Tag: Governor Snyder

Saving the Straits of Mackinac

Saving the Straits of Mackinac

Yesterday, May 22, 2018, marks the day our stat’s citizens threatened with the terrible harm of an oil spill from a failed Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac took matters into their own hands. The Straits of Mackinac Alliance (SMA) filed a contested-case petition with the Administrative Law Tribunal of Michigan. The tribunal hears cases, like a trial court, when citizens oppose state permits that violate the law. The SMA has filed a petition that would require the Department of Environmental Quality and Attorney General Bill Schuette to start applying state law that is supposed to protect the Great Lakes, and stop the flow of oil through Enbridge Line 5 in the Straits. The filing of this contested case is a major shift in this prolonged affair, a shift that will finally bring state officials and Enbridge under the rule of law. This essay explains why. But first, a brief history of what has happened to force citizens to take charge because leaders have failed to act is in order.

A Brief History

In September 2015, Michigan Attorney General Schuette staged a flurry of media events to proclaim that days of crude oil transport in the twin pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac “were numbered.” His exclamation came on the heels of the release of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force’s report that concluded a spill in the Straits was unacceptable to anyone, that the State had jurisdiction over the siting and existence of the pipeline under a 1953 easement and the public trust in the Great Lakes that is embodied in a state law known as the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act–the GLSLA. Enbridge was forewarned. The State was going to take charge, right?

Wrong. Within a few days, the media messaging from the Governor’s office was (to paraphrase): “Sure it’s days are numbered, but that number could be a long time.” Shortly after that, the Governor appointed the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Advisory Board– a well-intended study commission with absolutely no power to do anything that would bind Enbridge or the State. The Advisory Board has met for almost three years now. Before the Board could agree on any suggested course of action for the State to address Line 5, in late 2017 Governor Snyder bypassed his own advisory board and unilaterally signed an agreement with Enbridge that establishes a framework for the long-term flow of crude oil across the Straits of Mackinac. The agreement gave Enbridge permission to replace the segment of Line 5 under the St. Clair River and to replace Line 5 on the bottom of the Straits with a tunnel or trenched pipeline to escape the strike of ship anchors. If not contested under rule of law that protects the public trust in the lakebeds and waters of the Great Lakes, the investment in replacement could all but seal the replacement of the 645-mile long Line 5. The agreement rubber-stamps Enbridge’s efforts to spend billions to entrench its own massive Keystone XL pipeline right here in the Great Lakes. Michigan has become the host state for the transport of Canadian tar sands oil to Canada and foreign ports, including that charming land of royal weddings– Great Britain. Why does the governor and not the law of the Great Lakes and the citizens of Michigan through our elected officials or under rule of law decide the fate of crude oil in and out of the Great Lakes basin?

But this is only half of the story. While the advisory board continued to hold meeting after meeting for the public to vent its frustration, the DEQ and Attorney General unwittingly if not unlawfully cooperated with Enbridge to keep the oil flowing through pipelines in the Straits, pipelines whose design is failing. Enbridge submitted information that showed loss of protective cover. Then the company disclosed the Kiefner Report, a 2016 survey of the twin pipelines that referred to a 2003 report that warned of scouring under the lines, leaving spans as long as 282 feet suspended in the water column above the lakebed and exposing the lines to powerful currents that could whip them back and forth like a coat hanger. The Kiefner report also disclosed a series of emergency measures to address the failure of the original design that was supposed to lay, tucked into the bottomlands under the Straits. In 2001, the company tried to stabilize the twin lines with grout bags. When these failed, the for the company fastened 16 saddles to the pipelines, supporting the saddles and lines by leg supports crewed into the lakebed. This was just the beginning. Scouring has plagued the integrity of these pipelines so much, that from 2001 to 2018, Enbridge has installed 150 supports– almost two miles of pipelines are suspended in the water like a bridge over the lakebed.

