Tag: Governor Snyder

PR: Citizens Respond to Attorney General Schuette: Get Off the Sidelines on Line 5 and Protect Great Lakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Media Contacts: Leonard Page 231-268-8430/ leonard@thepages.net
David Holtz 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org

 

Citizens Respond to Attorney General Schuette:

Get Off the Sidelines on Line 5 and Protect Great Lakes

Responding today to a letter from Attorney General Bill Schuette, citizens groups from across the state told state officials that their decision to “stand on the sidelines” by failing to enforce legal requirements on pipeline operator Enbridge Energy Partners is putting the Great Lakes at risk from a catastrophic oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac.

In a March 8 letter to the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, the attorney general, Dept. of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh and Dept. of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether responded to revelations that protective anti-corrosion coatings were missing from 18 areas of Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits.  In their letter, Schuette, Creagh and Grether said they would investigate findings in a late 2016 report detailing the missing coatings as well as other evidence calling into question claims by Enbridge that Line 5 is safe.

In their response letter today to state officials, citizens groups told Schuette and other state officials that their failure to assert regulatory authority over Line 5 in the Straits could result in an oil spill that would “devastate our public drinking waters and our water-dependent economy.”

“It is not enough to stand on the sidelines or fail to take action that has the effect of complicity by deferring to Enbridge,” the groups said in their letter to Schuette.  “For nearly two years, we have heard our state leaders declare that the days of this pipeline are numbered and that Line 5 wouldn’t be built today.  However, the State of Michigan has not taken a single preventative measure to make our Great Lakes safer from a catastrophic oil spill.”

The missing Line 5 coatings, the groups said, violated a 1953 easement agreement with the state and should, at a minimum, have resulted in enforcement action against Enbridge.  By instead deferring to Enbridge, the state’s failure to act allows Enbridge to avoid comprehensive review of Line 5 and delays any potential action for months while the state continues to study the pipelines. 

“Attorney General Schuette’s urgency in protecting the Great Lakes and our communities from an oil spill seems to be missing,” said attorney Leonard Page of the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment.  “We need action now, before Line 5 ruptures and destroys our way of life and economy.”

In April 2016 the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign wrote Schuette and other state officials, identifying eight violations of the 1953 easement, including missing pipeline anchors, emergency oil spill response plan violations along with issues related to pipeline coatings in the Straits.  While the state notified Enbridge of easement violations, it has yet to require Enbridge to submit to a comprehensive environmental assessment under state law.  A current series of studies being done by the state with $3.6 million in funding from Enbridge are advisory.

“What Attorney General Schuette or any state official can’t tell us is how the structural integrity of these pipelines in the Straits are holding up against age, strong currents, missing anchors and missing coatings,” said David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee.  “They can’t tell us that because they are not taking the kind of enforcement actions that could produce answers.  They are not prioritizing protecting the Great Lakes over Enbridge’s profits.”

##

Oil & Water Don’t Mix is a campaign supported by 22 organizations and thousands of citizens businesses who want to end the threat of a Great Lakes oil spill by shutting down the flow of oil through Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

The March 27, 2017 letter to Attorney General Schuette, the March 8 letter to OWDM from Schuette and OWDM’s original letter to Schuette are located here:

http://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/owdm_response_to_ag_schuette_michigans_legal_duty

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.

 

 

George Weeks: League of Conservation Voters acts on two fronts

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

By George Weeks

July 13, 2014

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which in recent years has shown growing clout in politics, last week exercised it on two fronts, especially in northern Michigan, where it made two of its only three endorsements in legislative primaries.

The LCV’s annual environmental scorecard gave state legislators a 2013-14 grade of “incomplete,” declaring that so far they have “stalled, roadblocked and rolled back” progress on air, land and water issues.

But LCV said, “A few leaders stand out as advocates” on those issues, including Reps. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, whose 107th district includes Chippewa, Mackinac and Emmet counties, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, in the one-county (Grand Traverse) 104th district.

