Author: FLOW Editor

‘Biggest Fracking Victory Ever!’ as New York Bans Dangerous Drilling in State

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‘Biggest Fracking Victory Ever!’ as New York Bans Dangerous Drilling in State

‘Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere,’ says prominent activist after announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Anti-fracking protesters outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s policy summit in 2012. (Photo: Credo Action/cc/flickr)

It’s official. New York state will ban fracking.

After years of lobbying and aggressive public protest by state residents to make permanent a short-term moratorium on the controversial oil and gas drilling practice, Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited harm to public health as the key reason for the decision to announce an all-out ban. “The potential impacts of fracking on water, air, land resources, community and local services are significant,” Cuomo said in a tweet just after the decision was made public.

In response to the news, Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch, which has fought aggressively against fracking in New York and across the country, declared the development as the “Biggest fracking victory ever!”

“Our growing national movement has persevered,” Hauter added in a statement. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for acknowledging the overwhelming science that speaks to the inherent dangers of fracking to public health and the environment. Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere, and the governor has smartly seized a golden opportunity to be a real national leader on health, environmental protection and a future free of polluting fossil fuels.”

As the New York Times reports on Wednesday:

The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo’s first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has listened to his constituents and scientists, said celebrating environmental activists, as they applauded Wednesday’s announcement.

Jubilant reactions among local activists and national environmental leaders was swift on Twitter.   To view the web link, click here.

 

Oil & Water Presents to Petroleum Task Force

NEWS    

Oil & Water Presents to Petroleum Task Force

DECEMBER 15, 2014

LANSING – In formal remarks today to a state task force on oil pipelines, representatives of key environmental and Great Lakes groups – echoing the concerns of businesses, governments, and thousands of citizens – called on Governor Snyder to take swift and meaningful action to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill from a pair of 61-year-old Enbridge pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

“A growing number of communities, businesses, individuals, and organizations are calling on the state to determine what the potential harm to the Great Lakes and our Pure Michigan economy would be if these aging oil pipelines leaked in the Straits,” said Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. “The state has the opportunity and legal duty to get answers to the public’s questions and enlist Michiganders in determining the fate of these pipelines in order to prevent a disaster.”

“The state has the opportunity and legal duty to get answers to the public’s questions and enlist Michiganders in determining the fate of these pipelines in order to prevent a disaster.” – Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute

Leaders of a Campaign to protect the Straits of Mackinac from an oil spill were invited to present to the Snyder administration’s Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force, which began meeting in August to study issues related to pipelines transporting petroleum products around the state. The task force has given particular attention to the Straits oil pipelines and is expected to make recommendations by spring.

To read the full press release click here.

Detroit water shutoffs must end

BRIDGE News and analysis from The Center for Michigan

Detroit water shutoffs must end

Jim Olson

Detroit’s emergency manager filed for bankruptcy in July 2013 to force creditors to negotiate a bankruptcy plan that would slash the city’s unwieldy debt. Last month, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit approved a plan that would over time give Detroit a chance to survive. Missing from the plan, however, is any mention of the disturbance and threat to the rights to water and health of Detroit’s poor caused by the abrupt shut off of their water service.

Over the past year, Detroit has shut off an unprecedented 27,000 households ? more than 10 percent of the city’s total, preventing families, children and those with medical conditions from accessing water for drinking, cooking, bathing and flushing. The city launched the shutoffs to improve its chances of negotiating a bankruptcy plan and improve its position with the suburbs and private water companies who have been eying a takeover of Detroit’s water system.

Charities and businesses stepped forward with unprecedented donations of hundreds of millions of dollars to save the inestimable value of the collection of art at the Detroit Art Institute. Ironically, no one stepped forward to contribute or establish an affordable rate structure based on ability to pay to save Detroit’s water system that serves Detroit’s poor, mostly African American population – a wrenching irony for a city that runs along the shores of the Great Lakes.

Detroit’s loss in population, increased costs of operations, aging infrastructure, unemployment, and the loss of tax base from the flight of the auto industry and people to the suburbs have combined to pump up the average water bill above $100 per month for a family – in some instances reportedly as high as $2,000 because of mistakes or charges for which residents were not responsible. This cost is simply staggering in a city rife with poverty, where 20 percent of the city’s population lives on less than $800 per month.

