FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 18, 2018
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director Email: Liz@FLOWforWater.org
FLOW (For Love of Water), Traverse City, MI Web: www.FLOWforWater.org Office: (231) 944-1568, Cell: (570) 872-4956
Wednesday’s meeting in St. Ignace of tunnel authority board is a sham process that increases risk of a Great Lakes oil spill
Traverse City, Mich. – In a rush to give away public land, water, and taxpayer resources to the private Canadian pipeline company Enbridge before departing office in 13 days, Gov. Rick Snyder and his administration are knowingly taking steps that trample Michigan law and openly violate the state constitution, while locking in at least a decade of increasing risk of a pipeline oil spill into the Great Lakes and the drinking water supply for millions of people, said FLOW (For Love of Water) today in formal public comments sent to state officials.
FLOW’s letter comes at the deadline of a meager 3-business-day public comment period set last Thursday by the state to review a complex set of proposed legal agreements between and among the State of Michigan, Enbridge, and the just-formed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority.
Members of the public can submit comments by today (Dec. 18) to DNR-StraitsTunnelComment@michigan.gov or by telephone at 833-367-6713. In addition, on Monday 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, without public review and public trust application.
“The agreements and proposed actions that the State of Michigan is seeking to ram through represent an abandonment of the requirements and duties imposed upon the state as trustees of our public trust resources, including publicly owned Great Lakes waters and bottomlands,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City. “This is a critical moment in the history of the State of Michigan and the Great Lakes. We urge the Snyder administration to pause, engage the public and these critical concerns meaningfully, and reflect on what is at stake for this and future generations. There need not be a rush to judgment when 20 percent of the available surface freshwater of the world is at stake.”
The Snyder administration is hastily drafting and signing laws and legal and fiscal agreements designed to last 99 years, racing the clock before Snyder’s term ends on December 31 and a new governor and attorney general take office who oppose the oil tunnel and the continued operation of Enbridge’s decaying Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. The agreements are predicated on the newly passed Public Act 359 (was Senate Bill 1197) to authorize a private oil tunnel that would be owned by the State of Michigan and leased for 99 years to Enbridge. P.A. 359 amends the 1952 law establishing an authority to build the Mackinac Bridge as a time machine to go back before the state Constitution of 1963 and modern public trust and environmental laws – including the 1955 Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act.
The governor-appointed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority board 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. FLOW, and the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign that FLOW helps direct, have called the authority board and tunnel approval process a sham.
FLOW and our allies have condemned 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, a taxpayer-supported legal defense fund for Enbridge’s proposed tunnel, and the complete lack of a meaningful public comment and engagement process.
The proposed tunnel, to be completed in 7 to 10 years, means Enbridge will continue to pump 23 million gallons of oil a day through an extremely risky Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac—just one more anchor strike or failure of the decaying pipelines from an oil spill catastrophe. The tunnel does nothing to address the current, unacceptably high risk and estimated $2 billion to $6 billion in damages to the Great Lakes, the shoreline communities, tourism and businesses, and property owners, as well as a potential $45 billion blow to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product after just 15 days, if a Line 5 oil spill shuts down the shipping of iron ore for the steel industry, according to a report FLOW commissioned.
This is a critical moment in the history of the State of Michigan and the Great Lakes. Our leaders must put the interests of the Great Lakes and its people and of the tribes first by avoiding a catastrophic oil spill and by planning for our energy transition without Line 5 in the Straits and 400 other Michigan water crossings. The Canadian oil, which Enbridge does not own, can be sent through other pipelines operated by Enbridge and its competitors. Michigan has no obligation to guarantee Enbridge a shortcut to Ontario oil refineries and the overseas export market.