Tag: Michigan

Happy Birthday, Governor Milliken

Celebrating a great former governor of Michigan

If Michigan has ever had an environmental governor, it was William G. Milliken, Traverse City’s son, who turns 95 on March 26.

The woods and waters of the Traverse City area, Milliken said, and particularly summer days at a family cottage near Acme, bonded him to nature in his childhood. That embedded appreciation carried forward into his political career.

Environmental Action

When Milliken became governor in January 1969, the public was clamoring for environmental action. He delivered.

In a January 1970 special message to the Legislature, he said, “The preservation of our environment is the critical issue of the Seventies.” The message contained a 20-point program, including proposals that ultimately became a shorelands protection act and a natural rivers conservation law.

An even bigger achievement that year was the passage, with Milliken’s support, of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, or MEPA. Granting any citizen standing to sue for the protection of natural resources and the public trust in these resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction, the law had national significance and was imitated in many states.

In 1976, he defied Amway Corp. co-founder and major Republican Party donor Jay Van Andel by backing a tough limit on phosphorus in laundry detergent, a product manufactured by the company. Reduction of the nutrient almost immediately shrank algal blooms in Michigan waters.

The same year, the legislature deadlocked on a proposal to attach a deposit to some beverage containers. Convinced the law would reduce litter and promote recycling, Milliken joined forces with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs to put the proposed container deposit law on the 1976 ballot. Voters approved the law by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. It is still considered the most successful law of its kind in the nation.

Milliken signed over a dozen major environmental bills into law, many of them evolving from his proposals: wetlands conservation, hazardous waste management, inland lakes and streams protection, and what is now the state Natural Resources Trust Fund, a public land acquisition and protection program capitalized by proceeds from oil and gas drilling on state lands. He left office on January 1, 1983 after almost 14 years in office, the longest tenure of any Michigan governor.

Defining Water

In 2011, Milliken said Michigan citizens must think of water “as something sacred, not to be treated as a commodity for barter and trade. If we Michiganders observe this principle in public policy and private actions, there will be no limit to the prosperity of our state. Water will then continue to define Michigan, enrich us in ways that include but reach far beyond dollar values, and be our legacy to generations to come. It is no wonder that our Supreme Court once declared that our streams, lakes, and Great Lakes are held in a ‘high, solemn and perpetual trust.’”

Happy Birthday, Governor Milliken.

Interview with Brooke Weatherford from Eightfold Creative

I support keeping oil out of the Great Lakes

FLOW is forever spreading awareness. It is our job to educate people about public trust and about what is happening with the Great Lakes in the world today – the joys and potential threats, and what we can do about our water. Part of that awareness is through social media. We teamed up with Eightfold Creative to gather awareness in an eye-catching way to important Great Lakes issues. I have Brooke Weatherford here today to talk about the process.

 

Brooke, thanks for joining us. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Brooke Weatherford. I am a recent graduate of Michigan State University’s Master’s in Advertising program with a specialization in Non-Profit Fundraising. I earned my B.A. from MSU as well in 2015 in Marketing. I currently work as a social media coordinator under the brand Eightfold Creative out of Detroit, Michigan. Eightfold Creative is a high-quality video production company founded by a group of my friends in 2013 that has grown into a highly competitive force in the industry. I have always been passionate about advertising strategy and knew that I wanted to do some type of creative branding. Two years ago, I began independently managing social media pages for a few local businesses under the Eightfold brand. Fast forward to today, and I have been doing social media management, content creation, and design work consistently, while finishing my degrees and working on a number of other Eightfold Projects. 
 

Tell us some more about Eightfold Creative, and what makes it unique.

Eightfold is unique because it was started from the ground up by a group of MSU students in film and business only five short years ago. Since then, the company has acquired a number of high profile clients and has developed strong relationships with top level advertising agencies in Detroit. Eightfold is the perfect example of the next generation taking the reigns of an industry and doing things their own way. The culture and work ethic of this group is truly outstanding, and even though I never expected to be immersed in the film industry, I really love where it has taken me. The best way to understand Eightfold is to visit our site and view the productions. They truly speak for themselves. 
 

It’s a Michigan-based company. And a lot of the work you have been doing for FLOW focuses specifically on Michigan and the Great Lakes. A passion and personal investment is often present in your work. What instigated this passion for the Great Lakes?