In America, the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution are supposed to protect the fundamental rights of persons’ liberties and interests in property from harm. Interests in liberty and property cannot be terminated arbitrarily in our country without notice and an opportunity to be heard. As Jacque Cousteau once said, “the life cycle and water cycle are one.” It would seem that Detroit should not be allowed to shut off water service to its residents without respecting their life and liberty from harmful risks and unfair or discriminatory actions.

The city of Detroit clearly may well need to collect revenue or improve its balance sheet to exit bankruptcy free from intolerable debt. However, severing water from the homes or off the back of its remaining poor and most vulnerable residents is even more intolerable – an action that could jeopardize lives, health, and force fewer residents to pay exponentially higher water bills.

Something has gone terribly wrong here that deserves much closer scrutiny, not only for the residents of Detroit, but for people around the country and world who lack access to water to preserve health and life. The world faces a water crisis. In less than 20 years, demand for fresh water will exceed supply by as much as 30 percent. More than a billion people will be without fresh water. How we treat water services today sets a precedent on how we treat water and each other tomorrow.

Click here to view full story.

Jim Olson Article on Detroit Water Shut Offs

Detroit’s Bankruptcy and Water Shutoffs Strike a Blow

  to the Rights and Public Trust in Water of Detroit’s Poor

 

By Jim Olson[1]

            Detroit’s emergency manager filed for bankruptcy in July 2013 to force creditors to negotiate a bankruptcy plan that would slash the city’s unwieldy debt, and, it appeared, to derail a state court constitutional challenge to the emergency manager’s authority. Last week the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit approved a plan that would over time give Detroit a chance to survive. Missing from the plan, however, was any mention of the disturbance and threat to the rights to water, and health of Detroit’s poor caused by the abrupt termination of their water service.

             Over the past year, Detroit has shutoff an unprecedented 27,000 households- more than 10 percent of the city’s total, preventing families, children and those with medical conditions from accessing water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and flushing. The city launched the shutoffs without warning to improve its chances in negotiating the bankruptcy plan. The move sought to improve its position with suburbs and private water companies who have been eying the prize of taking over the bonanza of Detroit’s water system

            Notably, state, charities, and businesses stepped forward with donations of hundreds of millions to save the inestimable value of the collection of art and landmark buildings at the Detroit Art Institute. Ironically, no one has stepped forward to contribute to a plan for an affordable rate structure, based on individual ability to pay, to save Detroit’s water system that serves Detroit’s poor, mostly African American population – a wrenching irony for a city that runs along the shores of the Great Lakes, the world’s largest supply of fresh surface water and the source of Detroit’s drinking water.

            Detroit’s loss in population, increased costs of operations, aging infrastructure, unemployment, and the loss of tax base from the flight of the auto industry and people to the suburbs have combined to pump up the average water bill above $100 per month for a family – in some instances reportedly as high as $2,000 because of mistakes or charges for which residents were not responsible. This cost is simply staggering in a city rife with poverty, where 20 percent of the city’s population lives on less than $800 per month to meet all their needs. Failure to pay by those who cannot afford their water bill because of low income, medical conditions, or other competing basic needs – often a just position in a system beset with leaks and billing errors – has resulted in the massive shutoffs without notice or chance to respond.

[1]Jim Olson is a founder and President of FLOW (For Love of Water), a Great Lakes water policy center whose mission is to establish effective policy and law to protect the waters of the Great Lakes basin and the public uses that depend on them. www.flowforwater.org. The author also is one of several attorneys who have appeared of record in Lydia v City of Detroit, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, on behalf of the plaintiffs- residents whose water has been or is threatened with shutoff. The author emphasizes that this article is only his personal opinion and not necessarily the view of the plaintiffs or FLOW.

To read the full article, click here.

Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts

http://greatlakesecho.org/2014/10/30/great-lakes-fishery-managers-need-insight-on-climate-change-impacts/

Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts

Researchers hope to predict how fish like Great Lakes cisco will adapt to a changing environment. Photo: Environmental Protection Agency

By Duygu Kanver

Great Lakes fishery managers worry that their operations may be harmed by invasive species, habitat loss and climate change in the long run, according to a new study.

The study focuses on their need for information about climate change.

Kate Mulvaney, a research participant in the Environmental Protection Agency-funded Oakridge Institute for Science and Education program, said a team of researchers “from a bunch of disciplines,” fisheries ecology, social sciences, climatology and engineering, worked in this project. Mulvaney is the lead author of the article published in the latest issue of Journal of Great Lakes Research

The study was conducted by researchers from the Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and the University of Colorado-Boulder Institute for Environmental Sciences with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Both fishery managers and fishery researchers see habitat loss and invasive species as the biggest threats, the study found. Climate change in the long term ranked third among major concerns for both groups.

