline which runs through Quebec and Ontario and connects with 6B at Sarnia, Ontario, and which is being reversed and adapted to pump tar sands oil.


“It is those who profit from the exploitation of environment and people who need the healing and love the most,” said Ochala-Gorka, a resident of Livonia, MI. “If putting my body between big oil and profits is necessary, I will continue to stand up between them and their meaningless money.”

I am a steward of this earth. I strive to live in harmony with our mother, with the trees, the bees, the mountains, rivers, with the precious water. One love, all life is interconnected, all things related, we must love all things unconditionally. I can not stand by and allow people and our environment to be exploited. I ask our mother to grant me the energy to steward this planet, to preserve and conserve and to send the love to all. It’s those who profit from the exploitation of environment and people who need the healing and love the most. If putting my body between big oil and profits is necessary, I will continue to stand up between them and their meaningless money. Love is the Answer.

We cannot rely on tar sands which are heavily dependent on cheap, fossil fuel energy to extract, refine and pump across thousands of watersheds risking complete contamination. Like the 2010 Kalamazoo spill. Water is life, water is all. No tar sands, no way!

–Dylan Ochala-Gorka


At one time in the world there were woods that no one owned. Now our planet has been bought up, torn apart, and exploited for the profit of a few individuals. My act of defiance is an act gainst the machine, meant to slow and halt its destruction, and protect the earth, and all life. Enbridge, and the pipelines they control, are a central part in the destruction of life. Their pipelines carry tar sands oil stolen from the first nation peoples through Turtle Island aka N. America to power the industries that are the vanguard of this destruction of life. Their spills, leaks, and presence in my area has caused the deaths of many humans and countless other creatures, trees, and plants. Let my act of defiance be a call to others, because this land that we are stnding on now is being killed. And we know exactly who the killers are. To end the destruction of life, in defense of all life, with the support of MICATS, from the woods of occupied Anishnabeg territory. –Duncan Tarr

Jul 25

Rally and Action to Mark Fourth Anniversary of Kalamazoo Tar Sands Oil Spill

140724_MctsRally 253

Rally and Action to Mark Fourth Anniversary of Kalamazoo Tar Sands Oil Spill

Community members gather at an Enbridge staging ground to mourn the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history as well as the expansion of this same pipeline despite an unfinished cleanup

Leonard, Mich. — Thursday afternoon, the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) rallied and marched to Enbridge’s staging ground outside of Leonard, Michigan.  Followed and immediately confronted by law enforcement and pushed around by Enbridge’s contracted security guards from Raven Security, the MI CATS stood strong and held space at the staging ground driveway for several hours.

“We are here on the fourth anniversary of the Kalamazoo spill to call out Enbridge for the death and destruction they’ve caused all over the world by exploiting tar sands,” said one of the demonstrators.  “Big industry is allowed to operate unchecked at the expense of all living things, so we must provide accountability.”

Despite a history of harmful spills and leaks, Enbridge is currently expanding the same pipeline that spilled in 2010 to double its capacity to bring tar sands oil across Michigan for export.   At this time, Enbridge has approximately 50 remaining miles of pipeline to place in the ground between Ortonville and Marysville, MI before this expansion is complete.  The expansion is occurring even though tar sands remain at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River four years after the initial spill.

“What happened in the Kalamazoo River was not an accident,” said a speaker at the rally.  “Rather it is a symptom of society crumbling under its own weight.  It was both a blast from the past and an omen of more to come if we don’t stop this exploitative tar sands madness.”

During the picket outside the staging grounds, two arrests after conflicting commands were given by multiple officers.  Protestors at the road were harassed by pipeline workers and a metal projectile was thrown at an outspoken spill victim.

MI CATS hopes that this action will shine a spotlight on the dangers of tar sands and Enbridge’s complicity as well as generate interest for the August action camp hosted by MI CATS to which anyone is invited.

A protestor being pushed by a Raven Security Guard.

