Tag: DEQ

Abrupt cancellation of conflict-plagued Line 5 study sparks demand for transparency from DEQ

LANSING – Oil & Water Don’t Mix today said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to cancel a study that was rife with conflicts of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all – and called on state leaders to disclose all details of the draft study that was plagued by conflicts of interest.

“Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers,” said David Holtz, Chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign coordinator. “The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers.”

“This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water. “In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette start acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay.”

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Don’t delay! Submit your public comment today!

 

Click here to read the post on the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines website! 

 

 

Action Alert: Enbridge Trying to Squeeze More Life Out of “Line 5” in the Mackinac Straits

Take Action Now!

Urgent Threat: Enbridge is courting an oil spill disaster again in Michigan, and this time the Great Lakes are at risk. The public has until June 29, 2017, to oppose the Canadian energy transport giant’s request for state permission to squeeze more life out of a cracked, dented, and deformed pair of pipelines that push 23 million gallons of oil a day across the bottom of the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. The request to continue the piecemeal patch up of the 64-year-old “Line 5” pipelines threatens the drinking water source for more than 40 million people, the economic engine for the Great Lakes region, and a way of life for millions of North Americans.

Terrible Track Record: Recall that Enbridge in 2010 caused the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history when its southern Michigan pipeline ruptured and dumped more than one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed. That failure sickened 150 people, and permanently drove 150 families from their homes, taking four years and over $1.2 billion to clean up to the extent possible. Enbridge’s Line 5 has a similar dark history, with at least 29 spills totaling more than one million gallons of oil spread along its path in Michigan and Wisconsin since 1953.

Damage Done: Now Enbridge has applied to the State of Michigan for a permit to install more underwater anchor supports on its antiquated Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, which the University of Michigan calls the “worst possible place” for a Great Lakes oil spill. The 22 anchor supports are another belated attempt to keep Line 5 from shifting, bending, and grinding on the bottom in the powerful underwater currents at the Straits, but the damage is already done. These supports are merely the latest in a series of stopgap measures that ignore decades of metal fatigue and stress on the pipeline, which is now well past its 50-year life expectancy and should be permanently shut down as soon as possible.

Follow the Facts

Public records reveal that…

  • From the 1970s through the 1990s, Enbridge installed grout bags to prop up Line 5, attempting to meet the state’s requirement under the 1953 easement to support the steel pipeline at least every 75 feet along the publicly owned bottom of the Great Lakes.
  • In 2001, Enbridge declared an emergency on Line 5 in the Straits to stabilize stretches or spans of the pipeline that had become dangerously unsupported for over 130 feet because of “washouts” of the lake bottom and grout bags caused by swift currents that, records show, were underestimated when the pipeline was designed. 
  • Recently it was revealed that Enbridge was out of compliance likely for decades with the legally required safety margin, allowing 16 spans of Line 5 to go unsupported for lengths greater than 140 feet, with the longest being 224 feet on the east pipeline and 286 feet on the west pipeline – nearly four times the legal limit.
  • With no reliable model to predict lakebed washouts due to the highly dynamic nature of currents in the Mackinac Straits, Enbridge cannot meet its legal duty under the state easement to prudently operate this pipeline.
  • Enbridge incorrectly categorizes its proposed patchwork response to Line 5’s major structural defects as “routine maintenance” when the company has, in fact, been systematically expanding the capacity of Line 5 and Line 6b in southern Michigan to carry Canadian oil heading mostly back to Canadian refineries and to overseas markets.

This strategy has previously enabled the company to avoid State of Michigan review of the safety and necessity of the pipeline itself, and dodge the legally required consideration of alternative routes and methods that do not threaten the Great Lakes.

Take Action Now

The public has until June 29, 2017, to submit comments to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality opposing Enbridge’s bid to keep Line 5 on life support and seeking to prevent a Great Lakes oil spill disaster.

  • Submit comments at http://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/anchor_structure_public_comment
  • Draw upon information in this Action Alert, and from www.OilandWaterDontMix.org, to offer objections that are specific and factual.
  • Be sure to demand a public hearing and call for the Michigan DEQ’s full review of the environmental impact of the Enbridge request and feasible and prudent alternatives to Line 5, as required by law.
  • Written comments will be made part of the record and should reference application number 2RD-DFDK-Y35G.