In fact, they see climate change as directly related to their primary concerns according to the study, which quotes a participant in a Lake Ontario focus group who said, “I mean climate change and habitat are not independent. I mean none of them are.”

According to the study, scientific research on climate change and its possible effects on Great Lakes fisheries exist, but are not easily accessible or comprehensible to the fisheries managers.

“It is absolutely essential for fishery managers of the Great Lakes region to have an understanding of the input into climate change, and the effects of climate change on the fisheries,” said Marc Gaden, the communications director and legislative liaison of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

“These are the men and women who are on the frontlines. They make myriad decisions every day about fisheries and fishery management, and they need as complete an understanding as humanly possible.

“That said,” Gaden said, “area scientists are also in the frontlines of being sources of good information. They are in a good position to understand what the anglers’ expectations are.”

In surveys and focus groups for the study, fishery managers said they need scientific information tailored to their needs.

Mulvaney said the researchers also found that fishery managers prefer new information to be presented to them in person so they can ask questions to better relate the information to their work.

“They get so many e-mails with new reports that they can easily miss an e-mailed PDF,” she said.

One objective of the study was to explain the expectations of the angling community to the scientific research community.

“I thought Mulvaney’s study was very good in stating the fact that fishery managers are the partners in this,” Gaden said.

Mulvaney said the researchers asked many people to participate in the study. “We contacted fisheries managers from all of the Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario. We also contacted managers from the United States and Canadian federal governments and leaders from several tribes.

“Finally, we reached some of the fishing and environmental stakeholders from both the United States and Canada,” she said.

Study participants’ biggest fear about the effects of climate change is the decrease in the fish population due to migration of cold water species.

Mark Kotlick, the owner of Calumet Fisheries in Chicago, expressed his worries this way:

“I think the warmer weather and harsh winters has kept the fish population deeper and further from the shore. The chub (cisco) population has been basically extinct for five years now.”

Ciscos are also known as lake herrings.

Study participants didn’t specifically mention cisco but did express concerns about the effects of climate change on other salmonids. The study said fishery managers would like to learn about the future of salmon, trout and whitefish in the warming waters of the Great Lakes.

“Commercial fishermen are getting less and less fish in their nets,” said Kotlick. “I fear the same thing with the chubs might start happening to the trout and salmon population in the future.”

Gaden, who is a co-author of the recent National Climate Assessment, said the fishery managers’ worries are not unfounded.

As Great Lakes water temperatures rise, warmer water species like bass, walleye and yellow perch are projected to expand while the habitat for cold water fish like salmon, trout and whitefish will continue to shrink.

“We have seen the waters warming slowly since the 1960s” Gaden said. “By 2050, we will see an additional rise by about 7 °F in the surface water temperature, and by the end of the century, by 2100, a rise by 12 °F.

“Fishery managers are going to have to react to that. There may have to be changes in management or hatchery policies and angler expectations in the future,” Gaden said.

 

Source: D. Kanver, Great Lakes Echo, Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts

At:  http://greatlakesecho.org/2014/10/30/great-lakes-fishery-managers-need-insight-on-climate-change-impacts/

Accessed: October 30, 2014

Hawaii River Restorations Reflect National Desire to Protect Water for Public Benefit

 

Hawaii River Restorations Reflect National Desire to Protect Water for Public Benefit

Using public trust doctrine, communities restore streams diverted for more than 100 years.

Taro Kalo fields Kauai Hawaii

Photo courtesy Jan Arendtsz via Flickr Creative Commons
Water restored to natural rivers will help support fields of Hawaii’s traditional and culturally important taro crop, like these on the island of Kauai.Click image to enlarge.

By Codi Kozacek
Circle of Blue

Streams that have been drained dry for more than a century flowed again on the Hawaiian island of Maui last week following the return of water diverted to supply sugar plantations in the island’s arid central plains. The restorations are the result of a series of legal challenges to the commodification of Hawaii’s water—by state law a resource held for the benefit of the public—and are part of a national trend to protect tributaries and groundwater resources that support cultural, ecological and recreational water uses.

