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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.
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
When the police pulls a resident over for going 100 mph in a 55-mph zone, they don't cluck their tongues -- they click their ticket books.
But when Michigan’s state government catches Enbridge Energy putting the Great Lakes at risk by failing again to disclose dangerous conditions on its Line 5 oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, the response is paralysis. The state has again caught Enbridge ignoring its legal obligation to be a proper steward of the submerged land that the state allows the company to occupy with its pipeline.
But all we're hearing out of Lansing, and particularly Attorney General Bill Schuette is an expression of disappointment.
The difference between strict enforcement of laws against individuals and giving an oil transport giant chance after chance to meet its fundamental responsibility not to harm public waters is as stark as the difference between a single speeding motorist and a catastrophic oil spill fouling the drinking water source for millions.
The accumulation of studies, evidence of pipeline delamination and bends in June, and now exposed metal with likely corrosion, signals a dangerously flawed and ultimately incurable pair of sunken pipelines.
It’s time for our state government to stop treating the 1963 Constitution, statutes, and common law that protect our lakes as nice but meaningless environmental policy statements and start treating them as the duty the people through the Constitution and our courts have mandated. More than ever, it’s time to shut down Line 5.
FLOW's senior advisor, Dave Dempsey, has 35 years experience in environmental policy. He served as environmental advisor to former Michigan Governor James Blanchard and as policy advisor on the staff of the International Joint Commission. He has also provided policy support to the Michigan Environmental Council and Clean Water Action. He has authored several books on the Great Lakes and water protection.
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
ST. IGNACE – The state of Michigan must immediately apply the law, stop Line 5’s oil flow, and reject a Canadian company’s application to extract more life out of its decaying steel pipelines built in 1953, according to FLOW, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes water law and policy center in public comments made today. The comments came at a public hearing in St. Ignace on Enbridge’s bid for state approval to shore up parts of Line 5 that are bent or deformed due to the company’s neglect and support other areas potentially prone to erosion.
“Enbridge characterizes the application as seeking authorization for routine maintenance,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director and environmental attorney. “The reality is that Enbridge is scurrying to rectify its dangerous neglect of maintenance over decades, including multiple violations of a legal agreement to properly anchor its dual pipelines against the swift currents in the Straits.”
A recent report by Dr. Ed Timm, a FLOW adviser and former Dow Chemical engineer, shows Line 5 is bent and deformed where Enbridge wants to anchor it. The report presents new evidence of structural damage to the western pipe where Enbridge seeks to install five of the 22 anchors into Lake Michigan’s public bottomlands, stemming from a company pattern of violating a 1953 easement granted by the state allowing Enbridge to occupy the Mackinac Straits.
The state’s easement agreement allowing Line 5 to occupy the Mackinac Straits limits unsupported spans to no more than 75 feet, but a 2003 survey identified 16 unsupported spans greater than 140 feet; the longest at 224 feet on the east leg and 286 feet on the west leg. Other Enbridge inspection report revealed nearly 250 instances between 2005 and 2016 of unsupported spans on the pipelines exceeded a 75-foot legal limit in violation of Michigan’s easement agreement with Enbridge. This track record does not provide confidence that the company will fulfill its obligations in the future.
By attempting to cloak the results of its neglect and avoiding an assessment of Line 5’s impacts and alternatives, Enbridge is 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.
In fact, the company’s poor performance as well as the massive work proposed provides a compelling legal basis for the state to consider feasible and prudent alternatives to continued operation of the dual Line 5 pipelines.
“The state of Michigan must consider under rule of law whether there are viable options to the piecemeal patch-up of these aging steel oil pipelines threatening the Great Lakes,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president and a renowned water rights attorney. “Enbridge has expanded Line 5 and the new Line 78 from Indiana across lower Michigan to Sarnia under the rubric of ‘maintenance.’ 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Line 5 Straits New Anchor Structures
President and Legal Advisor, FLOW (For Love of Water)
July 25, 2017
Director Grether, Division and Unit Chief Fisher, and the Gaylord Office Unit Supervisor Haas, and Great Lakes Submerged Land Specialist Graft:
This statement addresses a primary legal requirement for Enbridge concerning its proposal to locate, occupy, and engage in construction activity for twenty-two (22) new anchor supports on the public trust bottomlands and waters of Lake Michigan. The application as filed requests an activities permit pursuant to the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and Rules (“GLSA”) for placement of these twenty-two anchors as “other materials.” As will be seen, these anchors and the pipeline are new and involve far more than placing spoils or other materials as an activities permit. In fact, these anchor supports and line, in combination with the dual lines in the Straits, have never been authorized under the GLSA and public trust law.
FLOW submitted public comments into the record on this application on June 29, 2017, and will submit supplemental public comments and technical reports on or before August 4, 2017, the end of the extended public comment period. For purposes of the public hearing I offer the following specific comment on the legal framework for the proceedings under the GLSA for these twenty-two support anchors and the dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.
First, the history of these new anchor supports, including the proposed twenty-two supports for the dual pipelines is directly related to the failure in design and construction of the original pipelines as authorized by the terms of the 1953 Easement and the substantial increase in crude oil flow rate from 300,000 bpd approved by the Public Service Commission in 1953 and the very new increase to 540,000 bpd as part of Enbridge’s project to expand its Lakeside System. A more detailed description of these anchors and why they are new and need approval to operate these dual lines are contained in FLOW’s June 29 public comment as supplemented by the comments to be filed on or before August 4, including the additional supplemental that will be submitted by technical experts Ed Timm and Gary Street.