Foster was praised for sponsoring legislation “that would safeguard our lakes, rivers, and streams from over-extraction and contamination.” Schmidt was praised for introducing legislation that would remove the arbitrary cap on the amount of public land the state can own.

Four downstate lawmakers also were headlined as “Advocates.”

Two lawmakers were classified as “Adversaries,” including Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, criticized for introducing legislation that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from managing public land to promote biodiversity. The other is a downstate lawmaker.

In politics, it’s one thing for interest groups to issue scorecards and press releases. Good PR, especially with like-minded voters. But one reason that the Michigan LCV is a significant player in state politics is that it makes endorsements backed up by contributions -$270,000 in the last election cycle.

On Friday, the league announced its endorsement of Foster over Republican primary challenger Lee Chatfield of Levering, and of term-limited representative Schmidt in the GOP primary for the 37th Senate district that spans both peninsulas. He’s in a lively primary with 105th district Rep. Greg MacMcMaster, who is giving up his solid Republican district to seek the Senate seat that will be vacated by Howard Walker.

“We are in serious need of strong conservation leaders in the state Legislature who will turn protections for Michigan’s land, air and water into political priorities,” said Michigan LCV Deputy Director Jack Schmitt. He called Foster and Schmidt “proven leaders on our priority issues.”In a teleconference where Schmitt announced the endorsement, a downstate reporter noted that Schmidt and MacMaster had almost identical overall records on the House floor on issues consistent with LCV positions.

Beyond the fact of Schmidt’s legislation that’s hailed by the league and opposed by MacMaster, Schmitt said MacMaster advocates “we gut Michigan’s Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund.”

MacMaster Friday defended his positions and said there needs to be more analysis of the implications of “more land purchases by the state.”

Pipeline Warnings

LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak joined leaders of 18 Michigan environmental organizations in sending an 18-page letter to Gov. Rick Snyder urging him to “swiftly address” issues regarding 61-year old underwater Enbridge oil pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac.

A University of Michigan research scientist has said rupture of the lines would be “the worst possible place for a spill on the Great Lakes.

Traverse City attorney Jim Olson, president and founder of For Love of Water (FLOW), said the groups want Snyder “to take lead as chief trustee of our Great Lakes and require Enbridge to submit an application for complete review” of its lines.

The letter said: “These twin 61-year-old pipelines located in the heart of the Great Lakes are one of the greatest threats to our water, our economy, and our Pure Michigan way of life.”

The letter, whose signatories include the high-profile Michigan Environmental Council, said, “The Straits of Mackinac are held by the State in trust for its citizens. The powerful underwater currents and extreme weather conditions at the Straits make them ecologically sensitive and would make cleanup or recovery from a pipeline spill especially difficult.”

The National Wildlife Federation estimates such a spill could release up to 1.5 million gallons of oil in just eight minutes. The 2010 Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek near Marshall released about 800,000 gallons of crude from an underground pipeline — and only now is the cleanup nearing completion.

Snyder would be wise to mobilize his administration in positive response to the letter.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalim Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

 

 

Environmental groups demand Governor and State take immediate action to protect the Great Lakes from hazardous Enbridge Mackinac Straits oil pipeline

July 2, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director

231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

 Michigan Governor Snyder urged to exercise full authority over Enbridge Pipeline No. 5 under public lands easement agreement and Great Lakes Submerged Land Act 

Traverse City – 17 Conservation, water and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians today sent a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder urging greater state action to regulate Enbridge Pipeline No. 5. The 61 year-old pipeline transports nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products under the Straits of Mackinac each day.

The letter points out potential violations in operations and public disclosure requirements established by Public Act 10 of 1953 and the Great Lakes Submerged Land Act. Public Act 10 granted the Michigan Department of Conservation public trust authority to allow this particular easement on public trust bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes provided they are “held in trust.”