A New or Changed in Design

The installation of these anchor supports has completely changed the design of the pipelines in the Straits. And this has been done with the knowledge and help of the DEQ and Attorney General Schuette. Here’s how. Since 2014, Enbridge has filed several applications for permits under the GLSLA to install these anchor supports as “repairs” or “maintenance” measures.  Enbridge received its most recent “repair” permit on March 25, 2018 for the 22 supports mentioned above. In April Enbridge filed yet another application for 48 more supports to the pipelines— if approved, nearly 3 miles of pipeline originally designed in 1953 to lay on the lakebed will be suspended in the water!

How did Enbridge change miles of its original design as “repairs” or “maintenance?” The DEQ and Attorney General have dropped the ball. It’s called complicity. In 2017, citizens in the Straits, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa tribe, and For Love of Water (FLOW) filed extensive reports that demonstrated this substantial change in design carried serious and imminent risks. Evidence showed that currents or other natural forces pulled the anchors out of the lakebed, scraped off pipeline coating to bare metal, exposing the lines to corrosion. Equally disturbing, these reports demonstrated that the massive change in design of the pipelines has never been approved or authorized by the DEQ as required by law. Despite these proofs and clear legal requirements, the DEQ and Attorney General staff stonewalled the tribe’s and citizens groups’ patently obvious charge that miles of suspended pipelines were a new or substantial change in design, not “repair” or “maintenance,” subject to required comprehensive review under the GLSLA and public trust in the lakebed and waters of the Straits.

This spring, an anchor from a vessel struck a pipeline enclosing an electric line across the Straits that released contaminants. It turns out inspections have shown that the anchor struck the Enbridge pipelines, denting them by a half-inch. In addition to strong currents, the greatest risk identified by experts to the pipelines in the Straits is an anchor strike. Fortunately, the anchor struck near but not along segments of pipelines suspended above the lakebed.  If it had, the result could have been catastrophic. There’s nothing like a “repair” that changes the design of these pipelines in a way that will snag anchors dragging over them from a passing ship.

So what does the GLSLA say about these permits for “repair” or “maintenance?”  Nothing. The GLSLA law and regulations do not provide for these kind of under-the-radar permits. The DEQ and Attorney General have interpreted the law to favor Enbridge. In legal fact, the GLSLA requires that a new, altered or changed structure or improvement like the addition of miles of suspended pipeline in the waters of the Great Lakes must obtain a new agreement for occupancy and permit for the new pipeline design and structures. The GLSLA requires Enbridge to file a comprehensive study of all potential adverse impacts that could arise from such a change in design of the pipelines. The law and regulations also require Enbridge to prove there are no other feasible and prudent alternatives to Line 5 in the Straits– including the obvious adjustments to the capacity in Line 6b (now 78) across southern Michigan to Sarnia. The design capacity of Line 6b was doubled after the Kalamazoo River spill, and can handle crude oil flowing through Line 5 in the Straits.

Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

In short, DEQ and Attorney General have sided with Enbridge in allowing the continued flow of oil in pipelines that have been substantially redesigned without authorization or approval under the GLSLA. Officials claim the supports are better than doing nothing, that some of them are required by a consent decree, that it’s a matter of safety for the pipelines. This misses the point. If there is no authorization under GLSLA for the new or modified design, and if it hasn’t been evaluated or permitted as required by the law, then why does it matter that oil should continue to flow through Enbridge’s pipelines? It doesn’t. If there is no authority, the new design has not been evaluated, the new design and existing line are failing, and risks are imminent, it is unlawful. For three years, government officials could have taken charge.

But they haven’t. All our leaders have to do is invoke the GLSLA law and rules, demand Enbridge obtain authorization and permits for the new design as a whole, and demonstrate no potential adverse effects, and no alternative. Until Enbridge does this, the GLSLA authorizes emergency measures or conditions– at this point quite obvious– to suspend the flow of oil in these dangerous lines until the company has the authority required by law. If the company cannot establish this according to the rule of law under the GLSLA, then the authorization and permits for this new or substantially changed design should be denied. Enbridge can use its thousands of miles connecting to other pipelines in North America. But there is no alternative if there is a spill or release in the Straits of Mackinac.