Second, these anchor supports are new because they fall outside and were not authorized as part of the pipelines by the 1953 Easement. These anchors are new because they are proposed to prevent further bending in the compromised and deformed lines because of powerful currents and other forces in the Straits. As noted, they are also new because these supports together with other new facilities and equipment along Line 5 are part of the Enbridge expansion of its entire Lakehead System, including the doubling of Line 6b (now Line 78) to Stockbridge in southern Michigan.
In lay person terms, what does this mean? It means that the dual pipelines with these new anchor supports and increased flow volume have not been authorized by agreements to permit the occupancy of these anchor supports on the bottomlands and n the waters of the Great Lakes as required by the GLSLA and its Rules. It means that the pending application for the proposed new twenty-two new supports does not comply with the requirements under the GLSLA and its Rules for a proper agreement or authorization for occupying bottomlands and waters in the Straits.
New structures to prop up a previously authorized line based on the existing define and new and increased volumes as part of a major single expansion project require new authorization. It is as simple as that. Before the Department can act on Enbridge’s application for the construction activity permit for the anchor supports, Enbridge must first apply for and the State must authorize an occupancy conveyance or agreement in accordance with Sections 32502, 32503, and 32505 and other parts of the GLSLA and its Rules.
What to do, then? The most straightforward way to proceed is for the MDEQ to notify Enbridge that it must comply with the requirements for authorization to occupy as I have described above, and to cease or halt the use of the lines in the Straits unless and until these lines with these new anchor supports have been applied for and determined to satisfy the standards and requirements of the GLSLA and its Rules. Recent evidence from Enbridge records and grueling evaluation by Dr. Ed Timm demonstrate that the integrity of the pipelines, as noted above has been precariously compromised, and as a result, according to Dr. Timm, there is in 2017 a probability of a failure in one of the lines as high as forty-six percent (46%).
The only prudent and correct thing for the State to do to prevent impairment or injury to the public trust and public and private riparian rights, public health, and safety, is to halt the flow of oil and put the onus on Enbridge to apply for proper conveyance authorization for these new structures in conjunction with these pipelines—they are inextricably related. Enbridge can decide to apply for these new supports in conjunction with the condition of the pipelines and the eighty percent (80%) increase in flow of crude oil. The State DEQ can now once and for all finally consider and determine as trustee of the public trust protected by the GLSLA, whether Enbridge has shown there is no likely high risk of serious impairment to the public trust interests of Michigan and its citizens.
To date, not one agency has considered the environmental impact or existence of other alternatives related to the increase in flow of crude oil, the new supports and the condition of these lines. The State can now evaluate in an orderly legal process whether the dual lines in the Straits can be or should be authorized. If Enbridge does not apply in order to comply and demonstrate a right to authorization and approval, then that is its own choice, and the State has the power, duty, and right to halt the transport of crude oil or demand decommissioning of the dual lines because they do not comply with state law and regulations enacted under its title and police power to protect its public trust lands and waters.
On June 29, the State of Michigan released for public comment a consultant’s study on alternatives to Line 5, the risky 64-year-old dual oil pipelines that cross the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac. The state is now holding public meetings on the study.
The study is a major disappointment and contributes little of value to the discussion on the fate of the oil pipelines operating in the Great Lakes since 1953.
FLOW’s position is unchanged: the State of Michigan must terminate the easement allowing Enbridge to use Lake Michigan’s lakebed for the pipelines. The state has the authority and the responsibility to do so to prevent a catastrophic oil spill. In light of Enbridge’s consistent record of disregard for maintenance of Line 5, the state must do so.
* FLOW rejects the alternatives study as fatally tainted by the authors’ blatant conflict of interest. The consulting firm’s vice president has an extensive history of working alongside of, and in support of, Enbridge. The state’s process is now revealed for what it always has been – a distraction from its responsibility to protect the Great Lakes by shutting down Line 5 now.
* Substantively, the alternatives study can’t be taken seriously because it:
FLOW is a leader in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign uniting citizens, businesses, groups, governments, tribes, and faith communities in support of shutting down Line 5 to avoid a catastrophic Great Lakes oil spill.
Join FLOW (For Love of Water) for a special of the Patagonia supported film ‘Great Lakes, Bad Lines’.
Learn about how you can help shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline and protect Great Lakes waters.
Learn : Get up to speed on Line 5, the nation’s most urgent pipeline – what’s at risk? what happens next? how can you help?
Discuss: Stay after the screening to hear from Liz Kirkwood, Director of FLOW.
Mobilize: We must take action to decommission Line 5, and 2017 is the year to do it. Get connected and get organized!
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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Now is the most important time to call for shutting down the Enbridge line 5 oil pipeline. June 12 is the final Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting and the state will be deciding what to do about Line 5 this summer. We need a large turnout to show the strong public support for protecting the Great Lakes and shutting down Line 5. Join us!
Public Comment period is from 9am to 12pm. Visit this link for information about requesting comment time:
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