After a brief rally outside with many participants wearing black t-shirts saying, “No Line 5 Oil Tunnel,” dozens of people this morning (August 21) overflowed the meeting room and lobby of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners in Traverse City. In all, 54 residents spoke out for the next 2 ½ hours against a resolution supporting a proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. Only two people — one an owner of a local gas and oil company — spoke for the oil tunnel. And then the county commissioners had the final say, with the majority ultimately disagreeing with their own constituents and voting 4-3 for the resolution.
Every day, balloons and balloon ribbons and strings are discovered littering the waters and shorelines of the Great Lakes. Between 2016 and 2018, volunteers with the Alliance for the Great Lakes picked up more than 18,000 pieces of balloon debris during coastal cleanups. Latex balloons also burst into small pieces that are easily mistaken for food by birds and other wildlife, often with fatal consequences. Balloon debris also includes long ribbons and strings, which can entangle birds and other wildlife, causing serious injury or death. Awareness is growing, and a handful of states, including California, Florida, and Tennessee, have passed legislation banning balloon releases. Michigan, however, is not one of them.
The discovery of toxic per or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in many Michigan locations, the fear and concern these chemicals have stirred, and the difficulty posed to government officials and the public on how to respond feel familiar to those residents 50 and over. PFAS are just the latest symbols of failed chemical policy in a chain reaching back to World War II. That policy has caused disease and death, ruined landscapes and waters, and cost taxpayers scores of billions of dollars. And still politicians haven’t learned.
This is the second of four reports by former FLOW board chair, and former director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, Skip Pruss that make the economic case for government’s role in protecting the environment. FLOW will unveil the last two reports in the coming months.
The disclosure by Enbridge that 81 feet of Line 5 has been undermined by powerful currents and is slumping points to something far more serious—and dangerous: The 66-year-old dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac are failing and also at risk of rupture from a ship’s anchor drag that hooks and rips the pipeline wide open. It is also a violation of the law that governs the protection of the public trust in the Great Lakes and the soils beneath them.
Confronted at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday by a full audience passionately and unanimously against a proposed Line 5 oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac, the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners voted today to temporary table a misguided and error-filled resolution supporting the oil tunnel. (Click here to view a video of the meeting, once posted by the county.)
FLOW on July 24 formally submitted a recommendation to the International Join Commission that calls for an emergency pilot study and urgent action to address the effects of climate change.
The International Joint Commission (IJC) has appointed Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, to a three-year term on the Great Lakes Water Quality Board. Kirkwood will fill a seat set aside for nonprofit environmental organizations.
The Mackinac Islanders who attended FLOW’s sixth annual Community Update on Line 5 at Community Hall were an economically and politically diverse crowd. What united them was a concern over Line 5, and a desire to learn how FLOW and tribal representatives, lawyers, and risk experts are educating the public about this sunken hazard in the fragile Straits of Mackinac, and how we are pressuring the State of Michigan to shut down Line 5 before an oil spill happens. FLOW has been working with Mackinac Island residents for six years on this issue because they’re at the epicenter of the threat of a Line 5 oil spill.
Many of our Michigan beaches are sullied by refuse and littered with food wrappers, soggy cigarette butts, and small plastic pieces of mysterious origin. Whether littered on-site or carried from elsewhere in the watershed, unsanitary garbage on our coasts puts-off beach-goers and infringes upon the public’s right to enjoy the shoreline—a great Michigan summertime tradition that’s protected by the public trust doctrine.