I have always had a strong love for the outdoors. Growing up, my parents always had a boat, and I would spend every weekend out on the lakes being rocked to sleep by the waves, and waking up to the sound of the Lake Michigan seagulls. As I have grown older and began traveling the world, I have developed a sense of pride for Michigan and its natural beauty, feeling almost as if it is a secret that people don’t always understand unless they have experienced it first-hand. Growing up in East Lansing, I learned about community activism early on, and participated in it throughout high school. But the idea of involving it into my career didn’t hit me until midway through my college career. As I traversed through a series of corporate internships, I learned more and more about what it means to love what you do. I found that getting involved and pursuing ways to contribute to helping non-profits by doing what I do best was a way to get fulfillment out of my career. Today, I have worked on social media and branding campaigns for 4 non-profits and hope to expand this portfolio. I spent last summer creating media for an eco-village in the Panamanian jungle, where I learned exactly what it meant to live 100% sustainably, in harmony with the land and water, and how to communicate the teachings of that lifestyle back to people at home.  Much of my free time today is spent loving the outdoors and surrounding myself with that culture.
 

That’s excellent. There is so much outdoor beauty right here in Michigan. To take that one step further, tell us about how your experiences inspired your ideas for the social media campaigns. 

The idea behind the imagery in the campaigns for FLOW were based in the goals of creating an emotional connection that would boost awareness about key issues like shutting down Line 5. Fortunately, the beauty of the outdoors is something that we all have in common, so using the beautiful attention grabbing photography to stop people from scrolling was an easy first step for me. Beyond that, the key to this campaign was consistency and simplicity, and the call to action about sharing that really made the connections with people. The posts are meant not only to educate but to give users a sense of pride by posting the photo. When they share a post that clearly states their support for a cause like protecting wildlife, or keeping pollution out of the Great Lakes, they automatically gain rapport from their online peers. Caring about something is becoming trendy, and posting about it online helps people not only feel like they are helping contribute, but puts them in a positive light in their friends’ eyes. Capitalizing on these emotions to boost awareness about important environmental issues was my primary strategy with this campaign. 
 

Aside from sharing the posts, what can our readers do to help contribute?

I think the best way to help care for the Great Lakes is to talk about them with the people around you. As impactful as social media can be, it is the social part that makes the most difference. Telling your friends, family, and co-workers about risks the Great Lakes are facing, or educating them on how to be a more responsible citizen is what will make the most difference. Being vocally appreciative for the natural world is another way to make people think. If someone who respects you hears you speak fondly of the Great Lakes and their pristine beauty, they may consider their own impact or appreciation more deeply. 10 of these conversations could then turn into 40 and then into 100 and then into thousands. A change in culture is the only way to make a real difference, and changing culture starts with the confident and sincere voice of a friend. 
 

Well, we have been glad to hear your voice today. Brooke, where can people find out more about you and your work?

You can learn more about me and my work at www.brookeweatherford.com,

and also at www.eightfold-creative.com.

 

Thanks for sharing, Brooke.

 
 
 

Not So Fast Nestlé: A Citizen’s Guide to Oppose Nestlé Water Grab

Bottled water

Nestlé has revived plans to more than double its pumping in Osceola County.

Help FLOW fight Nestlé’s Water Grab: Visit our Crowdrise here to Donate and Share with your network!

 

What’s At Stake

There’s a big fight brewing over water worldwide. From drought-stricken California, to Canada, to Germany and beyond, the Nestlé corporation is one of the key players in a worldwide effort to privatize our finite water resources and then sell it back to us in plastic bottles in and outside the Great Lakes Basin.

In 2009, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) ended a 10-year battle with Nestlé/Ice Mountain and won by reducing the amount of water being pumped so that nearby wetlands and streams would not be harmed in Mecosta County. The facts in the MCWC litigation demonstrate how Nestlé underestimated the harm aquifer over-pumping causes to adjacent surface waters, wetlands, fish, and aquatic life. FLOW’s founder and president, Jim Olson, represented MCWC as the lead litigator in this critical battle to safeguard our waters from privatization.

Since 2001, Swiss-owned Nestlé has removed more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater from its three Michigan wells in the Muskegon River watershed for a paltry $200 annual fee per well, according to MDEQ statistics.

Nestlé has now revived plans to more than double its pumping from 150 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm or 576,000 gallons per day (gpd) in Osceola County just north of Evart, Michigan.  Production Well PWB101, White Pine Springs Site, as it is known, is located between two cold water Muskegon River tributary creeks, Twin and Chippewa Creeks. Last winter, when Nestlé applied for this pumping increase using the state’s computer water withdrawal assessment tool, it failed. Nestle then requested and obtained a site specific review by DEQ staff that showed that only minimal declines in water levels in the summer of 2016.

If approved without full disclosure and public review, Nestlé would only create 20 new jobs, but would legally be entitled to bottle and sell nearly 500 million gallons per year of Michigan water at the Ice Mountain bottling facility in Stanwood, Michigan.