The letter cites the lack of disclosure and transparency by Enbridge and the failure of the State of Michigan to enforce accountability and compliance consistent with the requirements of the public trust in the waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes.

“The lack of information leaves too many questions; it makes it impossible to truly assess the risk of a devastating crude oil spill under the Straits of Mackinac, “said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW and a principal author of the report. “For instance, the 1953 easement agreement sets the maximum operating pressure of pipeline No. 5 at 600 psig. Data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), show that Enbridge’s maximum operating pressure significantly exceeds 600 psig, and instead typically runs at nearly twice the allowed pressure at about 1000-1250 psig. We have to get to the bottom of this and other crucial safety questions. ”

 Enbridge had a catastrophic spill on its pipeline near the Kalamazoo River in 2010, causing severe environmental impacts and massive cleanup costs.

“We urge you, the Attorney General, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to fully assert your authority under the easement, Public Act 10 of 1953, the GLSLA, and public trust law to ensure that any use by Enbridge of Line 5 under the Straits does not, and will not likely, subordinate, interfere with, or impair these public trust waters and bottomlands or the public use and enjoyment of these waters  so essential to the quality of life and economy of Michigan,”  the letter states.

The groups praised the Michigan Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality for their joint April 29, 2014 letter to Enbridge. Recognizing that the Straits pipeline present a “unique risk” and an overwhelming magnitude of harm to the Straits, Lake Michigan-Huron, the ecosystem, and the public and private use and enjoyment that depend on them, the Attorney General and DEQ demanded that Enbridge provide critical detailed information about:  pipeline construction, modification, useful life and replacement, (2) existing and potential future uses of the pipelines, (3) pipeline inspection, (4) pipeline leak prevention, detection, and control, (5) contingency planning and spill response, (6) compliance with easement terms, and (7) access to Enbridge records under the easement.

“We appreciate the recognition by the Attorney General and the DEQ of the State’s public trust or stewardship responsibilities to protect these waters, bottomlands, and public uses from potential harm and risk associated with Line 5,” said Jim Olson, founder of FLOW, a Great Lakes water policy center. “But even if Enbridge complies with the requests of the Attorney General and DEQ in this letter, it will not have fully complied with the terms of the easement, Public Act 10, the GLSLA, or public trust law that protects the integrity of the Straits and Great Lakes.”

In the April 29 letter, the Attorney General and the DEQ state, “Strong currents in the Straits could rapidly spread any oil leaked from the pipelines into both Lakes Huron and Michigan, causing grave environmental and economic harm. Efforts to contain and clean up leaks in this area would be extraordinarily difficult, especially if they occurred in winter or other severe weather conditions that commonly occur at the Straits.” These currents could rapidly move this oil spill plume throughout Lake Michigan-Huron.

“The Great Lakes supply drinking water to 42 million people,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We can’t afford another potential Enbridge oil pipeline spill like what happened in the Kalamazoo River.   Let’s work to try to prevent another costly disaster. All of the Great Lakes states have a vital stake in avoiding oil spill hazards in the Straits of Mackinac.”

The letter urges the Governor, Attorney General and DEQ to fully exercise authority under the easement, Public Act 10 of 1953, the GLSLA, and public trust law to ensure that any use by Enbridge of Line 5 under the Straits: “does not, and will not likely, subordinate, interfere with, or impair these public trust waters and bottomlands or the public use and enjoyment of these waters – so essential to the quality of life and economy of Michigan.”

The letter enumerates four necessary next steps:

  1. Submit the information the AG and DEQ requested in their April 29 letter and make such information available to the public;
  2. Disclose in detail all oil and other liquids or substances that have been, are, or will be transported through Line 5 pipelines under the Straits;
  3. File a conveyance application for authorization from the DEQ under the GLSLA and public trust law, coupled with a comprehensive analysis of likely impacts on water, ecosystem, and public uses in the event of a release, and demonstrate that Line 5 will conform with the State’s perpetual public trust duties and standards for occupying and using the waters and bottomlands of the Straits and Lake Michigan-Huron; and
  4. Achieve full compliance with all express terms and conditions of the easement.

