For more information, please visit:
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My children and I recently celebrated the season by watching a wonderful Nutcracker ballet production at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Reading the back of the playbill, I was amazed to learn that this extraordinary music and ballet – now an American classic – was conceived one hundred and twenty-five years ago in the winter of 1892. The premiere of the Nutcracker Ballet performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, however, was not an instant success.
In fact, it was not until the late 1960s that the Nutcracker was embraced as a beloved American classic performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season. The melodies of Tchaikovsky resonated so deeply in me, drawing me into Clara’s enchanted world. And I remember thinking how few things are as powerful and evocative as music.
So what does Tchaikovsky’s ballet have to do with public trust law in America? Good question. It may seem like an odd connection but it’s not, because 125 years ago marks the seminal Supreme Court decision – Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois – that established U.S. states as trustees over public trust waters and bottomlands for the benefit of citizens in perpetuity. One hundred and twenty-five years ago, the public trust doctrine became the law of the land. After nearly thirty years of controversy, the Supreme Court affirmatively nullified the deed the Illinois legislature had granted the Illinois Central Railroad. As a result, the public gained back a quarter-square mile of the downtown waterfront of Chicago and understood that they could hold their state governments accountable for protecting the paramount interests of the public waters.
The importance of this legal decision cannot be underscored. If the Supreme Court had not ruled in favor of the public and asserted the inalienable nature of public trust waters and bottomlands, Chicago’s downtown waterfront would have been privately owned, and there would be no Millennium Park.
One hundred and twenty-five years is a long time. And yet, I reflect on how timeless and powerful Tchaikovsky’s music and ballet remains. What if the public’s understanding of public trust law had been similarly embraced? What if states like Michigan upheld their public trust duties and enforced easements in public trust waters to prevent a private oil company from threatening our public waters? What if more citizens knew that their state leaders – governors, attorney generals, and agencies – were required by law to protect the paramount interests of navigable waters and tributaries? And what if more citizens demanded public trust protections of our greatest natural resource – water? Just imagine how powerful a stewardship tool we would have today. Let’s remember the gift the Supreme Court gave us 125 years ago and bring it back to life for the sake of the Lakes and our children’s future.
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:
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.
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director
Ecological disasters do not wait for political elections.
And Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac seems oblivious to the campaign calendar.
To date, the Band-Aid fix-it approach for line 5 has only resulted in Band-Aid size – oh, I mean dinnerplate size -- bare metal spots on the pipeline itself.
The law is clear. Public trust waters are the paramount interest and must be the priority of state protection and action.
Enbridge's ongoing violations on Line 5 are blindingly obvious. And they have continued to mount over the last three years while the state has delayed a safe solution through endless study. A quick sampling of violations includes: lack of adequate anchor supports, loss of protective coating, bent pipeline, bare metal, lack of a credible emergency oil spill response plan, deficient liability insurance, and so on.
Time and time again, Enbridge has asked the public and the state to trust them. And we have only later found out that Enbridge has misled the citizens of Michigan and the state government about the true condition of their aging 64-year-old dual pipelines.
Enbridge has an outstanding permit request to install 22 additional anchors. But the state is in no position to authorize these permits because the anchors themselves have caused the bare metal exposure on the pipeline.
Now the state has decided to engage university experts to spend months finishing a risk study put on hold last summer due to contractor conflicts of interest. A risk study only further delays meaningful state action on Line 5 to avoid a pipeline oil spill. We already know that the risk of any oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes is unacceptable. Thus, we are merely asking ourselves: How fast will the Titanic sink? 1 hour or 3 hours.
Any credible risk study will simply conjure a more realistic disaster scenario than Enbridge would like us to imagine. It appears that the state is committed to completing the risk study; however, it should at the very least recommend that the state temporarily shut down the flow of oil while the risk study marches on.
No one today would ever authorize oil pipelines to pump 23,000,000 gallons of oil daily in the open waters of the Great Lakes. While consultants completes a risk analysis, the state at a bare minimum should temporarily shut down the flow of oil.
So let's be clear ourselves. Line 5 must be decommissioned and we, the citizens of Michigan, demand that this process starts immediately.
The time to act is now.
Liz Kirkwood is FLOW's Executive Director, an environmental lawyer with seventeen years of experience working on water, sanitation, energy, and environmental governance issues both nationally and internationally. She oversees the direction of the organization, prioritizing policy research and corresponding educational initiatives to ensure their consistency and high quality.