What You Can Do To Help

Please write an email letter to the DEQ at deq-eh@michigan.gov prior to March 3, 2017, and demand the following:

  • Urge the DEQ to oppose Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to increase its allowed pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101), Osceola County, Michigan.
  • Demand the DEQ to set aside its January 2016 site-specific review for lack of public notice and comment;
  • Demand the DEQ complete an entirely new site specific review;
  • Demand the DEQ conduct site specific review on all permits issued to date to avoid incremental steps and registrations by Nestlé (this is in addition to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA);
  • Demand full disclosure and transparency to the public for informed decision-making.
  • Demand sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement in Nestlé’s recent request.
  • Demand the State to apply the legal standards and requirements set forth in the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, riparian reasonable use law, public trust law, Great Lakes Compact, and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Request multiple public hearings in the following locations: Evart, Detroit, Flint, Muskegon, and Traverse City.

For your reference, we have included a template letter for you to use and craft your own letter.

If you live outside Michigan, we all know that what one state does in the Great Lakes Basin, affects all. As residents in the region, we cannot afford to allow significant increases in water withdrawals without sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement.

If you live in one of the eight Great Lakes states or the provinces of Quebec and Montreal, we urge you to write your governor/premier prior to the upcoming Compact Council meeting to be held in Columbus, OH on December 8th. Ask that diversions of Great Lakes water in containers less than 5.7 gallons be added to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact.

Please think twice about drinking bottled water. Instead, insist all elected officials make clean, safe drinking water a priority. We can live without a lot of things but water is not one of them.

Template Letter

Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Attorney General Bill Schuette
G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 West Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Director Heidi Grether
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI   48909-7741

deq-eh@michigan.gov
miag@michigan.gov  
contactmichigan@state.mi.us
migov@exec.state.mi.us

 

Dear Governor, Attorney General and Director Grether:

I am writing to urge the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)  to reject Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to more than double its allowed groundwater pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101) in Osceola County, Michigan.    

The Nestlé application must be denied for the following reasons:

  1. Nestlé has not submitted sufficient critical information on which a determination can be in accordance with the standards set forth in the applicable water laws of Michigan;

  1. the application is administratively and substantively deficient;

  1. the MDEQ and the State do not have sufficient information and have not posted sufficient information from Nestlé for property owners, communities, organizations, and citizens to provide meaningful comment as required by applicable laws and regulations;

  1. Nestlé has not filed its pumping records, and its pumping to date has violated Michigan law because it has pumped and transported water without authorizations required by Section 17 of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the applicable Section 32723 of the state’s water law;

  1. Four hundred (400) gpm will diminish the twin creeks and wetlands, which in turn will impair and harm the water, aquatic resources, and public trust in those natural resources, contrary to Michigan law.

With less than two weeks before the end of the public comment period, the MDEQ sent a letter dated February 14, 2017 to Nestlé that underscores the significant and considerable deficiencies in the record. Missing from the record is information related to the groundwater modeling, streamflow data, fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic habitat data, as well as the company’s compliance with Michigan’s reasonable use doctrine and related water laws.

Accordingly, the application as it stands now must be denied for failure to show that its proposed pumping will not harm the creeks, wetlands, streams, species and ecosystem. In addition, Nestlé’s deficient record raises questions as to whether the company received proper authorization in 2015 to increase its pumping from 150 to 250 gpm.

Nestlé’s current expansion request continues to put our public waters at risk because the public does not have adequate information to evaluate the potential harm to our waters. Therefore, at a minimum, the MDEQ should extend the public comment period from March 3 to at least another 60 days (depending on Nestle’s submission of additional information), because of the incomplete administrative and substantive record. This extended timeframe will afford the public adequate time to evaluate and comment on a complete application per the department’s letter. Public comment must include not only written comment, but also statewide public hearings in Evart, Detroit, Flint, Muskegon, and Traverse City.

Nestle’s request is not just a mere isolated groundwater pumping application. Rather, it represents, and must be understood as, part of a much larger water decision for our Great Lake state of Michigan to address. The reality is that 400 gpm (210 million gallons a year) is gone forever from the headwaters of two streams for the marketing convenience of Nestle to put “spring water” on its labels.

This is an ecological disaster that should not be allowed. Remember that Michigan’s 12,000 year old glacial sand, gravel and clay and ancient groundwater is recharged by only 8 or 9 inches a year of precipitation – about 30 percent of an average of 32 inches a year in the form of snowfall and rain during the rainy season. The rest of the year is dry with frequent drought in the summer months such that these headwater streams and creeks simply cannot survive; pumping at Nestlé’s proposed rate is simply not sustainable, and the MDEQ should either deny this outright or put a cap on it of 150 gpm to end the matter.