Starting this month, up to 10 million gallons of water per day are being sent into ‘Iao Stream, and 2.9 million gallons per day are flowing to Waikapu Stream, both part of Maui’s Na Wai ‘Eha—Four Great Waters—watershed. In April, Hawaii’s State Commission on Water Resource Management ordered the Wailuku Water Company to release the water as part of a settlement agreement with local community and environmental organizations. The water company had been using the diverted water to help supply the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, land developments, and the Maui County Department of Water Supply. With permits, the company will still be allowed to divert excess water above the minimum requirements the settlement created for in-stream uses.

Beginning in the 1800s with the arrival of Western colonial powers, extensive canal and tunnel systems were built on the six inhabited Hawaiian Islands to capture water flowing through steep, coastal mountain valleys and redirect it inland to supply sugar and pineapple plantations. In many cases, entire streams were diverted, drying up culturally significant taro fields that fed native Hawaiian communities and disconnecting ocean fish and shrimp species from their river nurseries. Only one commercial sugar plantation remains in Hawaii, but an estimated 90 percent of Hawaii’s streams are still being diverted.

“There is a definite connection between what is going on in Hawaii and the movement across the world to view water as a basic human right versus water as property.”

–Isaac Moriwake, Attorney
Earthjustice Mid-Pacific Office

Efforts to restore river systems drained by agriculture are gaining traction globally—from North America’s Colorado River Basin to Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin—and local community and environmental groups in Hawaii have spent the past two decades fighting to put water back in island streams. To do so, they have relied on the public trust doctrine—a principle of community resource protection that is a tenet of both ancient Hawaiian law and Western common law—to argue that Hawaii’s water should be used for the benefit of all, not only of private companies. The public trust doctrine has been preserved in the state’s constitution and the State Water Code, and Hawaii is one of the leaders in a national effort to use it for conservation. The streams on Maui, part of the Na Wai ‘Eha—Four Great Waters—river system, are the latest to receive water due to a public trust case.

“There is a definite connection between what is going on in Hawaii and the movement across the world to view water as a basic human right versus water as property,” Isaac Moriwake, an attorney for Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office who co-lead the Na Wai ‘Eha case on Maui, told Circle of Blue. “In Hawaii, we have some of the strongest laws in the world reaffirming that water is a public trust, but the gap between that law and the actual reality on the ground is sometimes staggering.”

Public Trust Cases Evolving to Protect Groundwater and Tributaries

Iao Stream water diversion Maui Hawaii

Photo courtesy Jongela19 via Flickr Creative Commons
Grates placed across ‘Iao Stream on Maui have diverted the water to sugar and pineapple plantations for more than a century.Click image to enlarge.

The Na Wai ‘Eha case is consistent with the the way the public trust doctrine has traditionally been applied to protect cultural and environmental benefits provided by rivers and other bodies of surface water, according to Jim Olson, president and founder of the Michigan-based nonprofit FLOW and an expert on public trust law. Now, several states—including Hawaii—are applying the public trust doctrine to preserve groundwater supplies and non-navigable tributaries.

“Science has recognized for some time, and legislators and policy makers are now recognizing, that groundwater and lakes and streams and runoff are all one single hydrological system—affecting one would affect another,” Olson told Circle of Blue. “The trend has been to take traditional public trust cases, which recognized the public’s right to surface water, and apply that law to groundwater.”

“The trend has been to take traditional public trust cases, which recognized the public’s right to surface water, and apply that law to groundwater.”

–Jim Olson, President and Founder
FLOW

A primary example is California, where the state Legislature passed a package of laws that will force local agencies to curb groundwater use for the first time. Excessive groundwater pumping, mostly by the state’s agriculture industry, has dried up residential wells during the state’s three-year drought. Other states enforcing public trust protections for groundwater and small tributaries include Vermont and Wisconsin.

“It is interesting because what is happening—in Vermont, in Hawaii, in California, in Wisconsin—points to a trend,” Olson said. “Any tributary water, whether groundwater or a non-navigable stream, if that is impacted or diminished and the navigable portion is affected, it violates the public trust.”

More Cases Pending in Hawaii

Iao Stream mouth Maui Hawaii

Photo courtesy Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr Creative Commons
Water diversions left little to no water in Maui’s ‘Iao Stream, with large dry areas visible near the river’s outlet.Click image to enlarge.

In Hawaii, where many aquifers rely on stream flows to recharge, efforts to return diverted water to natural streams are far from finished. A case involving diversions for the East Maui Irrigation System is heading into hearings, and a case filed on Kauai in 2013 is seeking to restore water to Waimea River, one of the largest in the state.