Jim Olson, President and Founder

I applaud the Straits of Mackinac Alliance and citizens and the Grand Traverse Band for filing a contested case. In my view, they are on solid ground. Finally, someone has decided to do the job that our government leaders should have done. I applaud my own organization for charting a course that brings Enbridge Line 5 under the rule of law, not a bureaucratic invention. I urge our Governor, Director of DEQ, and Attorney General to join the side of citizens and tribes and invoke the available rule of law under the GLSLA to protect the Great Lakes.


Our Public Water, Infrastructure and Health:  Here Come the Profiteers!

Our public water systems are in crisis.

Every person and business in every city and town in the U.S. will face increasing competition for water, more and more repairs, improvements, and replacement of crumbling infrastructure or preventing illness or pollution. They will also face the wild card of increased frequency and intensity of rainfall and flooding, like Houston and Puerto Rico, or at the opposite extreme drought, high temperatures and winds like those that fueled have fueled the fires and destruction across California this past year. There’s simply no way out, and the stakes, threats, and costs are rising faster than the waters along our coastlines from melting glaciers on Greenland. For years, professionals, towns and cities, policy and science organizations, neighborhoods, citizens, and businesses have pleaded for a new federal plan to redesign, rebuild, and improve America’s public water infrastructure, one that continues to provide safe, clean, affordable water for all in this Country.  Except for a few wealthier states and areas of the country, the federal and state governments have not been able to agree on laws that will address this now close to insurmountable crisis.

On February 12, 2018, President Trump unveiled his water infrastructure plan to make “America great again.” The Trump plan pegs the cost of rebuilding the country’s water infrastructure at $600 billion. To pay for this, he wants to reduce the federal government’s share from 75 to 80 percent level to 20 percent; this will quadruple the state and local share from 20 percent up to 80 percent. This means state and local governments will have to compete for a share of the $120 billion a loan application process that appears to reward those states and cities who demonstrate innovative funding partnerships with private investors. 

The plan would leave it to each state and local government to figure out how to pay for their remaining 75 to 80 percent share of the costs of a project. Without the larger federal grant or even loan share, states and local governments will have to find ways to finance the $600 billion for water infrastructure. Historically, this has meant tax-based bonds or revenue bonds tied to increased fees by users.  Most users are already maxed out with what they can afford. Stagnant cities and rural areas struggling for population will become prey to private investors who promise to fix the system in exchange for a purchase or long-term lease of infrastructure.  In short, President Trump’s plan will convert our public water infrastructure systems into private water infrastructure systems. His vision to make America “great again” is to encourage and speed up the private ownership and control of our public water commons, so fundamental and essential to the health, well-being, and liberty of every American.

Two weeks earlier, Michigan’s Governor Snyder announced his roll out of a water infrastructure plan for rebuilding the pipes, and pumps, and facilities for water supplies, delivery, and treatment of wastes. Governor Snyder puts the tab at $13 billion. But he proposes only $110 million annually from the state, paid for out of a fee to all users of water systems in Michigan. According to the Governor’s 21st Century Infrastructure Council, the real cost to upgrade and fix Michigan’s pipes and systems is closer to $1 billion a year. The plan does not explain where the additional 90 percent will come from, but the answer is obvious: local governments. So not only will there be a state user fee, local governments will be forced to seek revenue bonds to make up the difference, all of which will come out of the fees of their users. In effect, costs will rise even more steeply, and small towns and our cities will not be able to afford the plan. Instead, there will be increased risks of safety, pollution, disease and health threats, and continuing rises in patches and repairs, that will at some point in time result in another Flint or Detroit with illness, health risks, and water shutoffs because people will not be able to pay what will be disproportionately high-water fees. 

The combined effect of the Trump and Snyder plans is to remove obstacles and encourage private funding and investment and markets to rebuild, control, and operate public water and infrastructure. Private firms are already vying to rebuild the federal highway system in exchange for private control and profit. Privatizing prisons has been a disaster. Governor Snyder recently ended a privatization of food service in schools. The track record of privatized municipal water systems has been somewhere between checkered and a failure. The most tragic was the transfer of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s water system to Bechtel through strings imposed on the financing by the World Bank. When Bechtel took over and placed meters on peasants’ wells, a massive protest forced Bechtel to leave the country. 