The state pipeline safety advisory board met Monday to discuss next steps on Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac, in the wake of new revelations about shoddy Line 5 maintenance by Enbridge. FLOW's statement at the meeting said enough is known about the pipeline's condition and poor maintenance for the state to immediately revoke the pipeline's easement to traverse the Straits.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO MEDIA: June 29, 2017
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director Cell: 570-872-4956
FLOW (For Love of Water) Email: email@example.com
Jim Olson, Founder & President Cell: 231-499-8831
FLOW (For Love of Water) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVERSE CITY –
After the revelation earlier this month that Enbridge for years routinely violated a legal agreement to properly anchor its dual pipelines against the swift currents in the Mackinac Straits, the state of Michigan now must apply the law, stop Line 5’s oil flow, and hold public hearings as it considers the Canadian company’s application to squeeze more life out of its decaying steel infrastructure built in 1953, according to FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes water law and policy center, in formal comments released today.
While the state’s 1953 easement agreement granting Enbridge conditional occupancy of state bottomlands in the Mackinac Straits allows Enbridge up to 90 days to cure any violations, a 2016 report commissioned by Enbridge shows that the company for years knowingly ignored the erosion problem, which appears to be unfixable and worsening with time.
“Enbridge’s willful neglect to properly support Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits is a game changer,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director and environmental attorney. “This neglect is a flagrant violation of the company’s privilege to use the bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes.”
“Leaving the pipeline exposed without support in the currents and forces of the Straits causes metal fatigue and heightens the risk of a spill. There needs to be an investigation of whether a pipeline should be there at all, before considering structural changes to a pipeline that has been compromised by the company’s own actions,” Kirkwood said.
Enbridge’s June 9 “maintenance” application to install up to 22 more pipeline anchors into Lake Michigan’s public bottomlands fails to address a company pattern of violating the easement and avoiding an assessment of Line 5’s impacts and alternatives, while perpetuating the imminent threat to the Great Lakes and the protected public uses that include fishing, commerce, navigation, recreation, and drinking, according to a legal analysis by FLOW.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is receiving public comment through today on Enbridge’s application, which also is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“This application is not about anchor supports. It’s about whether Enbridge can expand Line 5 and the new Line 78 from Indiana across lower Michigan to Sarnia,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president and a renowned water rights attorney. “Our cities, villages, and citizens have ended up with Enbridge’s version of the Keystone XL right here in the Great Lakes, and it happened without the public notice, hearings, and independent impact and alternative analyses required by law.”
The application, like many others filed by Enbridge in the last few years, disguises the company’s piecemeal actions that continue to significantly expand oil transport through and around the Great Lakes. Line 5 transports nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids each day through the Mackinac Straits, 80 percent more volume than its past design capacity after several of its so-called “maintenance” upgrades.
The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board is conducting a parallel review of Line 5 in the Straits, with a draft report on alternatives released today and a risk report that has been stymied by a conflict of interest, but that process is neither under the rule of law nor complies with the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) or other state and federal law.
“The advisory board’s review is not legally binding and does not replace the DEQ’s independent obligation to determine whether Line 5 should continue.” Kirkwood said.
Of particular concern is Enbridge’s continued failure to predict and prevent the cumulative impacts on Line 5 of lakebed erosion caused by Straits currents that frequently reverse and can exceed 10 times the flow over Niagara Falls.
“Enbridge’s piecemeal approach to managing washouts and installing adequate support under the Straits crossing of Line 5 has resulted in the line frequently being out of compliance with easement support requirements since the 1970’s,” said Ed Timm, PhD, an engineer advising FLOW. “Washouts are inherently unpredictable and it is likely that damage to the pipe has already occurred because of unsupported spans that were not detected and repaired by Enbridge’s two-year inspection and repair schedule.”
Contrary to assertions by Enbridge, the state taking action to stop Line 5’s oil flow in the Mackinac Straits to prevent a catastrophic oil spill would not disrupt Michigan's or the Midwest's crude oil and propane supply, according to a set of expert reports FLOW released in December 2015. Available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American pipeline system run not only by Enbridge, but also by competitors supplying the same refineries in Detroit, Toledo, and Sarnia, Ontario.
“The fact is, Line 5 is not essential,” said Rick Kane, a Michigan-based hazardous materials risk management specialist advising FLOW. “The regional pipeline system can supply crude oil to Michigan and surrounding refineries while eliminating the risk that Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes,” Kane said. “Feasible and prudent alternatives exist to support domestic needs, as well as exports. However, pipeline company owners will not move to implement any alternatives as long as Line 5 operates and the public continues to carry the risk.”
For more information, visit FLOW’s website at www.FLOWforWater.org/Line-5/ and these links:
Enbridge’s June 9, 2017, application and public notice can be viewed at:
LANSING – Oil & Water Don’t Mix today said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to cancel a study that was rife with conflicts of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all – and called on state leaders to disclose all details of the draft study that was plagued by conflicts of interest.
“Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers,” said David Holtz, Chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign coordinator. “The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers.”
“This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water. “In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette start acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 9, 2017
Contact: Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org
State of Michigan Takes a “Holiday” from Preventing Line 5 Oil Spill Disaster in Great Lakes
Snyder Administration Watches and Waits as the 64-year-old Dual Pipelines Missing Their Anti-Rust Coating and Structural Supports Continue to Use Mackinac Straits as a High-Risk Shortcut to Private Profits
TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The Snyder administration, in two letters (here and here) released Wednesday, indicated it will seek more information, but take no enforcement action, while continuing to accept Enbridge’s assurances that all is well with dual oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits that the Canadian company itself has indicated are missing portions of an external, anti-rust coating and lacking 18 anchor supports to prevent the pipes from grinding and bending along the bottom and bursting.
The letters – signed by Attorney General Bill Schuette, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether – describe “inviting” Enbridge to explain the company’s September 2016 report that identifies 19 areas along the submerged steel pipes where the anti-corrosion coating is missing. Enbridge’s report euphemistically calls the missing portions “holidays,” industry jargon for areas where the coating has worn or fallen off. The report outlines a plan for assessing Line 5’s integrity where the coating is gone and acidic waste excreted by invasive mussels that blanket the pipes could be causing corrosion.
Enbridge claims that the report is merely “hypothetical,” even though the report flatly states that the external coating is missing and the words “hypothetical” and “theoretical” are not found in the document.
“The State of Michigan is moving in slow motion to question Enbridge’s claims that its own report doesn’t mean what is plainly says,” said Liz Kirkwood, an environmental attorney and executive director of FLOW, a Traverse City-based water law and policy center dedicated to upholding the public’s rights to use and benefit from the Great Lakes. “When the pipelines finally fail, will the state invite Enbridge to explain what the thick, black substance is pouring out of the 64-year-old pipes and into the drinking water source for nearby Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and roughly 5 million Michiganders?”
The state issued its March 8 letter in response to February 17 correspondence from the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, which FLOW co-leads with several other leading organizations, that raised grave and detailed concerns about the condition of Line 5 and called for its immediate shutdown.
An Enbridge representative is expected to explain its report at the March 13 quarterly meeting in Lansing of the governor-appointed Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, whose members include Attorney General Schuette. The advisory board is overseeing the completion of two nominally independent studies funded by Enbridge: one on the financial risk to communities and the Pure Michigan economy of a Line 5 oil spill in the Mackinac Straits and the other on alternatives to the aging pipeline that could avoid such a disaster. These two studies are expected by June 2017.
Enbridge is infamous for leaking more than one million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed near Marshall, Michigan, in 2010, fouling nearly 40 miles of the river and shore, sickening numerous people, harming wildlife, and forcing more than 100 families to permanently abandon their homes and property.
The failure to adequately maintain the Line 5 pipelines, including a lack of supports to prevent bending of the pipeline – is a breach of Enbridge’s 1953 legal easement agreement with the State of Michigan that allows the company to occupy public waters and state bottomlands. The failures documented in the Enbridge report add to the mounting evidence of the unacceptable risk that this infrastructure poses to the Great Lakes.
A three-minute video of Line 5 pipelines in the Straits, researched and edited by FLOW’s engineering expert Dr. Ed Timm, reveals the physical deterioration of Line 5, with missing and dislodged coating, broken bands, detached wooden structural slats, unsupported segments, and possible rust and pitting.
In addition, a just-released technical note prepared by Dr. Timm regarding Line 5 reinforces the urgent need for the state to immediately shut down Line 5 while it evaluates the integrity of the aging infrastructure that pumps nearly 23 million gallons of oil a day through the Mackinac Straits before eventually reaching refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. Specifically, this technical note concludes the following:
“The evidence demands that the State of Michigan respond and fulfill its affirmative fiduciary duty,” wrote Jim Olson, an environmental attorney and FLOW’s president, in a March 9 follow-up letter to the State of Michigan. “It is not enough to stand by the sidelines and merely request additional information from Enbridge given the high risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that would devastate our public drinking waters and our water-dependent economy. ‘Pure Michigan’ should not just be an advertising slogan.”
For more information, visit the FLOW website at www.FLOWforWater.org
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“Sunday marked a hard-earned victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe with the announced construction halt of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
The protest’s main message has resonated here in Michigan and around the globe because of its core truth: oil pipelines – new and old – threaten lands and waters that are vital, not just to tribal members but to all Americans.”
FLOW’s Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, brings the Standing Rock victory home to Michigan in this opinion piece from the Record Eagle. The time has come to defend our water.