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,