Mar 19


2014-07-08 20.53.40
When MICATS was born, the landscape here in Michigan was different. Enbridge was not often mentioned in the national rhetoric on tar sands, the infamous Line 6B was in the middle of being expanded, and Michigan was barely on the map in the world of tar sands activism, despite being home to the largest and costliest inland tar sands oil spill in this country’s history: the Kalamazoo River Spill. The community of southeast Michigan was suffering largely in silence from racist and calculated poisoning at the hands of Marathon Oil, the refinery that has been using Detroit as a dumping ground for decades. Silenced, ignored, and disregarded by decision-makers and regulatory bodies, this community is a classic example of environmental injustice and racism and is complicit in the perpetuation of tar sands crimes.

Now — over a year and a half later — 6B is in the ground, the community in southwest Michigan is still reeling from the effects of the spill in 2010, and an increased volume of tar sands is flowing through southern Michigan with the intention of exporting it from terminals on the east coast. Residents of Detroit are still being denied their basic rights to clean air and water as Marathon continues to spew out toxic gases and the city continues to shut down people’s access to water.

Despite all of this, over the past few years, MICATS has gone from being just an idea to an entity feared by Enbridge and the state and we’ve gotten stronger, wiser, and more fierce as our strategy and analysis has developed along our journey.

In February 2013, we began organizing in response to the rapid and insidious expansion of the Enbridge pipeline responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo River tar sands spill. Once the expansion was complete, this line — known as 6B — was expected to carry over double the capacity of tar sands oil to refineries in the region, including Marathon in Detroit. Having exhausted the avenues available to the public to stop this expansion, there seemed to be little hope left. It was from this desperation and urgency that MICATS began taking direct action to throw a wrench in the project’s progression and draw attention to Enbridge’s unjust, toxic, and hastily carried out business plans.

From tree sits to lockdowns, facing felonies and jail time, MICATS remained committed to its mission: to stop the transportation and refinement of tar sands oil in the Great Lakes Basin. During this time however, we also remained realistic. With the power, collusion, and monetary strength of a company like Enbridge combined with the iron fist of the state, it was going to be unlikely that the actions of a fledgling group would ultimately prevent the completion of the expansion.

And that takes us to where we are now. Line 6B is in the ground running and Enbridge’s Line 5 — a tar sands pipeline that is over 60 years old and literally hanging under the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes — is a continual threat to one of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water. A spill in this fragile and critical zone would rival the size of the Exxon Valdez.

But our mission and resolve to stop tar sands has only strengthened with Line 6B in the ground. While we began as the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands, we understand the intricate and inextricable connection between the tar sands industry and other issues of injustice. The same authorities and governments profiting from the tar sands industry are those striking social programs, leading to increased criminalization of the poor and non-white and propagating the genocide of ecosystems and lifestyles. The same tactics used to ensure the maintenance of a culture built from slavery and genocide are the tactics used to protect industrial giants such as Enbridge. So while we are the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands, you could also call us the Michigan Coalition Against Terrible Stuff!

We believe it is wrong to profit from the exploitation of another. We believe in a world where fear and greed are not the driving forces behind the decisions and actions of the powerful, where integrity guides communities, and where all living things can live in harmony and balance with one another. This, however, is not a lofty and cushy dream that fails to recognize the suffering and sacrifice that is taking place with this vision in mind.

Inspired by successful and strategic campaigns of the past and remaining true to our beginnings, we are launching a new phase of our organizing where we will aim to end Enbridge’s exploitation in a new way. Being one of the largest tar sands profiteers in the world, Enbridge relies on numerous investors, suppliers, contractors, and the like to do its work. We have developed an understanding of these companies and will be encouraging folks to take action to call out the connection between these companies and the tar sands industry. Many of these companies are already known for atrocities they commit either directly or indirectly, so there are plenty of reasons to call them out for their unethical means of profiteering.