“When plantations go away, there is a lot of water to be restored to the public trust, and yet that is not happening,” Moriwake said. “What is happening is the companies, as they turn into other businesses, are converting to businesses based on controlling and sometimes selling land and water.”

“When plantations go away, there is a lot of water to be restored to the public trust, and yet that is not happening.”

–Isaac Moriwake, Attorney
Earthjustice Mid-Pacific Office

The Na Wai ‘Eha restorations on Maui are seen as a major victory, but also as a reminder of the slow pace of change—Na Wai ‘Eha is only the second successful stream restoration case in Hawaii, following the state’s landmark Waiahole water case on Oahu in 2000 that recognized the public’s right to diverted water. Both restorations occurred because of community legal action.

“It’s a sad statement on the state’s ability to enforce the law because it’s the state’s obligation to make sure rivers and streams are getting the water they need,” Moriwake said. “The reality is that now, 14 years after Waiahole and almost 40 years after the adoption of our constitution, the only in-stream flow standards established in the state are due to litigation.”

Author: Codi Yeager-Kozacek

 is a news correspondent for Circle of Blue based out of Hawaii. She co-writes The Stream, Circle of Blue’s daily digest of international water news trends. Her interests include food security, ecology and the Great Lakes.

Email: Codi Yeager-Kozacek  :: Follow on Twitter :: More Articles

Source: Yeger-Kozacek, C., “Hawaii River Restorations Reflect National Desire to Protect Water for Public Benefit”, Circle of Blue, http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2014/world/hawaii-river-restorations-emblematic-national-efforts-protect-water-public-benefit/, Accessed 10-29-14.

Mayors of Traverse City and Mackinac Island Urge Gov. Snyder to Regulate 61-Year-Old Oil Pipelines in Straits

 

Traverse City’s Mayor Michael Estes urged Gov. Snyder in a letter this week to take action as the state’s primary trustee and to regulate twin 61-year-old pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac that transport about 23 million gallons of oil every day.

Traverse City’s letter follows a similar letter that Mayor Doud of the City of Mackinac Island sent to the governor’s office just last month.  A catastrophic oil spill in the Straits would surround Mackinac Island and affect an 85-mile stretch from Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island to Rogers City in Lake Huron, according to University of Michigan’s recent dispersion model.

“Due to our proximity to the pipelines, a spill of almost any size would surround the Island in oil, shut down all ferry service, and leave residents without a viable drinking water supply for an indefinite period of time,” stated Mayor Doud in her letter to the Governor. “As Mayor of this unique community, I cannot stand by and simply hope that the pipelines pose no threat.”

Mayor Estes heralded the importance of water to Traverse City’s economy and way of life in his letter to the governor: “Lake Michigan’s clean water and magnificent shores are the backbone of Traverse City…  In 2013, tourism alone generated more than $1.23 billion in economic activity and was responsible for maintaining nearly 12,000 jobs in the Traverse City area.  Allowing the integrity of these waters to fall by the wayside would thus have dire consequences for the economy of the Traverse City area and subsequently the State of Michigan.”

This issue is a high priority for Mayor Estes who is a U.S. Michigan Advisor to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, which issued a resolution in the spring for the replacement of Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

The State of Michigan issued an easement to pipeline owner and operator, Enbridge, in 1953 to place two twenty-inch-diameter oil pipelines on the state-owned bottomlands and waters of Lake Michigan.  As owner and trustee, the state has a perpetual duty to the public to protect these waters and public uses of drinking, swimming, fishing, navigation, and recreation.  This means the state must ensure that that these private oil pipelines never harm or impair the state public waters.

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, commended both Mayors Estes and Doud saying, “Mayor Estes and Mayor Doud are serving their cities well by taking this leadership role and raising this important Great Lakes issue before the Governor who is our primary state trustee and steward of our waters.”

FLOW is a lead partner in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign – comprised of over 17 environmental organizations, businesses, and tribes – that authored a letter to the Governor, Attorney General, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director in July, calling on state leaders to ensure Enbridge is in full compliance with the State’s 1953 easement.  The letter requested the state to require Enbridge to file an application under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and conclude that these oil pipelines will not impair or substantially harm the public trust waters or bottomlands in Lake Michigan.