Enbridge recently increased Line 5 pipeline product flow under the Straits by 10 percent from 490,000 to 540,000 barrels per day, or 2.1 million gallons per day. Enbridge increased Line 5’s pipeline pressure by 20 percent, depending on the viscosity of the product being pumped and transported.  Enbridge has increased the transport of oil in this aging 61-year-old pipeline containing heavy oil characteristics or compounds from tar sands.

“The effects of a catastrophic spill under the Straits would devastate the tourism industry so vital to the economy of northern Michigan,“ said James Clift, Policy Director of Lansing-based Michigan Environmental. The effects of a catastrophic spill under the Straits would devastate the Straits and Mackinac Island as an international attraction, the tourism industry so vital to the economy of Michigan.”

The State of Michigan has not yet conducted a proper public trust analysis under common law, the GLSLA, Constitution or Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”). Mandatory evaluation is required under the law to determine whether or not the occupancy and use by Enbridge of Line 5 is “likely to pollute, impair or destroy the air, water or other natural resources or the public trust in these resources,” according  to Kirkwood.  In other words,  Enbridge must affirmatively prove that this five-mile submerged pipeline,  with its recent oil and product changes and increased volume and pressure will not likely harm public trust waters, the ecosystem, and uses for fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking supplies that depend on these waters.

“Michigan residents need to get active and make it known they demand accountability,” said Jim Lively, Michigan Land Use Institute.

Environmental and conservation advocates have long been frustrated by the lack of information available about Line 5. The letter points out that the public trust requires complete transparency, disclosure, and accountability on the part of Enbridge. The State of Michigan has unfettered authority to demand such transparency, disclosure, and accountability.

The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

A copy of the full letter is available here.

# # #

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.


FLOW Takes Lead Authoring Line 5 Letter to Governor: Elevating the Public Trust Duty to Protect the Great Lakes

On July 1, 2014, FLOW, along with sixteen other conservation, water, and environmental groups and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians submitted a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, urging him to address Enbridge’s 61 year-old Line 5 oil pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan-Huron. The letter addressed Enbridge’s lack of transparency and disclosure regarding its current use of Line 5, as well as the Company’s compliance record with the terms and conditions of the 1953 easement and agreements it made under Act 10, P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), and public trust law.

State’s Perpetual Public Trust Duty to Protect Great Lakes

As the State’s primary trustee of the Great Lakes public trust waters and bottomlands, Governor Snyder has the solemn perpetual duty to ensure that the actions of both public and private parties are not likely to harm this shared resource. This means that the State must ensure uninterrupted use for fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking supplies for future generations.

Letter’s Requests to the Governor

The signatories have asked that the Governor exercise his broad legal authority to demand that Enbridge:

  1. Submit the information the Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality requested in their joint April 29 letter and make such information available to the public.
  2. Submit detailed information regarding the product contents, use, and safety of Pipe Line 5.
  3. File a conveyance application under the GLSLA.
  4. Achieve full compliance with all express terms and conditions of the easement.

Enbridge’s Track Record

Since 1999, Enbridge has been responsible for over 800 oil spills, leaking a total of 6.8 million gallons of oil into the environment. Michiganders will remember Enbridge’s catastrophic Line 6B pipeline spill along a 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River, discharging some one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil and resulting in a $1 billion cleanup cost. Enbridge’s Lack of Disclosure Raises Questions About Compliance with 1953 Easement Based on Enbridge’s track record and the ecologically sensitive location of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, the signatories urged the State to take swift and meaningful action to ensure full compliance with the terms of the easement and the long-term protection of the Great Lakes. A review of the 1953 easement revealed a lack of transparency, disclosure, and compliance with the following expressed terms and conditions:

  1. Maximum Operating Pressure (MOP): The MOP of the pipeline is 600 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). Recent data raises questions as to whether or not Enbridge is adhering to this pressure requirement.
  2. Complete Records of Oil: Under the terms of the easement, The State of Michigan has express authority to require Enbridge to disclose and make available complete records of oil and all other substances being transported in the Line 5 pipelines.
  3. Maximum Span of Unsupported Pipeline: The records are incomplete as to whether or not Enbridge has complied with the 75 foot maximum span of unsupported pipeline requirement. Enbridge’s recent “maintenance” DEQ permit requests to place anchoring supports on the bottomlands of the lakes raises questions about full compliance with this easement term.
  4. Maximum Curvature Requirement: Enbridge should disclose current data showing that no section of Line 5 violates the maximum curvature requirement of a 2050 foot radius, as specified in section A(4) of the the 1953 easement.
  5. Adequacy of Liability Insurance Provision: The term of the easement requires that Enbridge maintain at least $1 million in insurance coverage. However, the $1 billion cost associated with the breach of Line 6B along the Kalamazoo River raises serious questions regarding the sufficiency of the protection offered by the 1953 easement.

The absence of such information – all of which is mandatory though Public Act 10 of 1953, the 1953 easement, the GLSLA, and the public trust doctrine – makes it impossible to truly assess the risks and ramifications of a devastating crude oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes. Moreover, as trustee of the Great Lakes, the State of Michigan and its agencies have unfettered authority under the GLSLA and public trust law to demand that Enbridge provide such transparency, discloser, accountability, and compliance.

Next Steps

Line 5 is a Michigan and Great Lakes public trust issue, not a partisan one. The time to act is now given the age of the pipeline and Enbridge’s recent efforts to increase Line 5’s capacity and a change in product to synthetic crudes. Public trust authority empowers the state to require Enbridge to disclose all relevant information on Line 5 and provide much needed transparency and accountability. This, in turn, will  ensure our common waters are protected for current and future generations.

Given the gravity of this situation, all signatories of the letter have asked to meet with Governor Snyder to discuss the aforementioned desired actions at his earliest convenience. Below is the list of groups that have signed-on to this letter.

  • Michigan Environmental Council (MEC)
  • For Love of Water (FLOW)
  • Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC)
  • Michigan Land Use Institute
  • League of Conservation Voters (LCV)
  • Freshwater Future
  • Northwest Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC)
  • Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet Counties
  • Article 32.org
  • Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC)
  • Michigan Resource Stewards
  • SURF Great Lakes.org
  • Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment (SACCPJE)
  • TC350.org
  • The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC)
  • Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
  • Straits Area Audubon Society

Click here to read the letter to Governor Snyder

Click here to read the Press Release

News Articles

AP News Article 

ABC12 News Article

Detroit News Article 

Toledo News Now Article 

The State News Article

WGVU News Article

The Water-Energy Nexus: FLOW at the MI Governor’s Energy Policy Listening Session

As part of Earth Day today, I had the opportunity to submit FLOW’s memorandum to the Michigan Public Service Commission at the Governor’s “listening session” on future energy policy in Michigan. At FLOW we believe that by looking at the entire hydrological cycle as a basis for addressing systemic threats like climate change–the single largest human induced diversion from the Great Lakes–water and energy policy and actions are inseparable. More importantly, if energy policy is elevated to an obligation to protect the integrity of water, something the commons and public trust in water may well require, then our energy policy can better promote jobs and economic stability and growth and protect water and the environment. FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood also spoke at the forum to address the need to connect water to climate change, energy, and wasteful or inefficient and inequitable water consumption practices related to energy and food production, and other consumptive uses. You can read FLOW’s memorandum on the Energy and Water Nexus, along with the rest of our reports, on our policy center page. The text of our comments are below:

Click here to read FLOW President Jim Olson’s comments as a PDF
 
Click here to read FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood’s comments as a PDF
 

Statement by James M. Olson, Chair, FLOW
A Water and Energy “Nexus” Policy For Michigan

The “energy listening” sessions ordered by Governor Snyder to help Michigan fashion an energy policy are welcomed. However, at a time of a climate change crisis fired by coal and other greenhouse gases with severe and worsening impacts and costs, including increasing extreme low water levels, there is a disconnect between energy and Michigan’s most valuable common treasure – water and the great lakes. No energy policy in Michigan should omit the protection of the integrity of our water – both quality and quantity- as one of if not its central core principles.