 

Thank you! 

Media Release: FLOW Urges State Rejection of Nestlé Corporation’s Bid to Increase Water Extraction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                              April 21, 2017

Contact: Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director                                                Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                     Office: (231) 944-1568; Cell: (570) 872-4956

Contact: James Olson, Legal Advisor                                                                         Office: (231) 944-1568
FLOW (For Love of Water)                                                                                               Cell: (231) 499-8831

 

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Nestlé Corporation’s bid to massively accelerate its drawdown of groundwater in Osceola County for sale as bottled water falls far short of the bar set by Michigan water law, and must be denied, FLOW said today.

In official independent scientific and legal comments as the state today closes its public comment period, FLOW said the permit application submitted by the world’s largest bottled water company lacks key information legally required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to approve the request. Impartial scientific analysis of a complete application likely would show significant harm to natural resources, according to a review of Nestlé’s submission by scientists hired by FLOW.

“The more deeply you look at this application, the more superficial it proves to be,” said James Olson, founder of FLOW, a Traverse City-based water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes and its tributaries. “Nestlé has self-servingly offered more baseless assumptions than substance in its application. They’ve put clay material to minimize effects without finding out if it’s really there. They’ve put 14 inches into their groundwater model, when it’s probably closer to 9 inches.”

Nestlé Ice Mountain is seeking a state permit to increase its spring water withdrawal from 150 to 400 gallons-per-minute (gpm), or as much as 576,000 gallons-per-day, from a well in the headwaters of Chippewa and Twin creeks in Osceola County, threatening public resources in the Muskegon River watershed.

“While Flint residents continue to be deprived of safe public drinking water and struggle to pay $200 a month for their home and health, the state is contemplating the giveaway to Nestlé of 200 million gallons of groundwater a year in exchange for a $200 state filing fee,” said Olson. “State regulators are required under public trust law to protect the public’s water resources for sustainable use by the public, not give it away to a private corporation for resale back to the public to which it belongs.”

FLOW legal and scientific team found that Nestlé’s application:

  • Fails to fully evaluate existing conditions. Data collected between 2001 and the onset of pumping in 2009 were not evaluated, nor were the seven years of data gathered since pumping at 150 gpm began. The data provided are insufficient for the public or the DEQ to fully assess the impacts of either past pumping or to provide an adequate baseline for identification of future harm to natural resources.
  • Lacks adequate information about the predicted effects of their requested pumping. The validity of the groundwater model predictions of the pre-pumping conditions of the system is not adequately established, nor are the predictions of effects of existing pumping within the system adequately established.
  • Neglects to consider, or provide a reasonable basis to determine, the individual and cumulative harm from pumping. The application does not address the cumulative effects of pumping at the proposed 400 gpm rate, but rather solely discusses the effects of the increase in pumping from 150 to 400 gpm.

Because of these gaps, the application skirts potentially significant environmental harm, with Nestlé failing to report:

  • Cumulative reductions of stream flows, which would exceed 15 percent in several locations, according to FLOW’s analysis.
  • Significantly reduced, seasonal wetland flooding that likely would occur and that is essential to the proper function of the natural system.
  • Increased harm to natural resources during years of low precipitation.

“If Michigan’s water withdrawal law has any meaning, the DEQ must deny the application,” Olson said.

The DEQ will close the public comment period at 5 p.m. on April 21. Written comments before the deadline can be emailed to deq-eh@michigan.gov or mailed to: MDEQ, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, Environmental Health Section, P.O. Box 30421, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7741.

Nestlé’s application, supporting data and documents are posted on the DEQ website: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313-399187–,00.html

To learn more about FLOW’s efforts to challenge the Nestlé permit and protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s groundwater, visit our website at www.FLOWforWater.org.

To read our Letter and Expert Report to the DEQ on Nestlé’s application, please click here.

 

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Nestlé Permit Application Public Comment Period Extended – Comments due April 21; Public hearing April 12

Breaking news:

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has set a public hearing for April 12, 2017, and extended the public comment period until April 21, 2017, on multinational behemoth Nestlé’s bid to more than DOUBLE its groundwater pumping 210 MILLION gallons per year from a well near the headwaters of two coldwater trout streams northwest of Evart in northern Michigan’s Osceola County. 