Water is public. Water is also our most precious finite resource that is the lifeblood of our economy, our health, and our way of life here in the Great Lakes Basin. Privatizing our waters for profit and export outside our watersheds is a legally-defined harm. The State of Michigan as trustee is legally bound, on behalf of current citizens and future generations, to protect this resource from impairment, harm, or privatization for solely private purposes. This is the law.

The question we must ask is: How do the people of Michigan benefit when nearly 500 million gallons per year of our water—one of the planet’s scarcest and finite resources—is given essentially free to a foreign-owned company, sold for a profit, and transported out of the state?

Save for a handful of jobs (20 to be exact) this use of our public waters is not only contrary to law- it simply doesn’t make sense. It is time to put an end to allowing large corporate captures and takings of our interconnected groundwater, streams, rivers, lakes, and Great Lakes, especially when Nestle gets it for free, and sends the profits back to Switzerland.

The nonprofit, FLOW (For Love of Water), intends to submit additional substantive technical and legal comments to the MDEQ related to this permit application.

Thank you for fulfilling your public trust obligations to safeguard our most precious resource – water.

Sincerely,

 

Further Reading

“DEQ sets table for strict review of Nestle water bid” (MLive, Feb. 7, 2017)

“Where will the water go? A snapshot of recent changes in Michigan water law” (Michigan Real Property Review, Winter 2006)

“How Michigan water becomes a product inside Nestle’s Ice Mountain plant” (MLive, Dec. 8, 2016)

“Why Nestle really wants more Michigan groundwater” (MLive, Dec. 6, 2016)

“Public wasn’t adequately notified of Nestle water request, says DEQ director” (MLive, Dec. 5, 2016)

“Flint hits chemical company with $2.6M in fines over industrial waste” (MLive, Dec. 5, 2016)

“DEQ overruled computer model that flunked Nestle groundwater bid” (MLive, Nov. 22, 2016)

“DEQ pushes Nestle groundwater bid public review into next year” (MLive, Nov. 22, 2016)

Enbridge Operating Line 5 Illegally

Citing new research and documentation revealing cracks, dents, corrosion, and structural defects in the twin oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, 22 environmental and tribal groups today formally requested that Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette shut down “Line 5” oil in the Straits based on Enbridge’s multiple easement violations. The violations mean Enbridge is operating illegally and has broken its legal agreement with the state and people of Michigan.

Enbridge’s ongoing violations related to pipeline design threaten the very safety and health of the Great Lakes, and thus trigger the state’s duty to enforce its agreement with Enbridge. Under the 1953 easement, the state must provide Canadian-based energy transporter Enbridge 90 days to resolve any known easement violations.  The state now has substantial legal and factual cause to terminate the agreement with Enbridge to stop the oil flow and protect the Great Lakes, public water supplies, and the Pure Michigan economy, according to an April 13 letter to Snyder and Schuette, signed by partner groups in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign.

“The law and this easement agreement are clear: state leaders cannot wait another year or more while Enbridge continues to violate safety conditions it agreed to and withholds safety inspection and other data from the public and the state,” said environmental attorney Liz  Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW (For Love of Water) in Traverse City. “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette must start the clock to terminate the state’s easement agreement that allows Enbridge to operate the Line 5 pipelines on state-owned bottomlands and waters.”

In their letter, the groups identified eight specific violations of the easement and state law, including:

  • Concealing information about cracks, dents, and corrosion with continued, sweeping assertions and misrepresentations that the Straits pipelines are in “excellent condition, almost as new as when they were built and installed” and have “no observed corrosion.” Of the nine rust spots on the eastern Straits pipeline, corrosion has eaten away 26 percent of the pipeline’s wall thickness in a 7-inch-long area, according to newly released company data.
  • Failing to meet the pipeline wall thickness requirement due to corrosion and manufacturing defects. Newly released Enbridge data reveals that manufacturing defects in the 1950s resulted in pipeline wall thickness of less than half an inch in perhaps hundreds of sections and up to 41 percent less thick than mandated on the west Straits pipeline. Enbridge continues to boast about its “nearly one-inch-thick walls of Line 5’s steel pipe travelling under the Straits.”
  • Failing to meet the “reasonably prudent person” provision by claiming that its steel pipelines lying underwater just west of the Mackinac Bridge since 1953 can last forever and do not require a plan for eventual decommissioning. The 63-year-old pipelines were built to last 50 years.
  • Failing to demonstrate adequate liability insurance, maintain required coating and wood-slat covering to prevent rust and abrasion and adequately support the pipeline, resulting in stressed and deformed segments.
  • Failing to adhere to federal emergency spill response and state environmental protection laws, including Act 10 of P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), and public trust law.