There is a rapidly increasing demand for water world wide and strong probability that global demand will outstrip supply in just 30 years. If anything drives the point home for a 21st century policy that centers on a “nexus” between water and energy, it is the staggering cost to life, property and communities from storms like those experienced in the northeastern United States this past year. Add to this the lowest water reported water levels in the Great Lakes, and devastating future climate change entails for all of us and our children in this century, and it becomes quite evident that water and energy are inseparable. It is imperative that water is declared the core of our energy policy. If we honor and respect the integrity of water and our Great Lakes, we will find and follow a sound energy policy.

Because of the need to address water and energy together (as a “nexus),” Michigan must move forward with a multi-disciplined framework that requires application of “integrated resource planning” principles for evaluating energy policy and options. The same should be true for water policy. This would require a goal and planning effort that seeks the least costly energy services and goods with a full evaluation of all costs to water, the ecosystem, and our communities. Without “full cost” and integrated resource planning, Michigan’s energy policy and use will lead the state into an impoverishing downward spiral — economically, environmentally, and culturally. “Pure Michigan” and a sound sustainable economy and jobs mean pure air and pure water both in quality and quantity.

Therefore, it is my opinion, and I urge the governor, his advisors and staff, and the legislature to consider and adopt an energy policy that conforms to the integrity of water, the gravity of climate change, and a dynamic open mindedness that applies full cost evaluation and integrated resource policy. If we fail to do this, Michigan will fall into decline while other parts of North America and the world begin to prosper.

Three points:

  1. Michigan sits in the middle of the most valuable water/ecosystem in the world. It is held in public trust so that it is protected from impairment and loss. The Great Lakes Compact and Water Quality Agreement of 2012 underscore this principle and enact a policy that these waters are held in trust and should not be diverted or loss by consumptive uses, and this requires a response to keep greenhouse gases in check.
  2. In one week, thermal electric power plants use (a net loss to great lakes) as much water as the Chicago Diversion. Energy costs are rising, water levels are falling, water is more essential than coal-fired or other fossil fueled power, including the extraction of equally water intensive fuels like fracturing deep shale for natural gas – deep shale fracturing will displace or remove approximately 21 million gallons in 21 days for just one gas well. Multiply this times the 1,000 wells we will see if this is not carefully considered and regulated, and it will result in a permanent loss of 21 billion gallons of water from fragile headwater areas.
  3. The only sound and secure goal for Michigan is to move quickly toward a renewable and efficient energy world. This will diversify, increase, and lower cost of energy supplies, reduce costly infrastructure, reduce toxic air and water impacts, and temper the effects of climate change, including our plummeting water levels. Equally important, it will set Michigan on a course to lead the nation and help the next generation create positive profitable investments, cheaper more appropriate power, new industries and jobs – batteries, solar, wind, and conservation. Michigan must enact a “greenhouse trust fund” for any so-called “bridge fuels” like natural gas so that the justification of such a water-intensive environmentally risky method of extraction will be assured by a conversion to a renewable energy economy.

Michigan and Michiganders are nothing without water. Any approach to energy without integrity of water as its core principle and without an immediate shift to renewable energy and efficiency will put Michigan in an economic and environmentally disastrous downward spiral. We owe to ourselves and children and grand children to put water and Community first. It is a matter of water and public trust. It is a matter of survival.
 