A protestor being pushed by a Raven Security Guard.rally meme 724

Jul 10

New University of Michigan Animation Illustrates Danger of Oil Spill to Great Lakes

Straits of Mackinac ‘worst possible place’ for oil spill, says lead researcher.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – A new animated video by the University of Michigan and the National Wildlife Federation shows how devastating an oil spill beneath the Straits of Mackinac would be for the Great Lakes, wildlife, and communities. The animation shows that if an oil spill occurs, oil could reach popular tourist destinations like Mackinac Island, blanket 50 miles of Lake Huron shoreline, and reach Lake Michigan landmarks such as Beaver Island.

“If you were to pick the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this would be it,” said David Schwab, Ph.D., research scientist at the University of Michigan Water Center, one of the foremost experts on Great Lakes water currents, and creator of the animation. “The currents are powerful and change directions frequently. In the event of an oil spill, these factors would lead to a big mess
that would be very difficult to contain.”

Read the University of Michigan study at

View the pipeline spill animations at The first of 6 scenarios, specifically if a 12-hour spill were to occur in August, depicting the center of the Straits, is below.

The Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The 5-mile channel generates powerful currents that can create a flow of water that is more than 10 times greater than the flow over Niagara Falls.

Enbridge Inc., the company responsible for the largest inland oil disaster in U.S. history near Kalamazoo, Mich., operates a pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. The 61-year-old pipeline is older than the Enbridge Inc. pipeline that burst in Kalamazoo and carries 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Great Lakes. The flow through the pipeline was recently increased, placing further pressure on this pipeline.

“An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would have devastating consequences for people, fish and wildlife, and the economy. It would be an unparalleled disaster for the Great Lakes,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “This old pipeline needs to be replaced so that we can protect the Great Lakes from future spills.”

In his study, Schwab simulated the release of contaminants at various locations and depths within the Straits of Mackinac. The simulations and video animation track an oil spill of 1 million gallons that would be released over a 12-hour period-a conservative estimate based on the size of the Mackinac pipeline and how quickly the spill would be detected and oil supply cut off. The animation shows where oil would
travel in the 20 days following a spill.

An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be especially devastating because of its potential effects on the local tourism industry and outdoor recreation economy. According to the animation, a spill could reach both Beaver Island in Lake Michigan and Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, popular destinations for thousands of people around the Great Lakes region and the world. Oil could also harm some of the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fisheries hurting the region’s outdoor recreation economy and those who enjoy fishing and wildlife watching.

Oil and gas pipeline spills are not unusual, accounting for hundreds of explosions, fires, seeps, and spills in the United States every year. From 2000 to 2009, pipeline accidents accounted for 2,554 significant incidents, 161 fatalities, and 576 injuries in the United States. Enbridge Inc., according to the company’s own data, had 804 spills between 1999 and 2010 in the Unites States and Canada.

The National Wildlife Federation believes the best way to remedy this threat is to replace the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

For more info contact:
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, 734-904-1589,
Jim Erickson, University of Michigan, (734) 647-1842,


MICATS notes: this excellent report and analysis by University of Michigan researchers highlights the extreme threat that Enbridge’s 61-year-old Line 5 oil pipeline poses to the Straits of Mackinac and both the environment and the economy of “Pure Michigan”. While the press release above concludes with the suggestion that the best solution is to replace line 5, and we agree that preventing a spill of crude oil into the Great Lakes should be a top priority, we do not feel that replacement of line 5 is the best way to go. Rather it must be decommissioned and removed so that future generations do not have to deal with the same constantly looming threats again. The future of the drinking water and livelihood of millions of people should not be left to a few pipeline welders and the “oversight” of Enbridge Inc.

Jul 02

Announcing the Fight or Flight Tour—To Protest Animal Testing and Build Grassroots Solidarity

MI CATS is excited to endorse the Fight or Flight Tour this summer! Check out this post/link to learn more about how you can support and help turn grassroots activism into a powerful force to protect earth and its inhabitants.