Here in the U.S. on a less dramatic but equally compelling scale, privatization has not worked. Promised upgrades are not made or fall short, leaks and failures continue, and the price of water for residents and businesses rise. In 2012, Pittsburg entered into an agreement that promised the French water giant Veolia one-half the money saved by conservation measures as an incentive to fix the system. Water prices soared, some inflated by as much as 600 percent, and thousands of billing errors resulted in turmoil with little access to correct them except protest. Worse lead in pipes and water increased, and by 2016 Pittsburg terminated Veolia’s contract and sued for abuse and breach of trust, gross mismanagement, and maximizing profits over the interests of the city and its citizens. From Bayonne, New Jersey, to Atlanta, Georgia, Missoula, Montana, the story has been the same. In Missoula, after great promises and public support of the city’s sale of its water system to Carlyle Group, the City had to file a condemnation lawsuit to get its water system back before the corporation unloaded its water infrastructure asset for a cool $327 million. The court ruled in favor of the city, transferring the water system back into public hands and oversight.

There is a bitter irony in all of this: Water is public, held by each state as sovereign in public trust to assure health and access to safe water for each person. While a homeowner, farmer, or business does not own the water, each has a right shared in common with others to reasonable use of water from a stream or lake bordering or the groundwater moving beneath the land. In order to protect public health and pay for these new water utilities and their infrastructure, state law prohibits homeowners or occupants from using or installing private water wells or septic systems in areas served by public systems. People will pay even higher and higher costs for the public water they are already entitled to use under our laws and federal and state constitution.

But there’s another twist to this irony. Governor Snyder’s plan for Michigan sets aside the first $110 million to inspect and put a value on our water infrastructure as “assets.” Assets generally refer to property on a balance sheet. If our water is public.  If our water is public and sovereign, and our water infrastructure is public and sovereign, backed by users and taxpayers under full faith and credit of our state, how can it be treated by Governor Snyder merely as an “asset?” One clue is the push to create what are called 3Ps—Public Private Partnerships—which denote any combination of ways to provide for private investment and profits or a rate of return from water systems’ customers.  In order to attract investors and maximize value and gains, water infrastructure must be inventoried and appraised as an “asset.” When the words “3Ps” pop up, proceed with caution.

Water and our public infrastructure has always been public. Citizens, businesses, cities and towns should take a serious pause before jumping on the privatization train.  It is not all gravy, if at all.  The link between our public water and public infrastructure to our health, life, and enjoyment of our homes and communities is to close, too tied to public accountability and transparency, for us to hand over to innocuous acronyms like 3Ps, a nicely spun phrase intended to turn your tap over to private profiteers.

Jim Olson, President and Founder

No matter how we as states and local governments or neighbors solve our public water crisis, one thing is constant: We must vigilantly protect and maintain our water and infrastructure public. There are some things that are common and public by nature, which leads to a question:  President Trump and Governor Snyder, where are the interests of the “people” and “public” and “public sovereign water” in your water infrastructure plans?


Tilting at Tunnels and a Brighter Tomorrow

As a native Michigander and optimist, I’ve always welcomed the first day of winter as a harbinger of longer, hopefully sunnier days just over the horizon. But I was recently reminded by a friend that, of course, the winter solstice that occurred Thursday at 11:28 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, actually marks the shortest day and longest night in the Northern Hemisphere.

So depending on the tilt of your perspective, the solstice is cause for deepening dread, a condition aptly summed up as “SAD,” or relative hope: There’s scientific evidence to suggest that without the tilt of the earth’s axis, we might not be here at all.

As we at FLOW take stock of our shared efforts in 2017 to prioritize and protect the Great Lakes and look ahead to challenges and opportunities to come in the new year, consider this dichotomy related to the battle to shut down the decaying Line 5 oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits that suggest from my viewpoint that Great Lakes protectors are growing stronger and there indeed are brighter days ahead.