 

 

State Urged to Get Involved at Line 5

By Paul Gingras of the St. Ignace News

Oct. 9, 2014

www.stignacenews.com/news/2014-10-09/Front_Page/State_Urged_to_Get_Involved_at_Line_5.html

Citizens called on Governor Rick Snyder Monday, October 6, to exert state authority to prevent a potentially catastrophic oil spill from Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 petroleum pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Increased conveyance of petroleum products and the potential for heavier forms of oil to be pumped through the two pipes continues to raise the concern of residents.

The state should apply the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act to Line 5, according to attorney Liz Kirkwood of the Oil and Water Don’t Mix campaign, enabling an open public process to unfold that would include an analysis of the pipeline by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). To obtain rights to pump petroleum across the bottomlands, the DEQ would have to conclude that the pipeline poses no significant danger to public or private interests. The act did not initially apply because the pipeline was laid in 1953, two years before the act was adodpted.

The Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force, intended to assess pipelines, does not go far enough to protect citizens, Ms. Kirkwood says. Speaking on behalf of the group entitled For Love of Water (FLOW), she said the task force closed-door meetings are “not an appropriate response to the scale of the threat.”

If the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act is brought to bear on Line 5, Enbridge will be under much more scrutiny than that required by Public Act 10 in 1953, when the company attained its original easement with the state. The state should have invoked the act in 1955, Ms. Kirkwood contends, adding that none of the state’s underwater pipeline was grandfathered in when the act was established.

By invoking the act would, outside experts and the public could participate. The authority for governing Line 5 rests with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a division of the United States Department of Transportation. So far, the state has deferred to federal authority in the matter, but Ms. Kirkwood says the agency cannot provide the strong, local oversight needed, and her group is calling upon the state to step in.

In Lower Michigan, she said, a spill would threaten drinking water, but little attention has been paid to this concern. She thinks pipelines should be removed from the Great Lakes altogether.

The Coast Guard is not prepared to handle spills involving heavy forms of petroleum commonly known as “tar sands,” it recently reported. Although Line 5 does not carry heavy oil, Enbridge line 6B in Michigan does carry it, and nothing in the existing easement regarding Line 5 prevents Enbridge from pumping tar sands beneath the Straits of Mackinac, she said.

Ms. Kirkwood said tar sands were unknown to the state when Line 5 was authorized in the 1950s. Applying the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act would enable the state to revisit the easement agreement, assert control, and prevent tar sands from being pumped beneath the Straits.

Enbridge and the federal government have not released enough information about the line, said Andy McGlashen of the Michigan Environmental Council.

Aaron Payment, chairman for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said the state’s pipeline task force lacks a sense of urgency. He is also concerned about Enbridge’s track record. Having worked with Kalamazoo area Native American groups in 2010, when Line 6B spilled about one million gallons of oil near Marshall, Mr. Payment said initial estimates suggested cleanup costs of $5 million. Since then, he said it has topped $1 billion, and the effort continues.

A pipeline spill concerns the Sault Tribe in particular because it would damage territory ceded to the federal government in trade for permanent hunting and fishing rights. The tribe considers a potential spill a serious threat for subsistence, commercial, and sport fishing. An oil spill could affect Bois Blanc and Mackinac islands, he said, and damage tributaries connected to lakes Michigan and Huron.

The tribe’s focus is not to assess how to respond to an oil spill, Mr. Payment said, but to prevent one. He called for the state and tribes to pressure the federal government to step up pipeline oversight.

“We don’t want to look back and say, ‘I wish we would have done something,’” he said.

George Goodman of the Mackinac Island Community Foundation said an oil spill at the Straits could eliminate the local drinking water supply and could lead to evacuation from the Island. In terms of the economy, he noted that Mackinac Island is promoted by the Pure Michigan campaign. An oil spill would be “devastating to the tourism industry.” He urged the governor to consider Line 5 an “urgent priority.”

Chris Shepler, president of Shepler Mackinac Island Ferry, highlighted the responsibility of citizens to be freshwater stewards and expressed concern over the Enbridge Energy track record.

Many Michigan residents were surprised to learn that Enbridge was running oil beneath the Great Lakes at all, said Jim Lively of the Michigan Land Use Institute. He learned of the issue about one year ago from a National Wildlife Federation report. Since then, he has been part of public awareness efforts. A member of the growing Oil and Water Don’t Mix campaign, he said thousands have lent support through the organization’s Web site. At the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk, a petition demanding the state address the pipeline issue yielded 1,300 signatures.

“Clearly this is a state issue,” he said.