Read full post from the Earth First! Newswire here.

This summer, the Earth First! Journal is collaborating with The Bunny Alliance and Resistance Ecology to launch the Fight or Flight Tour, a nationwide tour with three distinct objectives: 1) to intensify The Bunny Alliance’s campaign against Delta Air Lines and the broader Gateway to Hell campaign to end the transport of animals to labs, 2) to share skills and build connections within the grassroots animal and ecological activist movements, and 3) to promote coalition building and solidarity with a diversity of movements and communities.

To increase the mounting pressure on Delta concerning the airline’s intimate relationship with Air France and the transport of animals to labs, the Fight or Flight Tour will hold protests at Delta airports, cargo offices, laboratories, and the houses of board members and executives. We will bring the campaign home to Delta with a large protest at their corporate headquarters, as well as work with local, national and independent media to place Delta’s involvement in animal testing in the public eye.

Tour stops will also include activism workshops, tailored to the needs and interests of each community. General workshop topics will include information about the international effort to end the transport of animal to labs, strategic and effective campaigning, protest tactics, and strengthening inner and cross-movement relationships. Through support from the Civil Liberties Defense Center, the workshops will also feature a collection of legal topics including “know your rights” trainings, security culture basics, tips for doing legal research, and legal observer trainings.

We are currently raising funds for the tour here. We have a goal of raising $5,000, and prizes for donating include tour posters, Bunny Alliance and Resistance Ecology merch, Earth First! Journal subscriptions, and more. We appreciate your donation!

In addition to this tour being about the demonstrations and workshops hosted by the touring organizations, this tour was hatched from the desire to empower grassroots activism through meaningful cross-movement solidarity. We want to work with other groups involved in social justice work and provide support in the forms they desire; to build bridges between animal liberation and environmental activists; to start friendships that can grow into powerful alliances; to talk face-to-face with others and embrace what it means to build connections in real life rather than online; and exchange skills and stories of experience among activists.

We invite you to join us. Not to just support the work we are doing, but to work with us in turning grassroots activism into a force powerful enough to protect the earth and its inhabitants.

Jun 27

Pipeline Symposium: Well Rehearsed, Dishonest, But the Crowd Wasn’t Buying It

Last Tuesday evening, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, an environmental advocacy organization in Northern Michigan, hosted representatives from Enbridge, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Coast Guard and several other agencies at a high school in Petoskey, Michigan to talk about Enbridge’s Line 5.

Pure Michigan? Protect the Great Lakes. Stop Line 5. Photo Credit: David Castleman

Pure Michigan? Protect the Great Lakes. Stop Line 5. Photo Credit: David Cassleman

Line 5 is probably the most noteworthy crude oil pipeline in Enbridge’s Lakehead system. It runs right underneath the Straights of Mackinac, which connects lakes Michigan and Huron. If line 5 were to spill into the Straights of Mackinac (and line 5 has spilled in the past in Michigan), it would devastate the water supplies of 30 million people in the US and Canada as well as essentially annihilate Michigan’s economy.

Map depicting line 5 rupture spill zones through the Straights and Lakes Michigan and Huron, hours after a spill would occur. (source: National Wildlife Federation,

Enbridge sent their best PR representatives to assuage the people of northern Michigan, to say that everything was alright, Enbridge has learned its lesson from Kalamazoo and that the pipes are now all safer. But they presented dubious claims which further cast doubt on their trustworthiness. Among some of the misleading things that Enbridge representatives said was that the portion of the line 5 that runs under the Mackinac Straits is comprised of seamless pipes. This ignores the fact that the 5-mile segments of line 5 under the Straits are obviously welded together, which Beth Wallace from Pipeline Safety Trust was quick to point out. In response the Enbridge representative gave a hurried reassurance that the welds are being regularly monitored.