First the Dark: In October, Enbridge admitted misleading both Michigan and federal officials on the condition of its Line 5 oil pipelines for over three years, concealing the existence of at least 48 bare metal spots and/or coating gaps near anchor locations in the straits.

Then in late November, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder bypassed his own advisory board and announced his sweetheart, backroom deal with Enbridge to tilt the search for alternatives to a looming Great Lakes oil spill disaster toward a tunnel under the Mackinac Straits. Gov. Snyder, however, inadvertently lit a spark under those who recognize that the drinking water supply for half of all Michiganders is no place for oil pipelines.

Then the Firelight: FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood correctly called it a “reward for failure” for bumbling Enbridge. The governor’s spurned advisory board found its voice in early December and passed resolutions, in part, calling for an amendment to the deal to require the temporary shutdown of Line 5 until there has been the full inspection of and repair of the coating breaches and urging the state to conduct a much more robust assessment of alternatives to Line 5.

Apparently preferring a rubber-stamp board, Gov. Snyder was quick to dismiss his advisors, saying, “I’m not sure I view that as a regular meeting in terms of that resolution.” But the public was buoyed by the board’s backbone, with hundreds of outraged residents turning out and piping up in public meetings in Taylor, St. Ignace, and Traverse City to object to the governor’s deal and support a shutdown.

Meanwhile, members of the growing Great Lakes Business Network sharpened their questioning of why the state would allow – even promote – a Canadian pipeline company’s business model that rakes in profit by threatening to torpedo the Pure Michigan economy. And the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign co-led by FLOW, tribes, and several other stewardship groups scheduled a Shut Down Line 5! Snyder/Schuette Accountability Rally for noon Thursday, with dozens of people expected to carry the torch for shutting down Line 5 on what would otherwise be the darkest day and give a final push for public comment that ends Friday on the state’s flawed alternatives analysis.

More Illumination in 2018: Stay tuned in early 2018 when the campaign will release its detailed plan to decommission Line 5 while ensuring propane still flows to the Upper Peninsula and Michigan’s other energy needs are met. FLOW’s technical advisors have done some of that decommissioning groundwork, as summarized in fact sheets here and here.

In addition, Michigan Technilogical University will lead a Line 5 risk study in 2018. The Snyder-Enbridge deal calls for completion of the Line 5 review process by August 15, when the state is expected to make a final decision to replace the pipelines or shut them down.

Shining Brighter Together: For FLOW, the broader context is that the Great Lakes belong to all of us, so all of us who love and benefit from these magnificent waters must share in the vital task of helping protect them.

That’s why we work so hard to educate the public and ensure these freshwater inland seas remain and become even more drinkable, fishable, and swimmable for generations to come. Together we must understand the risks facing our Great Lakes and very way of life so that we can pursue real solutions rooted in the public trust. And one very real solution is for the state of Michigan to shut down Line 5.  

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Kelly Thayer, FLOW Contributor


Public Comment to Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board

Line 5 Pipeline

Good evening, and thank you for the opportunity to comment on what is unfortunately
a deeply flawed final Line 5 alternatives study. The people of Michigan are ill-served
by this study. It cannot serve as a basis for an informed and intelligent decision about
the fate of this profound threat to the Great Lakes.

Members of the Advisory Board who represent citizens, businesses, tribes, and
conservation agree that this final report is flawed and demanded this past Monday by
resolution a more robust and comprehensive study on existing pipeline infrastructure
and Michigan’s (not Enbridge’s) energy needs.

