KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners have approved a resolution that supports shutting down of Enbridge’s Line 5, twin oil pipelines that run beneath the Straits of Mackinac.
The board voted 7-3 in favor of the resolution Tuesday night at the end of a meeting that lasted more than four hours and included some passionate and tense moments between citizens and board members.
Public comment alone lasted more than two hours. Every person who took the podium — from children to a Kalamazoo city commissioner — was in favor of the resolution, which supported an effort to put a question on the ballot that would shut down the pipeline.
“You guys are one of the few communities in Michigan that have been directly impacted by an oil spill. That is really something that should never happen. It was a disaster. It’s taken years for you guys to recover,” one speaker said.
“Our crystal clear water may someday not be crystal clear. And I am ashamed that a Canadian business doesn’t realize that lives are at stake,” a boy said.
“This is not political and it shouldn’t be partisan — and just to be clear, there are Republicans and Democrats at the state level that support shutting down Line 5 because they know it’s not safe,” Kalamazoo City Commissioner Shannon Sykes said.
The comments were all centered around concern for the Great Lakes.
Line 5 is owned and operated by Enbridge, the corporation responsible for the second-largest oil spill in U.S. history, which dumped some 843,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.
After learning the board met with an Enbridge representative earlier in the day, comments at the meeting turned into accusations. Community members had a number of questions about why the board met with that representative and whether they were being funded in some fashion by Enbridge. Commissioners denied that.
“For everybody that wasn’t here at that April 18th (meeting), it’s important that you know that our county commissioners received a grant from Enbridge,” one person said.
Commissioners said the grant — which is to fund the purchase of an airboat and trailer for the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division — was from a nonprofit funded by Enbridge. That nonprofit was created in the wake of the 2010 oil spill and grants from it are dedicated to enhancing the quality of the river.
“We made a terrible mistake. The information was brought to us incorrectly. What was on our agenda from our administration was not printed correctly,” Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore said.
>>Online: Board of Commissioners meeting minutes
After hours of testimony from the community, the board took its time to make a decision. A number of commissioners expressed their support of the resolution but also said it wasn’t the final solution and stressed the importance of other options for clean energy.
So far, 65 municipalities have passed resolutions in support of the ballot proposal. Those will go to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.