The twin Enbridge Line 5 oil pipelines lying exposed in the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, are a high-risk shortcut moving up to 23 million gallons of oil and propane a day primarily from western Canadian oil fields to eastern Canadian refineries, as well as on to Montreal and export markets. FLOW’s research shows there are alternatives to Line 5 that do not threaten the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, and do not disrupt Michigan’s oil and gas supply.

“Enbridge has consistently failed to provide appropriate documentation to the state and the public that supports its position that Line 5 is fit for service”, said Ed Timm, PhD, PE, a retired chemical engineer and former senior scientist and consultant to Dow Chemical’s Environmental Operations Business, who advises the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign. “The historical record and the documentation that Enbridge has provided raise many questions that suggest this unique pipeline no longer conforms to its original design specifications and easement requirements.”

Dozens of local communities and organizations, hundreds of businesses, and thousands of individuals and families support efforts by the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to prevent a catastrophic oil spill by stopping the oil flowing through Line 5 in the Mackinac Straits, which University of Michigan experts have called the “worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.” Enbridge has a long history of oil spills from Line 5, which runs from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ont., and is responsible for 2010’s million-gallon oil spill disaster into the Kalamazoo River that cost $1.2 billion to clean up to the extent possible.

“I think pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, but because of the conditions of the Straits and the age of the pipelines, it is past time for an independent analysis to ensure the safety of this line for the citizens of Michigan,” said James Tamlyn, Chair of the Emmet County Board of Commissioners, which passed a resolution in December calling on the Snyder administration to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. “There’s one thing we all agree on and that’s the importance of protecting our clean water.  It defines us and without it, our communities and businesses would be wiped out.”

To date, more than 30 cities, villages, townships, and counties across Michigan have voted to call on the governor and attorney general to stop the oil flowing through the Straits, including Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, and the cities of Cheboygan, Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. Dramatic new research from the University of Michigan released in late March shows an Enbridge oil pipeline rupture in the Mackinac Straits could impact more than 700 miles of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron coastlines, as well as more than 15% of Lake Michigan’s open water and nearly 60% of Lake Huron’s open water.

“The effects of an oil spill in the Mackinac Straits would have catastrophic consequences for our area and for all Michiganders for years to come,” said Bobie Crongeyer, a community leader with Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice & the Environment, which has advanced resolutions to shut down Line 5 in many communities. “Tourists will find other places to vacation, while we will be left with the devastation that Enbridge leaves behind, including a poisoned fishery and drinking water supplies and a shattered economy.”

115-CE Pipeline Fact Sheet-rev

Read the full letter issued to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette.

Patagonia Supports FLOW

Each yeapatagoniar, Patagonia pledges 1% of their sales to the protection and restoration of the natural environment—regardless of the health of their sales or the economy. They call it the Earth Tax. This year, we identified 741 grassroots environmental groups in 18 countries and gave them $6.2 million in cash to do important work to restore rivers and forests, stop mines, protect endangered wildlife and habitat, and mitigate the effects of climate change. FLOW is proud to be among Patagonia’s grantees, and one of two Michigan nonprofits they recommend supporting. See the full breadth of their environmental and social efforts over the past year, including a list of all Patagonia grant recipients here.

 

FLOW is excited to be collaborating with Patagonia filmmakers on a new film about Line 5, coming in Spring of 2016.

As Long as Oil Flows through the Straits Pipelines, the Great Lakes Remain at Unacceptable Risk

The Great Lakes are no safer from an oil pipeline spill today despite yesterday’s release of the State of Michigan Pipeline Task Force’s 80-page report and recommendations.

The Task Force report included four recommendations directed at Enbridge’s twin 62-year-old petroleum pipelines located on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac: (1) Ban transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits pipelines; (2) Require an independent risk analysis and full insurance coverage for the pipelines; (3) Require an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing pipelines; (4) Obtain more inspection data from Enbridge relating to the pipelines.

Yet, oil still flows through Line 5.  The Task Force rejected shutting down Line 5 while gathering additional information on the basis that they had “inadequate information at this time to fully evaluate the risks presented by the Straits Pipelines.” (P. 57)

Impose Emergency Measures Immediately

At a minimum, however, the Task Force should impose immediate emergency measures on the pipeline given (1) potential violations of the 1953 Easement related to Enbridge’s inability to demonstrate that it has adequate liability coverage to cover all damages from an oil spill; (2) the Coast Guard’s admission that it is inadequately prepared to clean up an open water spill in freshwater let alone under frozen winter conditions; (3) Enbridge’s failure to disclose inspection, maintenance, and repair records to document internal and external corrosion rates under the Straits and inherent limitations related to inline inspection tools.

