Gov.’s office against tribal gas station

MARQUETTE – A proposed Keweenaw Bay Indian Community gas station in Marquette Township could be “unlawful” and offer “an unfair commercial advantage over surrounding competitors,” according to a letter issued by Gov. Rick Snyder’s office to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Michigan Agency.

The letter, penned by Deputy Legal Counsel Dave Murley and sent to BIA Michigan Agency Superintendent Gerald Parish, outlines several issues the governor’s office has with the proposed station – including its potential ability to offer gasoline and other items to consumers with no sales tax attached – if the land were to be put into trust by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Gregg Nominelli, an economic developer with the KBIC’s Office of Planning and Development, has previously said the tribe intends to offer gas prices lower than competitors, which he said would be good for local businesses, the tribal community and the public.

However, the letter states such an ability is “unfair” and even “unlawful,” citing a U.S. Supreme Court case, Washington v. Confederated Tribe.

The letter states if the land was put into trust so the KBIC “can operate a retail gas station, it will effectively facilitate the Tribe’s unlawful efforts to market its sales tax exemption. This will be extremely detrimental to the local community and to the state.

“Moreover, this land is located more than an hour from the tribe’s reservation,” the letter goes on to say. “This land will not enhance the tribe’s reservation or facilitate economic development. Taking this land into trust so that the KBIC may unlawfully compete with tax-paying businesses would use the land into trust process as a sword rather than a shield, and alter the cordial and cooperative relationship the state now shares with the tribes within its borders.”

The Upper Peninsula Petroleum Association declined to comment on the letter.

KBIC officials said they were working to formulate a response but weren’t able to make one available by press time today.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.