FLOW’s seasoned team of scientists and water-law attorneys, which includes successful fighters of prior Nestlé water wars, is committed to defending our public waters, wetlands, and aquatic life, and shutting down Nestlé’s private water grab. Please learn more and join us in this fight for Michigan’s freshwater and our future:

 

Latest news:

Nestlé water public hearing will be April 12 | MLive.com http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/03/nestle_michigan_public_hearing.html

 

MDEQ info: Details on how to comment, attend public hearing, and access public information on Nestlé’s application and the state’s review.

MDEQ Press Release – March 2, 2017 – Nestlé Permit Application Public Comment Period Extended – Comments due April 21; Public hearing April 12 http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135–406127–,00.html

MDEQ – Nestlé Waters North America’s Submittal of a Permit Application Information Package, under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313-399187–,00.html

 

Learn more:

Visit the FLOW website to learn what you can do stop Nestlé’s thirst for Michigan’s groundwater!

 

Help FLOW Fight Nestlé’s Water Grab in Michigan:

FLOW FOR WATER’s Fundraiser https://www.crowdrise.com/help-flow-fight-nestls-water-grab/fundraiser/flowforwater

FLOW Letter to Michigan DEQ regarding Nestlé

On December 16, 2016, FLOW (For Love of Water) wrote a letter and formally requested that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) cancel its approval of Nestlé’s application to more than double its groundwater pumping for commercial water bottling from a well northwest of Evart, in Osceola County.

After conducting an independent assessment, FLOW’s environmental attorneys determined that the MDEQ made a serious legal error in January 2016, when it approved the Swiss food and beverage giant Nestlé’s site-review request for increased pumping under the state Safe Drinking Water Act, but failed to require a parallel application and review under the Water Withdrawal Law.

Here is the letter that was submitted:

 

End Enbridge Stonewalling

Observations by some that the State of Michigan has no regulatory authority over hazardous liquid pipelines is correct to the extent that it is understood in the context of  safety regulations — standards, inspection and enforcement; safety code enforcement is covered by the federal PHMSA law, regulation and agency.  However, it is not true that Michigan does not have authority to demand the information Enbridge keeps under its control, and it is not true that Michigan does not have enforcement authority.

As concluded by the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report, 2015, Michigan has authority under the 1953 Easement, including the continuing obligation of Enbridge to conduct itself with prudence at all times, and it has authority under:

(1) its sovereign ownership of bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes since statehood in 1837 under “equal footings” doctrine. Michigan took title in trust to protect the basic rights of citizens as beneficiaries of a public trust imposed on the state.  This means the state has authority and duty to take actions to protect the public trust as a matter of its “property and public trust power,” whether or not it passes regulations on hazardous liquid pipelines or not.  Under public trust authority and principles, the state cannot transfer or shift control over waters and bottomlands held in trust to any private person or corporation; the retention of information by Enbridge that is required to protect the public trust or to determine whether the public trust is threatened with high unacceptable harm or risk violates this public trust principle, and the Attorney General can demand and take all action necessary to compel Enbridge to turn it over, indeed, even the easement recognizes and is subject to this public trust.

(2)  The Michigan Public Service Commission has authority over siting and locations of crude oil pipelines like Enbridge’s and others.  Anytime Enbridge or some other corporation applies for a change or improvement to the structure it regulates as to siting, including its consideration of risks to property and health or environment and alternatives, the MPSC has authority to demand all relevant information needed to  make a decision on the application for such change.  Unfortunately, the MPSC has not insisted on the full range of information it could demand, including alternative pipeline routes and capacity to Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac when it doubled capacity for Enbridge’s new replacement for the failed Line 6B that ruptured into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

(3) Finally, the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, Part 17,  NREPA, imposes a duty to prevent and minimize harm to air, water, and natural resources, and this includes the right to take action where necessary when a corporation’s actions are contrary to this duty to prevent and minimize harm; the MEPA, as it’s  often called, is derived from Art 4, Sec. 52 of the Michigan Constitution.