The question remains: how much more information do we need to unveil before our trustee – the State – takes swift protective action that prioritizes the paramount interests of citizens over private corporations?

The Task Force and the public have rejected the idea that the Straits Pipelines can last indefinitely.  In fact, the Attorney General Bill Schuette has declared that “the days of letting two controversial oil pipelines operate under the Straits of Mackinac are numbered.”  This is hopeful news, but every day counts, and until we have specific measures in place that prevent a catastrophic spill, the State of Michigan is placing the Great Lakes at risk.

KOEHN: Michigan citizens deserve full transparency from Enbridge

A great article calling for full transparency from Enbridge and the State in relation to the Line 5 oil pipelines, written by Sarah Koehn (a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and the policy intern at West Michigan Environmental Action Council), was recently published in the Grand Haven Tribune. She concludes:

“The people of Michigan deserve full transparency and a proactive, thorough process to assess the risk of moving oil through the Great Lakes in an aged pipeline. Taking Enbridge’s word on its safety is not good enough. The state of Michigan should act decisively to protect our most valuable natural resource.”

Read the full article here.

Intern Adventures: Courtney Hammer

Hello! My name is Courtney Hammer, and I am thrilled to be spending twelve weeks this summer up in the beautiful Traverse City, Michigan interning with FLOW (For Love of Water). I was raised down south in Roswell, Georgia, but Traverse City is home away from home for me, as I have vacationed up here every summer visiting my grandparents, relatives, and friends.

courtney hammer flow internI will be a senior at Michigan State University this fall. My family bleeds green and white, so I have been a Spartan since birth. I am in the James Madison College at MSU majoring in Comparative Cultures and Politics. I am also working towards a minor in Spanish and a Science, Technology, Environment, and Public Policy Specialization. Throughout my time at MSU, I have been a member of the varsity women’s soccer team.

Over the next few months I will be applying to law schools, and the plan is to start that next chapter of my life in the fall of 2015. I am passionate about both the environment and human rights, so I want to do something that involves an intersection of those two areas.

At FLOW, I am helping out with research and writing projects for our variety of programs, especially concerning nutrient pollution, and I am assisting Jim Olson with the curriculum development for the Water Policy and Sustainability (for the 21st Century) course he will teach at Northwestern Michigan College this fall. I have already learned a tremendous amount about the endless applicability of the public trust doctrine and just how vital of an overarching legal tool it is for the Great Lakes and environmental policies at large. For instance, I have specifically seen how it should impact local government capabilities with fracking and the State’s regulation of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Additionally, with nutrient pollution, I have learned just how crucial it is in terms of enforcing best management practices to mitigate both agricultural and stormwater runoff.

That is just a snippet of who I am and what I have been doing at FLOW. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store for me!

FLOW Marks First Two Protective Ordinance Packages

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director
231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

FLOW Marks First Two Protective Ordinance Packages:
Addresses Fracking Impacts for Two Michigan Townships

TRAVERSE CITY, MI — In late November, FLOW—the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center—will roll out two Protective Ordinance Packages for two separate townships in Michigan. The Protective Ordinance Packages are designed to protect the townships’ water, land, and air resources from impacts of the high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) method for extracting oil and natural gas from deep shale reserves, commonly known as “fracking.”

Gun Plain Charter Township in Allegan County and Cannon Township in Kent County are the first two townships to participate in FLOW’s Local Government Ordinance Program. This participatory workshop series for citizens and local township and planning officials culminates in a tailor-made Protective Ordinance Package developed by FLOW to address community concerns and improve local regulations.

“Our goal was to educate our people and identify specific things we can do to alleviate the potential impacts and risks of fracking,” says Gun Plain Charter Township Supervisor Mike VanDenBerg. Gun Plain Charter Township partnered with FLOW in May to participate in the Local Government Ordinance Program.

The Program is unique because it enables communities to chart their own future, strengthen their existing local regulations, and preserve their rural and agricultural character. In a two-part workshop series, the program:

  • engages and educates local government official and residents about the risks and impacts of fracking and specific legal strategies for communities to consider;
  • identifies community priorities and related oil and gas activities to regulate (e.g., water withdrawals, chemical disclosure, roads/truck traffic impacts, pipelines, etc.); and
  • recommends optimal strategies for integrating and amending the community’s existing master plans, zoning and police power ordinances, and franchise agreements in the Protective Ordinance Package.

The local planning commission and township board then use the Protective Ordinance Package as the foundation for drafting and adopting substantive ordinances protecting water, air, and land from fracking impacts and preserving their community.