Susan Lenfestey, a resident of Mackinac Island, said the thrust of Enbridge Energy’s response to public concern about Line 5 has rested heavily on the rarity of oil spills. She said that she never believed she would see a freighter run aground in the Round Island Passage, either, but September 4, she saw the 1,004- foot American Spirit bulk carrier run aground by stormy weather. The incident, she said, reminded people that accidents can happen.

(Source: http://www.stignacenews.com/news/2014-10-09/Front_Page/State_Urged_to_Get_Involved_at_Line_5.html, Accessed 10-9-14)

State Gets Report on Straits of Mackinac Pipelines

http://www.wilx.com/home/headlines/State-Gets-Report-on-Straits-of-Mackinac-Pipelines-278321971.html

 

Officials from a pipeline company are seeking to reassure Michigan officials who are conducting a safety review of lines including those running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.
The Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force announced Monday it got an update last month about Enbridge Energy Partners LP’s Line 5. It includes two lines that run beneath the straits separating the state’s two peninsulas where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge.
The task force is reviewing Michigan’s network of oil pipelines, starting with Line 5. It’s discussing the use, oversight and a future portion of the line. Enbridge says there will be inspections by remotely operated submersible and other safety measures.
The state Department of Environmental Quality says the lines are reliableand haven’t leaked since their installation in 1953.

(Source: http://www.wilx.com/home/headlines/State-Gets-Report-on-Straits-of-Mackinac-Pipelines-278321971.html, Accessed 10-9-14)

What’s the status of the old oil pipeline under Lake Michigan? We need more information to know.

The Environment Report

We’ve been working to find an answer to the question, “What’s the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?”

It was posed by Justin Cross for our M I Curious project.

One of the first things we discovered was that the company holds all the cards.

Enbridge officials have been willing to talk to us about it – but only up to a point.

Here’s what we know:

  • The pipeline’s original engineering design called for several extra steps for safety
  • The pipeline is not subject to cracking because of the way it was built
  • Corrosion problems are what the experts believe are the greatest risk to this pipeline
  • The company says the pipeline has never leaked
  • The bottom of the lake bed shifts, so Enbridge has to install new anchors for support
  • The company tells the public the pipeline in the Straits crossing is in “excellent” shape

 

?Here’s what we don’t know:

  • We can’t see specific documentation that backs up Enbridge’s claim that the pipeline is safe

?We go to the Straits of Mackinac

They did invite us to come see the pipeline for ourselves out in the middle of the Straits of Mackinac.

Tom Prew is a regional engineer for Enbridge and he helps the company monitor this pipeline. The company runs a remotely operated vehicle to shoot video of the pipeline every two years. The company has also been installing new anchors on the pipeline for the last 13 years.

We asked Prew what he’s noticed about the 61-year-old pipeline.

“It’s in real good shape, is what we’re noticing. That’s the main thing,” said Prew. “I mean the coating is in very good shape. It hasn’t changed much since it’s been put in.”

Prew said that if they had to rebuild it, they’d probably build it the same way.

The location of the two 20-inch oil and gas pipelines crossing the Straits of Mackinac.
Credit PHMSA

The pipeline was built in 1953. One 30-inch pipeline is split into two 20-inch pipelines to make the crossing.

The state of Michigan has an easement that laid out some specific requirements for this pipeline.

You can read that easement here.

It stipulates that:

  • The pipelines should be buried underground until they reach a depth of 65 feet of water.
  • The pipelines were to be tested at 1,700 psi and operated at 600 psi (Enbridge says they operate today at between 150 and 200 psi).
  • Automatic shutoff valves on the north end of the lines, and check valves at the south end.
  •  Cathodic protection to prevent corrosion.
  • The maximum unsupported length of pipeline should not exceed 75 feet.
  • And carbon content of the steel used to build the pipeline “shall not be in excess of .247%

How these pipelines are different from the pipelines on land

Enbridge says this section of pipeline does not have horizontal weld seams.

Horizontal seams are where a lot of cracking can occur on other pipelines.

The horizontal seam that split on Line 6B.
Credit NTSB

The horizontal seam on Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline is what cracked open. That broken pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, and it turned out that Enbridge knew about cracks and corrosion before the spill happened.

As we reported earlier, the experts we talked to said how a pipeline is maintained is much more important than how old it is.

To understand the condition of its pipeline, Enbridge runs tests. They shoot video of the outside and they run tools inside the pipeline to find out how it’s doing.