So while Michigan ponders the aging or new pipeline infrastructure for hazardous liquids and crude oil, the state, including the Attorney General, have the authority to take immediate action to prevent the high risk of Line 5 or other pipelines.  And, where that risk involves the devastating harm that undoubtedly may occur in the Straits, action should be taken immediately pending the coming one to two years of pondering.  In short, there is no legal excuse or justification for Governor Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, or the Department of Environmental Quality to put up with Enbridge’s self-serving stonewalling on disclosure of all information related to its Line 5 hazardous crude oil pipeline.  And, there is no excuse or justification for our state leaders to delay action to eliminate the unacceptable harm from the Straits or other Michigan waters from Line 5.

 

 

FLOW Urges the Department of Environmental Quality to Strengthen Its Proposed 2014 Fracking Regulations to Protect Michigan’s Water, Air, and Land Resources

August 1, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director

231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

FLOW Urges the Department of Environmental Quality to Strengthen Its Proposed 2014 Fracking Regulations to Protect Michigan’s Water, Air, and Land Resources

Traverse City, Mich. – On July 31, 2014, FLOW submitted extensive public comments to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding their proposed fracking regulations on water withdrawals, baseline water quality sampling, monitoring and reporting, and chemical disclosure. FLOW’s comments urge the DEQ to take a number of steps to strengthen the oil and gas regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) or fracking.

“As a whole, the DEQ’s proposed new rules to address the risks, impacts, and uncertainties surrounding HVHF in Michigan do not measure up to the values and principles embodied in Michigan’s history, law, and policy,” said FLOW’s president and founder Jim Olson. “They are not strong enough to protect our air, water, natural resources, the public trust, and public health and welfare from the risks HVHF poses.”

FLOW’s written comments elaborate on comments made by Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, at the DEQ’s Gaylord public hearing on July 15, 2014. “Existing oil and gas laws are built around the assumption that the rule of capture applies to all oil and gas production and that fracking is simply a technique to “enhance” the recovery of another fungible oil and gas liquid.” said Liz Kirkwood, “The DEQ cannot and should not bootstrap fracking into conventional oil and gas development regulations.” Key recommendations included:

Notice and Comment Requirements: The application process on drilling permits should be subject to formal notice, comments, and hearing procedures as required under current Michigan law.

Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment: The environmental impact assessment should examine the entire area of potential impact, beyond the drilling pad site, and consider alternatives and cumulative impacts as required by the Oil and Gas

August 1, 2014Act and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

Good Faith Effort Not Enough for Pooling Authorization: The department should prohibit the drilling of wells prior to all properties being leased or a compulsory pooling hearing is conducted; otherwise, the proposed rules are likely to run afoul due process and takings challenges. Fracking should be prohibited on any property that has not voluntarily agreed to be leased.

Chemical Disclosure in Drilling Application: The regulations should require full disclosure of all fracking chemicals as part of the drilling application, not 30 days after the well has been completed.

Baseline Sampling Before, During and After Drilling: Baseline testing should be integral part of the drill permit application and after the drilling has occurred. Given the large water withdrawals associated with fracking and the impacts of surface and ground waters, baseline testing should sample both water levels and flows.

Evaluation of Adverse Impacts: Mitigate adverse impacts to all water bodies, especially headwaters, by requiring a separate high-volume water withdrawal approval with adequate hydrogeological baseline data to be filed along with the drilling permit application.

Interference Requirements: Increase isolation distance between hydraulically fractured wells (> 660 feet) and offset wells in the current regulations.

FLOW urged the DEQ to consider these additional changes, as well as review the pending final Graham Sustainability Institute’s Integrated Assessment, which examines the reality of fracking and the entire regulatory framework. Failure to do so increases risk of waste, health, safety and welfare, harm to the environment, and threatens property owners and citizens who use and enjoy Michigan’s abundant water and natural resources.

FLOW’s submitted comments enhance and support its Local Government Ordinance Program to provide technical assistance to township and counties in Michigan experiencing associated fracking impacts to their local air, water, and land resources.

FLOW also was a signatory to an another public comment submitted by the Anglers of the AuSable, Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LVC), Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Moms Clean Air Force, and more than 20 other environmental and conservation organizations.

View the full comments here: DEQ Comments 

FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes.

 

 

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.