Tag: Attorney General

State should end discussion, take action on Line 5


When the police pulls a resident over for going 100 mph in a 55-mph zone, they don't cluck their tongues -- they click their ticket books.

But when Michigan’s state government catches Enbridge Energy putting the Great Lakes at risk by failing again to disclose dangerous conditions on its Line 5 oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, the response is paralysis. The state has again caught Enbridge ignoring its legal obligation to be a proper steward of the submerged land that the state allows the company to occupy with its pipeline.

But all we're hearing out of Lansing, and particularly Attorney General Bill Schuette is an expression of disappointment.

The difference between strict enforcement of laws against individuals and giving an oil transport giant chance after chance to meet its fundamental responsibility not to harm public waters is as stark as the difference between a single speeding motorist and a catastrophic oil spill fouling the drinking water source for millions.

The accumulation of studies, evidence of pipeline delamination and bends in June, and now exposed metal with likely corrosion, signals a dangerously flawed and ultimately incurable pair of sunken pipelines.

It’s time for our state government to stop treating the 1963 Constitution, statutes, and common law that protect our lakes as nice but meaningless environmental policy statements and start treating them as the duty the people through the Constitution and our courts have mandated. More than ever, it’s time to shut down Line 5.


FLOW's senior advisor, Dave Dempsey, has 35 years experience in environmental policy. He served as environmental advisor to former Michigan Governor James Blanchard and as policy advisor on the staff of the International Joint Commission.  He has also provided policy support to the Michigan Environmental Council and Clean Water Action.  He has authored several books on the Great Lakes and water protection.


Opinion on Aquaculture by Bill Schuette, Attorney General

Great Lakes advocates say that commercial net-pen fish farming, pictured above, does not belong in Michigan’s public waters.
Since our A.G. has emphasized the importance of public trust in the Great Lakes and navigable lakes and streams, including Great Lakes, we’ve analyzed the doctrine, applied it to fish farming in Great Lakes, and the answer is: it cannot be authorized under the public trust doctrine, not even by legislative amendment to expand the definition of aquaculture as implied by the A.G.’s opinion.

 

Read the recent Attorney General opinion on Aquaculture in the Great Lakes: Click here! 

Read More about Aquaculture in FLOW’s recent Aquaculture issue brief! 

(Also available in Flipbook form)

 

Officials require more supports beneath oil pipes

Click here to read the article on record-eagle.com 

By The Associated Press

July 25, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Two oil pipelines at the bottom the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan will get additional support structures to help prevent potentially devastating spills, officials said Thursday.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said they had put Enbridge Energy Partners LP on notice following the company’s acknowledgement it was partly out of compliance with an agreement dating to 1953, when the pipelines were laid in the Straits of Mackinac.

As a condition of an easement granted by the state, Enbridge agreed that support anchors would be placed at least every 75 feet. In a response last month to a lengthy series of questions about the condition of the lines from Schuette and Wyant, the Canadian company acknowledged some sections don’t meet the requirement, although the average distance between supports is 54 feet.

“We will insist that Enbridge fully comply with the conditions of the Straits Pipeline Easement to protect our precious environmental and economic resources and limit the risk of disaster threatening our waters,” Schuette said.

Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said the company had agreed to add more supports, even though engineering analyses peer-reviewed by experts at Columbia University and the University of Michigan concluded previously that gaps of up to 140 feet between supports would be safe. The work will begin in early August and be completed within 90 days, she said. Afterward, the average distance between supports will be 50 feet.

“The Straits of Mackinac crossing has been incident-free since it was constructed in 1953,” Larson said. “Through even greater oversight, the use of new technology and ensuring all risks are monitored and where necessary mitigated, Enbridge is committed to maintaining this incident-free record into the future.”

The two pipelines are part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 runs through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac, then continuing to Sarnia, Ontario.

The line divides into two 20-inch pipes beneath the straits at depths reaching 270 feet and carries nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. The 5-mile-wide straits area is ecologically sensitive and a major tourist draw.

A June report by hydrodynamics specialist David Schwab of the University of Michigan Water Center concluded that because of strong currents, a rupture of the pipeline would quickly foul shorelines miles away in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Larson said Enbridge began installing steel anchors for the underwater lines in 2002, replacing sandbag supports. They consist of 10-foot-long screws augured into the lakebed on either side of the pipes, holding a steel saddle that provides support. No washouts have been seen during inspections since then, she said.

Schuette and Wyant said their staffs are still reviewing Enbridge’s responses to other questions about the pipelines.

Enbridge Energy Partners is a unit of Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.

DEQ and Attorney General Determine Enbridge in Violation of 1953 Easement

On July 1st, FLOW along with 16 conservation, water and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder urging greater state action to regulate Enbridge’s 61 year-old Line 5, which transports some 23 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products under the Straits of Mackinac each day. This means that at any given moment, 365 days a year, nearly one million gallons of crude oil is flowing under the Straits. The letter pointed out potential violations in operations and public disclosure requirements established by Public Act 10 of 1953 and the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. Read the press release here. 

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Attorney General have since determined, in a July 24, 2014 letter, that the company is in violation of the 1953 easement’s spacing requirement for pipeline supports. In response, the DEQ issued Enbridge a Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) permit for maintenance and structural improvements on the same day (Enbridge’s final permit No. is 14-49-0017-P). Read the official letter here.

Although this is a step in the right direction, FLOW and other groups continue to urge the Governor and the DEQ to require an occupancy agreement for the entire pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

A State analysis of reasonable and proper pipeline procedures is necessary given modern technology, industry standards, products being transported, and risks to our public resources. Requiring Enbridge file a GLSLA occupancy agreement would allow this analysis and fulfill this term of the easement. As trustee of the Great Lakes, Governor Snyder has the authority under the 1953 easement, Act 10 of 1953, and the common law of public trust to demand that Enbridge file such an agreement.

FLOW and the other coalition groups from the July 1st sign-on letter are planning to meet with Governor Rick Snyder’s office and the DEQ later this month to discuss the State’s vital role in regulating the Line 5 pipeline and protecting these public trust waters of the Great Lakes.