Based on the past months’ workshops and community input, the Gun Plain Charter Township Protective Ordinance Package identifies the following seven fracking related activities for the Township to regulate:

  1. truck traffic and routes,
  2. franchise agreements and consent to use roads,
  3. chemical disclosure for hauling and emergency response plans,
  4. surface water contamination,
  5. noise and dust nuisance,
  6. trout stream protections, groundwater conflicts, and the study of hydrogeologic impacts, and
  7. contamination issues for first responders in case of emergency.

Similarly, the Cannon Township Protective Ordinance Package identifies nine areas, including:

  1. high-volume water removal, on-site pumps, tanks, and handling facilities,
  2. chemical disclosure and use, mixing tanks, and air emissions,
  3. disclosure and consideration of impacts before permit approval,
  4. incompatible ancillary industrial-type land uses and facilities, such as production and sweetening facilities, mixing tanks, pump stations, and pipelines,
  5. access roads, truck traffic, and safety,
  6. road use, truck routes, indemnity and bonds for spills, wear and tear of roads,
  7. nuisance impacts, including noise, dust, light pollution, hours of operation, vibrations, and odors,
  8. flow lines, gathering lines, and pipelines, and
  9. accident prevention plans, fire and emergency response to chemical releases or related accidents.

“FLOW developed this program to both inform communities about the impacts and potential threats of fracking, and to provide local governments with solutions within the scope of their existing legal authority,” says FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.

“We get dozens of calls from township and county government leaders who want to address fracking threats but are concerned that it might be illegal to regulate all activities related to fracking.” she says, “Townships and counties do have the authority to regulate ancillary fracking activities, and FLOW’s program zeros in on these important local legal solutions in developing our Protective Ordinance Packages.”

After the several public meetings held in each township, FLOW evaluated the townships’ respective master plans, zoning and police power ordinances, and franchise agreements. Then FLOW considered the priorities identified by the community and leaders, and drafted the Protective Ordinance Package as a menu of recommendations for amending the existing laws and adopting new ordinances.

These Protective Ordinance Packages come at a time when both Gun Plain Charter Township and Cannon Township are in the process of their five-year review of their townships’ master plans.

Gun Plain Charter Township and Cannon Township first approached FLOW about participating in the program in March and April 2013, respectively.

FLOW President and Chair of the Board of Directors, Jim Olson, gave a presentation to a group of Supervisors in Allegan County back in March, speaking to the risks and impacts of fracking and the legal strategies and tools available to citizens and leaders. This is where Gun Plain Charter Township officials first learned of and showed interest in FLOW’s program.

Combined, FLOW staff Olson and Kirkwood have delivered this informative legal strategies and tools presentation to more than ten communities across Michigan in the past ten months, reaching hundreds of community leaders and citizens. FLOW has also partnered with land-use planner and hydrogeologist, Dr. Christopher Grobbel in making presentations and evaluating optimal ordinance strategies.

“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” says Kirkwood, “and the interest in our informational presentation and Local Government Ordinance Program continues to grow. People are really concerned about what is going to happen to their community’s natural resources after a fracking permit gets approved and they need solutions before this stage.”

Since 2010, the nature of fracking operations in Michigan have changed dramatically in terms of land-use impact and water used to fracture and release natural gas in the tight shale formations. For example, the Pioneer well in Missaukee County used 6.7 millions gallons of water, and now pending permit applications plan to use up to 35 million gallons of water forever lost to the water cycle.

“Regulating the industrial related impacts of fracking is just like regulating any other industrial activity at the local level.” observes Kirkwood, “Imagine if local governments allowed sand and gravel pits, shopping malls, cell towers and other industrial uses to come into their communities and do business unregulated.”

FLOW’s program is designed to protect the rural and agricultural character of the communities in Michigan that are most vulnerable to the negative spillover effects of fracking happening on adjacent state land or neighboring private land.

The package, program, and presentation all stem from FLOW’s November 2012 report: Horizontal Fracturing for Oil and Gas in Michigan: Legal Strategies and Tools for Communities and Citizens.

Early on, FLOW recognized the growing and urgent need to develop sound legal strategies and policies for local governments to safeguard their communities against the unprecedented, huge, and cumulative impacts of fracking.

Fracking occurs in the context of little to no regulatory oversight; the natural gas and oil industry is largely exempt from key federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

The industry is also largely exempt from key water statutes like Michigan’s codification of the Great Lakes Compact. Furthermore, under Michigan’s Zoning Enabling Act, local governments also are prohibited from enacting or enforcing an ordinance that regulates permit issues related to the location, drilling, operation, completion, or abandonment of oil and gas wells. Despite the Zoning Enabling Act’s prohibition to regulate oil and gas wells or operations, townships do maintain some zoning authority to regulate related oil and gas activities.