 

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood’s Comments on the Water-Energy Nexus

My name is Liz Kirkwood and I’m the Executive Director of FLOW (“For Love Of Water”), which is a water policy and educational institute dedicated to understanding the threats and solutions to water in the Great Lakes by focusing on the nexus between water, energy, food, and climate change.

I want to thank Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John D. Quackenbush and Michigan Energy Office Director Steve Bakkal for the opportunity to speech and address overall question 1: What information do energy policy makers need to consider in order to make good energy decisions?

Michigan faces a watershed moment and opportunity to chart a new cleaner energy course that is good for jobs, good for the environment, good for energy affordability, and good for the water.

To chart this new course, we first must recognize that our energy choices profoundly affect our water and cause serious climate change impacts.

Water and energy are inextricably linked. Water is used and lost in energy-resource extraction, refining and processing, transportation, and electric-power generation. And yet, because water is such a cheap commodity, it is rarely calculated and balanced in our energy decisions. Let’s change this so that the water-energy nexus become an integral part of charting Michigan’s energy future plans.

By 2035, the amount of water consumed for current energy production is projected to double. During this same time, there will be increasing water scarcity from pollution, waste, drought and human-induced climate change and impacts.

Given the clear interrelationship between energy, food, and water, we can no longer “silo” these sectors; rather we must improve decision-making with greater integration and collaboration between water resource management and energy production.

This calls for a new vision that recognizes the nexus between water, energy, food, and climate change. To make this shift, we must view water in a different light where water becomes the starting point for everything we do. Without water the health of our people, economy and ecosystem are diminished.

The recent U.S. natural gas industry shale boom has reignited attention on the water-energy-climate change nexus. The big issue with hydraulic fracking is the water, both in terms of sheer quantity (e.g., 300 million gallons to frack 13 wells in Kalkaska County) and safe disposal of chemical-laden and often toxic waste water that will never return to our hydrologic cycle. Before Michigan embraces natural gas as a “bridge” fuel, we must conduct a generic analysis of cumulative impacts on water, environment, and health that properly weighs the unprecedented risks that fracking poses to our precious water resources.

Additionally, Michigan’s coal-fired power plants are the state’s largest single source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, which are detrimentally contributing to climate change by increasing lake evaporation and causing our extreme low water levels in Lake Michigan-Huron.

In fact, we hit record low water levels in January of this year – 26 inches below average – according to data collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1918. The water levels issue is at the heart of the Great Lakes’ and Michigan’s economy, energy and water needs, social fabric, quality of life, and environment. In March of this year, our Governor signed legislation providing $21 million in taxpayer emergency funds to dredge state harbors that are in danger of becoming impassable because of low water levels.

We cannot sit idle anymore; rather we must adapt our current fossil-fuel economy to one with low-carbon and low-water footprint. Water in effect must become the center of everything we do, such that shifting to renewables becomes the obvious energy choice and addresses the root causes of receding water levels so that we do not jeopardize our current and future way of life.

Michigan is already witnessing renewable energy sources like wind becoming more cost effective and affordable to our businesses and citizens than polluting traditional sources like coal and oil. Wind is at 4.5 cents/KWH as opposed to traditional blended energy sources at 7.6 cents/KWH. The benefits of renewable energy are clear: affordable, clean, stable rates, Michigan job generator, minimal water use, and protective of human health and the environment.

In addition, Michigan should promote energy efficiency and energy conservation in all sectors because it is the cheapest, cleanest, and most quickly deployed source of energy.

To chart this new course, Michigan must embrace its innovative manufacturing traditions and promote renewable energy sources to reduce pressure on water resources and limit adverse climate change impacts. We think Michigan can and should become a leader in renewable energy, and at a minimum compete with the neighboring states that currently generate 20%+ of renewable power with excellent reliability.

We urge the State of Michigan to think wisely about its future energy choices, pay for water consumed, and ensure that the long-term energy decisions are good for our water too. Once we chart this path, then we can proudly say we are living up to our motto: “Pure Michigan.”