Here are only a few of our major concerns with this final report:

  • 1: Assumes that the state must guarantee that Enbridge is able to deliver 23
    million gallons of oil daily through Line 5. The legal agreement to occupy our
    public waters is not a covenant to keep oil pipelines operating indefinitely and at full
    capacity. This bias results in the tunnel option appearing as a favored report
    alternative.
  • 2: Dismisses the most credible alternative of existing pipeline infrastructure. As
    documented in FLOW’s 2015 expert report, existing pipeline infrastructure, including
    Enbridge’s newly doubled capacity in Line 6B, is a practical alternative for
    Michigan’s energy needs. The report acknowledges that excess pipeline capacity
    exists on Enbridge Line 6B (renamed 78) now and that the Mid-Valley Pipeline could
    supply much of the remaining needs of the Detroit and Toledo refineries. (5-2; 4-18).
  • 3: Operates from a bias in favoring a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac. A tunnel
    will not eliminate the risk to the public trust waters of the Great Lakes. Line 5
    traverses 245 other water crossings, including ones that are tributaries of Lakes
    Michigan, Superior, and Huron. A tunnel is no gift to Michiganders. It threatens
    economic and ecological disruption to the region and contravenes Michigan’s policy
    ban against directional drilling for oil and gas in the Great Lakes; And fundamentally,
    why would Michigan want a Canadian company’s tunnel located under the planet’s
    largest fresh system water systems and potentially usher in heavy tar sands transport
    back to Canada? This makes no sense.
  • 4: Continues to underestimates the economic damage of a Line 5 spill at a $100-200 million. This number defies logic in light of Enbridge’s 2010 $1.2 billion Kalamazoo disaster and the potential catastrophic harm for affected shoreline communities, tourism revenue, drinking water, fisheries, etc.

So where does this leave us? Though this report fails on many levels, it does substantiate the fact that Line 5 can be decommissioned with little disruption and minimal increased costs to Michigan consumers and businesses.

The report affirms that there are feasible and prudent alternatives readily available that both meet Michigan’s energy needs currently served by Line 5 and completely eliminate the risk to the Great Lakes.

The time for studies has ended. It is time for action as the PSAB Resolution affirmed on Monday. That action should start with shutting down Line 5 immediately and ultimately end with state’s revocation of the easement and the decommissioning of Line 5.

The Great Lakes are held in trust by the State of Michigan as public trustee for the benefit of its citizens. The 1953 easement with Enbridge was issued fully subject to the public trust- and the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. The public is the ultimate decision-maker.

Governor Snyder tried to circumvent them through private agreement with Enbridge. Michigan citizens deserve better.

Thank you.
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director


Failed Leadership and Line 5


Our State’s leadership in the handling of Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac has gone from bad to worse. In light of disclosures by Enbridge of a failed pipeline design and the refusal on the part of our State leaders to take action to prevent devastating harm to the Great Lakes, it is time for leaders to either step up or step aside and let the voters or courts decide.

Enbridge has revealed previously withheld documentation showing bending of pipelines from extreme currents, delaminating protective cover, and numerous sections of bared steel open to corrosion. What Enbridge doesn’t understand is this: The State is trustee for citizens who are legally recognized beneficiaries of the public trust in the Great Lakes. The State trustee has a duty to prevent unacceptable harm or risks to the Great Lakes and the boating, fishing, swimming, and drinking water that depend on them. The decision does not belong to Enbridge but to our State’s leaders as trustees of these public paramount waters. Risk is a function of magnitude of harm; the higher the harm, the greater the risk. So it doesn’t matter what Enbridge executives think or say, or what their studies say after consultants have admitted conflicts of interest and withheld critical information on the failed condition of the lines.

Our State’s leaders must put an end to this now. Statements by Governor Snyder, DEQ Director Grether, and Attorney General Schuette about “serious concern” or “disappointment” do not go far enough. The proper response to the serious risk of unthinkable harm to the Straits and Great Lakes is not mere feeling; it is leadership and action. Governor Snyder’s recent agreement has belied even his disappointment. He expressly short circuited the his own advisory board and a citizen process established by his own Executive Order. The agreement expressly narrows a comprehensive alternative study to find a way to avoid crude oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, by expressly agreeing to a replacement of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac and the St. Clair River. So much for disappointment, he’s handing Enbridge a large Christmas present.