Calling all CATS! No matter where you are, if you hate tar sands, terrible stuff, or both, we want you to start shaking the strongholds that support the exploitative Enbridge Empire with us. We want to choke the arteries and veins that feed the heart of the tar sands industry by focusing on the subsidiaries that serve to make tar sands destruction possible.

With fierce determination and love,


Jan 22

Report-Back: Duncan and Dylan’s Sentencing

Written by a cat.

CATS traveled from great distances to support Duncan and Dylan (D&D) at their sentencing for the August 2014 “Hiss and Scratch” against Enbridge. The outside was nearly freezing, and it began to snow soon after we arrived at the Oakland County Courthouse. D&D arrived dutifully at 8:30am, but the court wasn’t ready for them till about 10am. We all walked into the courtroom and took our seats, and waited for a few minutes as Judge Julie A. Nicholson handled other cases. They were done quickly, and Nicholson was soon ready for D&D.

An "artistic depiction" of the court proceedings in lieu of a photograph (cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom).

An “artistic depiction” of the court proceedings in lieu of a photograph (cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom).

There isn’t much to say about how court went other than that it went about as quickly as the other cases. Sadly, the court didn’t seem to hold any space for a deeper understanding of why Duncan and Dylan acted… in the eyes of this justice system, dry as bread so stale that it’s brittle and close to crumbling, Duncan and Dylan literally “committed a crime”. Duncan and Dylan were seen, by this justice system, as irresponsible and impulsive youngsters, as opposed to humans of conscience who couldn’t wait and watch as others destroyed the land, environment, and planet. The court seemed especially concerned about Dylan, who was allegedly “unremorseful” about his action. Dylan, though, was allowed to at least say this to the court:

Your honor, I’ve been actively involved in organizing and education in communities surrounding southwest Detroit, the most polluted zip code in Michigan. The crime I pleaded guilty to was an act of civil disobedience, a peaceful form of protest. I never intended to suggest that I would not comply with the court’s orders for my action.

Soon after, Dylan was sentenced to 12 months probation, $480 for probation costs, a $75 “Crime Victim Assessment”, and $175 “State Minimum Costs”, a choice between 10 days in jail or 10 days of work through a “WWAM” program of some sort (of which Dylan chose the latter, which costs an additional $150), verification of employment, and no contact with Precision Pipeline as well as “Enbridge employees and/or worksites”. Even the court-appointed attorney was visibly embarrassed to ask for no contact with Enbridge because she couldn’t identify Enbridge as having any offices in the state of Michigan or anywhere in the US for that matter (though in fact they do have offices in Michigan as well as elsewhere in the US). This was just another case of the state going out of its way to act in the interests of a multinational corporate behemoth.

Duncan was sentenced to 12 months of probation and the same various costs and no-contact stipulations as Dylan, along with 40 hours of community service and to go through an “impulse control program” (as if that’s the cure to stop unruly environmental defenders while Earth is on the brink of collapse). He was offered “HYTA” status, which means that because he’s under 21 years old, he’s eligible to have the offense wiped from his record.


What was perhaps the most disturbing part of the day was the so-called “restitution hearing” that was to happen right after D&D’s sentencing. In restitution hearings, one party allegedly owes another party some money (the “restitution”), and the hearing happens if the two parties cannot agree on how much money is owed. In this case, Precision Pipeline LLC is requesting a restitution of $39,226.30 from D&D. Most notably, this request was presented not by a Precision representative but the court attorney because Precision Pipeline wouldn’t bother paying a representative to come to court. Precision’s project manager for the site of the action, Steven Grice, couldn’t make it to the hearing, because he was off doing something else in West Virginia. Furthermore, Precision couldn’t even be bothered to keep up correspondence with the court attorney in a timely manner.

So, the court attorney ended up asking judge Nicholson, *in the last minute*, to reschedule the restitution hearing to a later date so that Steven Grice could participate via video conference, which the court admitted out loud to not even knowing how to arrange at the time. The court granted that motion, so the restitution hearing has been rescheduled to Tuesday, January 27th, 2015.