The two principal statutes delegating local government legal authority to address oil and gas development like hydraulic fracturing and related processes include the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act of 2006 and the
Township Ordinance Act of 1945.

The Township Ordinance Act authorizes a township to adopt police power ordinances, which are distinct from zoning ordinances, because they can only regulate harms and activities rather than land uses.

Thus, townships can adopt police power ordinances that reasonably relate to the transport, disposal, and transfer, diversion, use, or handling of “produced” water and chemical mixing for fracking.

After producing the legal report, it made sense for FLOW to produce a presentation of the findings and share it with concerned local government leaders.

“The overwhelming response we got to the first few presentations was that of ‘What can WE do?’ from citizens and officials alike,” says Olson. “That’s when we started to develop the program and work directly with townships to help them take the leap and take positive action,” he says.

For more information about FLOW’s work on legal strategies for addressing fracking at the local, state, and federal level, please visit flowforwater.org/fracking.

FLOW Chair Jim Olson, left, addresses Cannon Township Supervisors and citizens in June. Photo credit (c) Liz Kirkwood/FLOW 2013

FLOW Chair Jim Olson, left, addresses Cannon Township Supervisors and citizens in June. Photo credit (c) Liz Kirkwood/FLOW 2013

Fracking: It’s All About the Water

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas in Michigan is the subject of scrutiny in the recent Integrated Assessment report series from the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute.  The report confirms that the future development of tight shale formations appears to be massive and intensive in size and scope and will require unprecedented quantities of water to explore and produce these reserves.

How are oil and natural gas wells are being developed in fracking?
First a large pad is cleared, then as many as 6 or more wells are drilled on this one pad known as a “resource hub,” Then, several of these “resource hubs” are developed within close proximity to each other. Clusters of these hubs are then widely developed across townships and counties. Over the next several years, just one oil and gas company, Encana, plans to develop as many as 500 hundred wells in Kalkaska County, Michigan. Each resource hub can consume 90 to 180 millions of gallons of fresh water or more. The most recent numbers in Kalkaska County, Michigan—where fracking operations of this intense nature are underway—show that a group of these hubs in close proximity are presently using or plan to use more than 618 million gallons of water. As fracking expands in Kalkaska, reports indicate that number will be in the billions.

How will these unprecedented water withdrawals impact the groundwater and the streams and lakes within the watershed where the fracking is occurring?
The answer is no one knows. Current Michigan DNR and DEQ procedures do not measure the cumulative impact of these numerous wells and resource hubs on a local watershed and the impact on the nearby streams and lakes in that watershed. Each well permit which includes the amount of water withdrawn is approved independent of each other and does not take into account the amount of water withdrawn by the other wells on the pad and nearby hubs. It’s as if the other wells did not exist.

This is deeply concerning when put in the broader context of Michigan groundwater withdrawals. Bridge Magazine recently reported that 12 Michigan counties are already facing groundwater shortages. In light of present groundwater availability concerns, the increased consumption of groundwater for fracking operations will likely exacerbate the situation. Under current DEQ procedures for oil and gas drilling permits, there is no assurance our government can or will adequately protect our groundwater, lakes, and streams from these current and future massive water withdrawals.

What happens to all this water?
To frack the shale gas or oil reserves deep underground, these massive quantities of water are mixed with a cocktail of chemicals, many hazardous and/or known carcinogens, and sand. In Michigan, after a well is fracked, the contaminated water (“flowback”) is not treated, but is transported and disposed of in deep injection wells. What this means is that such massive quantities of water will never return to to the water cycle. We consider this a “consumptive” use of water. Other major concerns include the handling of the contaminated water. And, fracking is exempt from key federal and state regulation, including the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. In short, these massive quantities of water are gone forever after used in the fracking process.

What can be done?
FLOW’s Chairperson, Jim Olson, and Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, submitted comments to the Graham Institute. To strengthen water resource protections, FLOW recommends that the State of Michigan:

  • Require development plan(s) and generic or cumulative environmental impacts and alternatives as required under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) before a lease or leases and permit or permits are finally approved or denied;
  • Refine and strengthen all aspects of the Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) and require baseline hydrogeological studies and pump aquifer yield tests; and
  • Encourage cooperation between state regulations and appropriate local regulation of land use, water use, and related activities to address potential local impacts.

To learn more about FLOW’s research and recommendations, please read our Executive Summary or our Full Recommendations submitted by Olson and Kirkwood to the Graham Institute.

For more about FLOW’s work on fracking, visit flowforwater.org/fracking