Rick Kuprewicz is a pipeline safety expert. He runs a consulting firm and he’s looked at the data that are available.

“From what I’ve seen they’ve run the right tools, but I can’t tell you what the results are because I haven’t seen them,” he said.

“From what I’ve seen they’ve run the right tools, but I can’t tell you what the results are…”

He says he can’t say whether the pipelines under Lake Michigan are safe or not.

“You need more information of a specific type with the answers in a manner that gives you confidence.”

Company cites difficult data interpretation as reason to not release documents

The specific pieces of information Kuprewicz says we should look for are the inline inspection reports. There’s a tool called a “magnetic flux leakage tool” that shows whether the pipeline has corrosion problems.

Enbridge summarized what they’ve found in a lengthy report, but it doesn’t give specifics about the corrosion tool data in the Straits.

They told us that the pipeline is in good condition, but when we asked them for the documents that prove the pipeline is in good shape, they said the data are difficult to interpret.

“It’d be equivalent to handing somebody an EKG strip on heart monitoring,” said Brad Shamla, the vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge. “You know, you can do all kinds of things by looking at the ups and downs, but at the end of the day, unless you know what you’re looking at, it’s very difficult to read some of the data.”

“… unless you know what you’re looking at, it’s very difficult to read some of the data.”

He says they do share the data with the federal agency that regulates them.

Governmental roadblocks

But the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would not talk with us for this report. They told us that we needed to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents. We did that, and we’re waiting for that information.

But there might be other ways to see the data.

Andy Buchsbaum heads up the National Wildlife Foundation’s Great Lakes office. He says PHMSA just hasn’t done a good job watching these pipeline companies.

“We’re all on the hook if there’s a spill, but we have little jurisdiction, little authority to make sure that spill doesn’t happen — which is crazy.”

The National Wildlife Federation has been asking for more data too.  They were one of many groups that pushed the state of Michigan to ask more questions.

The state attorney general’s office did, and Enbridge responded.

You can see the detailed questions and responses here.

Enbridge mentions an attachment that shows the data we’re looking for, so we asked the state for the data that would tell us whether the pipeline has corrosion problems.

But after a few days, we were told that Enbridge stopped them from sharing it.

Enbridge told the state the data were protected under the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

Here’s the Attorney General’s office explanation.

Enbridge has asserted that the report from the Inline Inspection Tool Run you requested falls under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and other federal statutes which Enbridge claims prohibits disclosure of information pertaining to certain critical infrastructure.  We’re still reviewing their request to prohibit this disclosure but in the meantime, this document is unavailable for us to distribute.

“There are plenty of maps that show where those pipelines are,” the NWF’s Andy Buchsbaum says. “Whether they’re corroding inside is neither a business concern nor a homeland security concern. It’s a concern for the Great Lakes, but it’s something we all need to know.”

The state said they can view the data, but it’s not in a form that can be shared. They have to log into a website to see it. We asked if they’ve reviewed it and feel comfortable with what they’re seeing. They told us they’re still looking at it.

Videos released to state lead to more questions

Enbridge did share inspection videos with the state — and we were able to obtain those. Two folders are labeled as “dent inspections” and they show divers taking a closer look at the pipeline.

Here’s one inspection video:

You can see another here.

The company said they learned about the potential dents from their inline inspection tool.

When we asked Enbridge about these videos, they said their inline tool indicated a dent of less than 2% – and results were still pending.

Here’s their response:

There were two minor dents reported in the latest geometry ILI report received in July. They were less than the reporting threshold (less than 2%) but were noted in the report by our ILI vendor. We elected to conduct a visual inspection of the pipe to verify. The final report from this visual inspection has not yet been received from the inspection vendor to confirm the presence of a dent.

So back to Justin’s question: What’s the status of the old Enbridge oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac? As one expert told us— the jury is still out.

Enbridge, the National Wildlife Federation, and the state of Michigan have been meeting to talk about the condition of the pipeline, and they say they’ll continue to do so.

We’re all waiting for Enbridge to share the information that will prove whether the pipeline under Lake Michigan is in good condition

To read the full article, listen and view videos, click this link: http://michiganradio.org/post/whats-status-old-oil-pipeline-under-lake-michigan-we-need-more-information-know

(Source:  http://michiganradio.org/post/whats-status-old-oil-pipeline-under-lake-michigan-we-need-more-information-know Accessed 10-9-14)