Line 5, Lame Duck Legislature Threaten Michigan’s Waters and Way of Life

Tues., Dec. 18, is the public comment deadline on oil tunnel, as Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers race to undermine state laws and the Great Lakes

With four days remaining until the Michigan Legislature is scheduled to adjourn and 14 days until the inauguration of a new governor, environmental rollbacks still threaten Michigan’s waters and values. 

To help FLOW and many allied groups fight back, please read the bill summaries below, and – for greater detail – click on the links to review the bill text and any state-prepared analysis. And then call or email your State Senator (find that information here) AND your State Representative (find that information here) to voice your opposition to these bills. And if you live outside Michigan, but spend some of your time and money in the Great Lakes state appreciating its lakes, streams, forests, and other natural resources, please let Michigan’s Senate leadership and House leadership know your concerns. Thank you!

At this writing, it appears likely the Michigan House of Representatives will consider two measures that could cripple protection of Michigan’s environment and human health:

  • Senate Bill 1211 would remove state protections from over 500,000 acres of wetlands, more than 3,000 lakes and over 20,000 miles of streams.
  • Senate Bill 1244 would handcuff state DEQ scientists in setting standards for toxic cleanups, preventing them from using the latest science on human health effects — and preventing them from protecting pregnant women and their unborn children unless the US EPA has already acted.  In the form it passed the Senate, SB 1244 could weaken Michigan’s already too-soft toxic PFAS cleanup standard from 70 parts per trillion to as much as 300 parts per trillion.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Snyder will soon have to decide whether to sign House Bill 4205, the “no stronger than federal” legislation already approved by the Legislature:

  • HB 4205 would bar the state from going beyond federal minimum standards in environmental protection and other areas unless it met a very high burden of proof.  Such a measure could have prevented Michigan from exercising its historic leadership in protecting the environment by acting on DDT and other pollutants from the 1960s through the 1980s.

An even bigger threat to Michigan’s waters and economy is the fate of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac: 

  • Public Act 359 (was Senate Bill 1197) was signed into law by Gov. Snyder on December 12. The law is part of his last-ditch effort to allow Enbridge Energy to operate its risky Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac for another decade while a private oil tunnel is considered as a replacement. The law places either the Mackinac Bridge Authority and/or the newly created Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority in charge of oversight and ownership of the proposed tunnel, which Enbridge would lease for up to 99 years, and has the potential to expose the state and the taxpayers of Michigan to liability if it ever results in a spill, explosion, or other accident impacting the Great Lakes, the Pure Michigan economy, and the shipping of iron ore critical to much of the nation’s steel production and related industry.

The governor-appointed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority will meet for the first time on Wednesday, December 19, in St. Ignace to rubber-stamp the state’s agreements with Enbridge, which were released on December 13, allowing just three business days for the public to review and comment. FLOW will be submitting detailed legal and technical comments, and we encourage the public to submit comments for the official administrative record, which is important in the event of litigation or other challenge to the tunnel decision.

Comments on the Line 5 oil tunnel agreements can be emailed by Tuesday, December 18, to or left by telephone at 833-367-6713.

FLOW staff members, however, are not planning to attend the December 19 meeting of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority because it is a sham, including the rushed and slipshod crafting of the legislation creating the governing authority, the unconstitutional nature of the law itself in forming a public body for a primarily private purpose – the private transport of oil from western to eastern Canada, the law’s explicit attempt to tie the hands of the next governor and attorney general, the secret drafting of public agreements with a private foreign company, the real risk to taxpayers and the fiscal integrity of the Mackinac Bridge, and the complete lack of a meaningful public comment and engagement process.

We are continuing to make the public aware of the December 19 meeting of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority so that each individual, business, local government, tribe, or organization can be fully informed and make their own best decisions regarding whether to attend.

The state’s official notice is here, and notice from the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign is here. In addition, just today in response to a request from FLOW, the state released the already executed easement from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority and the assignment to Enbridge prior to public review and public trust application.

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Tues., Dec. 18, is the public comment deadline on oil tunnel, as Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers race to undermine state laws and the Great Lakes