The Governor and DEQ should have required Enbridge to prove that there is no alternative to crossing under the Great Lakes for pipeline transport to Canada. It is unlikely Enbridge could prove that a non-Great Lakes pipeline alternative does not exist, given the fact that Enbridge recently doubled its design capacity in Line 6b across southern Michigan to Sarnia from 400,000 to 800,000 barrels. To win approval from the Public Service Commission to double its capacity across southern Michigan after the Kalamazoo disaster, Enbridge repeatedly testified if approved the doubled capacity would fulfill the company’s current and future needs, as well as those of Canada and the smaller needs of Michigan.

Our leaders must suspend the transport of crude oil through Line 5, and order Enbridge to start over by revoking the easement the state granted in 1953 and making the company comply with the laws and public trust that protect the Great Lakes. A bank trustee would have been replaced a year ago for such inaction as our state’s. If our leaders, the sworn trustees of our Great Lakes, don’t take action, they, too, should be replaced. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. If it does, then our third branch of government—the courts—should step in as they would in a receivership where management has failed.

It will not have to come to this if our leaders put a stake in the ground and suspend transport of oil. It will finally after three years of “cat and mouse” place the burden where it belongs: on Enbridge. Enbridge must be forced under rule of law to prove no catastrophic harm or acceptable risk and that it has no alternative to a pipeline in the Great Lakes. The truth is Line 5 under the Straits violates “reasonably prudent person” standard in the Easement, a common sense covenant that the company agreed to when it was granted the 1953 easement. It is no longer prudent to risk the Great Lakes with a crude oil spill of tar balls, dead fish, and oily wildlife and beaches.

The message and course of action for our Great Lakes State leaders is clear: Step up or step aside. If not, the courts or voters will do it for you.


For Immediate Release: FLOW RESPONDS TO STATE-ENBRIDGE AGREEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        November 27, 2017

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


TRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW issued the following statement today regarding the announcement of an agreement between the state of Michigan and Enbridge Energy concerning the company’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the open waters of the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet:

“It is imprudent and arbitrary for the Governor to unilaterally sign a deal with Enbridge before the legal processes and evidence, including the opinion of experts on all sides, have been thoroughly reviewed and completed. Governor Snyder appears to have ignored and violated his own executive order, law, rules and once more ignored his public trust duties toward the Great Lakes, water, public health and safety, and the protection of citizens.”

“While the Governor’s agreement with Enbridge imposes some important interim safety measures, these measures should be steps toward the final shutdown – not replacement – of the pipelines.”

“It makes no sense to trust Enbridge to abide by a new agreement when it has been flagrantly violating its existing commitments and attempting to conceal those violations.”

“This is the same company that brought Michigan the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history and that misled both state and federal authorities for three years about its pipeline anchors causing bare metal spots on 48 locations along Line 5 in the Straits.”

“The Governor cannot preordain the tunnel option without Enbridge submitting an application under state law — the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act — and demonstrating that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to continuing to use the Great Lakes as a high-risk shortcut for transporting oil from one part of Canada to another.”

“The presumed tunnel option bypasses and prematurely dictates the future of Line 5 and sidelines the three-year process that the Governor set into motion with the creation of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force and the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board under his executive order.”

“The final alternatives analysis just came out on November 20 and the public comment period ends on December 22.  This agreement completely eviscerates any meaningful opportunity for the public to weigh in on alternatives.  Moreover, the public and the Governor’s office still do not have a comprehensive study analyzing the risk of Line 5 and its alternatives.”

“The Governor’s preemptive move today continues to violate treaty-reserved rights that predate Michigan’s statehood. The five federally recognized tribes whose fishing rights are located in the Straits of Mackinac were never consulted in 1953, and again were not consulted as part of this 2017 agreement between Enbridge and the State of Michigan. Sixty percent of the tribal commercial whitefish harvest comes from the spawning grounds in the Straits of Mackinac.”


FLOW (For Love of Water) is a Great Lakes water law and policy center and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Traverse City, Michigan. Our mission is to protect the common waters of the Great Lakes Basin through public trust solutions.


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.”

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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.

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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.