The court attorney took the extra mile to defend Precision Pipeline’s right to a restitution hearing, despite that Precision Pipeline couldn’t even be bothered to show up, or even simply to communicate with the court about what their intentions were in a timely manner. And at the technical expense of setting up a video conference just for Precision, to boot, on an entirely different day, at last-minute notice. All this shows that the court attorney either truly believes in Precision’s work for the community (ha!), or rather, that perhaps there’s a financial stake in it for them.


Going Forward

Here are some things you can do to support Duncan, Dylan and MICATS!

1) Spread the word! Write op-eds about the protest and Precision and Enbridge, write to your friends, have conversations! Make plans of your own…

2) Support MICATS financially! Court costs, including the extra expected costs of gas, go to over $2,000. To help with that, go to

3) Come support Duncan and Dylan at the restitution hearing! Tuesday, January 27th, at 1:15pm, at 700 Barclay Circle, Rochester Hills, MI 48307

Dec 28

A Kalamazoo Resident’s Week-long Environmental Justice Fast against Enbridge

One of the MI CATS has recently begun a 7-day fast as a personal protest against Enbridge and in support of opposition to Enbridge. Here’s a statement this CAT wrote below:


At 12am on December 25, precisely one week before the end of 2014, I began a week-long “environmental justice fast”. This fast is a personal, spiritual act of opposition to Enbridge and Enbridge’s tar sands tyranny. I was inspired to do this fast a few months ago as a result of casual internet research, looking to discover previous acts of opposition to Enbridge… I came across articles detailing a similar fast (check out this and this) done by Mia Nissen during the last 7 days of the previous year in opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. I thought that was pretty cool and honorable, and decided pretty much then and there that I’d do the same thing this year.

In the middle of a week-long environmental justice fast... because Enbridge sucks.

In the middle of a week-long environmental justice fast… because Enbridge sucks.

For this fast I’m consuming nothing but water. I am not concerned for my health or the safety of the fast because I’ve fasted a few times before. My aim is to pray and just spiritually go through this, and try to maintain a presence of an hour a day in front of a Morgan Stanley building in Kalamazoo (Morgan Stanley is an investor in Enbridge) holding signs about the 2010 Kalamazoo disaster to raise local awareness.

Why I’m Doing This

I’m doing this fast for multiple reasons related to my disdain for Enbridge. For one, I’m pissed off at both Enbridge and the Michigan judicial system for branding Lisa, Barbara, Vicci, and now Chris as felons for allegedly refusing to cooperate with cops while blockading construction on Enbridge’s 6B. These four individuals (and many others) should be thanked for their sacrifices for our future generations, not punished by the state! But alas, Lisa, Barbara and Vicci were sentenced to a year of probation and a month in jail for peacefully resisting Enbridge, and Chris Wahmhoff is slated to be sentenced for his “crime” tomorrow at the Battle Creek Courthouse. I hope you can join Chris and the rest of the MI CATS there! Click here for details on our gathering this Monday at noon.

While Mia aimed to draw attention with her fast to the Northern Gateway pipeline system, my fast isn’t against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline system specifically. As a resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan, familiar with the devastation wreaked by Enbridge’s cruel negligence both with the rupture of tar sands line 6B and with the subsequent cover-up scandal, I’m opposed to Enbridge’s operations generally, because I don’t trust them. Enbridge has been caught with numerous lies over the years, and has been voraciously expanding its tar sands infrastructure across the continent these past few years. I can think of 11 pipelines right off the bat that Enbridge has that are proposed or already completed:

  1. Line 3: Enbridge plans to double the capacity of this line so that by 2017 it will carry 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day. No presidential approval is required for this pipeline since it’s already there… which is one reason why the mainstream environmental movement may not be paying it much attention, even though it’s comparable to the size of the proposed Keystone XL.
  2. Line 4: this pipeline spilled over 1,300 barrels of “oil” just days ago, leading to its forced shutdown (woot woot!)
  3. Line 5: this 61-year-old pipeline, which leaked at Crystal Falls, MI in 1999, as well as had a “pinhole leak” just weeks ago, passes through the Straits of Mackinac, threatening the Great Lakes, which comprise 20% of the world’s freshwater supply. Read more about line 5 here: 5 spooky facts about Enbridge’s Mackinac Pipeline
  4. Line 6B: this pipeline was the infamous one that ruptured in 2010, leading to the largest inland tar sands spill in US history, devastating the communities and environment of Marshall, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo. Courageous members of MICATS have repeatedly put their bodies on the line these past few years to blockade the expansion of this pipeline. MICATS has organized multiple treesits, lockdowns, and pipe occupations to stop this pipe. Sadly, four of the MICATS have been convicted of felonies for their actions, one who’s actually going to be sentenced tomorrow for skateboarding into line 6B back in 2013. Check out this very site to learn more about all that MICATS has done to try to stop this pipeline. As of now, the expanded pipeline is in operation.
  5. Line 9: this pipeline has faced serial opposition all throughout its route. Multiple blockades have occurred this past summer to obstruct maintenance/expansion operations at Line 9 sites, and recently, in opposition to Line 9, activists in 9 different cities in Ontario locked the entrances of the offices of Enbridge and other institutions that support them, saying they’re “closed for risky business”.
  6. Flanagan South: sadly, despite real opposition that existed to this 600-mile tar sands pipeline, this pipeline was recently announced to be complete and in operation.
  7. Seaway: this pipeline runs through Texas following a similar route to the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, jointly owned by Enbridge and Enterprise. Despite some opposition to the pipeline, I believe its expansion is complete.
  8. Sandpiper: this proposed 612-mile oil pipeline would run from North Dakota to Wisconsin. Public hearings in Minnesota are set for it on the first week of January 2015.
  9. Line 61: Enbridge is trying to get away with tripling the capacity of this pipeline, so that it would carry more tar sands per day than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and is also trying to get away with having adequate insurance if and when it leaks: read more at
  10. Alberta Clipper (Line 67): this pipeline is going forward in a rather dirty, dubious way… the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved this pipeline’s expansion, and to avoid having to seek presidential approval, the Alberta Clipper is being linked to Line 3 right at the US-Canada border.
  11. Northern Gateway: this pipeline has faced years of fierce opposition, though it seems it is going forward:

Apologies for any significant Enbridge pipeline or other projects that I missed, these were just the ones that came to mind.


I’m intimidated by what can only fairly be described as Enbridge’s tar sands tyranny. At a time of a clear looming threat from climate change, Enbridge seems to me to be one of the companies most desperately involved in getting as much of the world’s most toxic and carbon-intensive fossil fuel out to the world market. They haven’t learned their lessons from the line 6B disaster (except the do’s and don’ts of public relations, I guess), and they’re expanding their tar sands pipelines all across the continent. And I fear that the mainstream environmental movement is too focused on Keystone XL, a single pipeline that Enbridge is outdoing many times over, to take Enbridge on in any serious way.

Which is why I’m fasting. By fasting, I’m bearing witness to Enbridge’s destruction, and am hoping and praying for the rise of fierce opposition to Enbridge, all over the continent. I’m inspired by the efforts of various inviduals and groups. I’m glad for the work of MICATS, a line 6B whistleblower, groups bringing attention to Line 5 at the “Tip of the Mitt”, groups south of us, various groups and individuals fighting Line 9, those fighting the Alberta Clipper, Sandpiper and Line 61 to the west of us, indigenous resistance that’s greater and more complex than I can ever understand, and a whole mess of others that I can’t fully name. I sincerely hope that these groups and way more can come together to take on this tar sands monster with a force that’s formidable and comparable to it.

Here’s to a hopeful future.

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.

Fox 2 in Detroit 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.

Older posts «

Fetch more items