Earlier, while running an information table, another Enbridge representative claimed that post-Kalamazoo, Enbridge’s pipeline monitoring systems have been changed so that drops in pressure don’t merely trigger an alarm in a control room, but lead to an automatic shut-off of the pipeline so that risks aren’t taken with extra fossil fuel spilling. Back in July 2010, one reason that so much tar sands spilled in Marshall was that when control room operators detected a pressure drop (a clear indication that a rupture may have occurred), instead of shutting down the line they increased pressure on that line thinking that that would clear issues the sensors were having. Instead of fixing anything, it just lead to more tar sands gushing out of the pipe. And now Enbridge is telling us that they’ve fixed their control room operational procedures so that this won’t happen again. Yeah, right, okay, we trust you Enbridge.

Credit: David Cassleman

Credit: David Cassleman

Regarding the structural integrity of the outside of line 5 under the Straits, Enbridge said that every 2 years they run an automated marine vehicle to survey that the pipe is properly supported with sand bags, screw type anchors and a ballast saddle. Enbridge promises that the pipeline is properly supported and fastened all along the Straits of Mackinac. This is despite independent video evidence taken by National Wildlife Federation last July (see below) revealing that portions of the pipeline are unsupported and covered in unidentified debris. In 2010, Enbridge hired divers to secure the pipeline with a newly innovated screw type of anchor. “We feel from an engineering standpoint, that the screw anchors are state of the art” Brad Shamla, Enbridge Vice president said Tuesday evening. These claims are questionable, especially given that Enbridge has remained quiet about what has actually been done to address the dangling braces you see in the quite recently taken video below.

Enbridge has not been transparent with their inspection methods. They said repeatedly that they are constantly inspecting, and constantly meeting many standards, yet Enbridge refuses to make public any proof of the stringent standards they are meeting. If Enbridge is so proud of their rigor in the inspection process, why aren’t they more transparent about it? We have been fed lip service time and time again, and its time to see some real documentation and evidence. In the pursuit of seeking information and transparency, the pipeline regulatory agency PHMSA hasn’t been much of a help either. PHMSA has been ignoring/stalling on FOIA requests, and is thus complicit in Enbridge’s lack of transparency. Both PHMSA and Enbridge are expecting people to believe them without concrete evidence.

Ralph Dollhopf of the EPA claimed that pipelines can last forever! “Steel doesn’t age,” Dollhopf said confidently. They just corrode on the inside, which is totally fine! Psyche. Tell that to the people of Marshall and Battle Creek. Corrosion causes thinness. Thinness causes pipelines to weaken. Weakened pipelines makes them more prone to bursting.

After being spoon fed lip service for around an hour, one member of Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands called out Enbridge and the 14 officials on the risk they are putting us all in.

Jun 25

Landing on Our Feet: Summer Action Camp!

The global movements for a just and resilient future build community power and momentum by the day. With every ecological devastation, we the people are resisting and rising. With every community displaced or exploited in the name of growth & “development” that only benefits a few, neighbors and communities are connecting and awakening to their power. For everyone and everything hurt by the economic and dirty energy systems that value profit over life, we the people are rising. Peacefully, passionately, powerfully.

Build, share, and vision with us at the MI-CATS Action Camp # 2

The MI CATS have been honored to learn, resist, love, and serve this movement alongside so many amazing folks like you. From skateboarding into pipes to tree-sits to the jailing of the #MICATS3, you could say we’ve fallen (or willingly jumped) many times this past year and we’re proud to say we have indeed always landed on our feet.

Cats Camp

And that’s why, in solidarity with all those fighting for a more just world, we’re hosting another action camp this summer from August 21 – August 24 in so-called “Pure Michigan”!  We’re inviting anyone and everyone to come out, learn, share, and grow alongside us! We can all be the “cat’s pajamas”!

All ages, abilities, beliefs, ethnicities, identities, and backgrounds are welcome!

Seize this moment with us to strengthen and amplify the local roots of peaceful resistance to dirty energy. Click Here to Get Registered & MI CATS organizers will follow up with you to share more info. including the location in Michigan.  


We’re excited to see you!

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