Tag: FLOW

A Modest Proposal: The Biggest State Park in America

When Michiganders want to point out where a specific location lies in the state, we often raise our hands and point at a spot somewhere on our palms.  Indeed, our identity is tied up in nicknames like The Mitten State.

But the legal boundaries of Michigan look nothing like a mitten or a hand. They are far broader, too.

Michigan includes over 38,000 square miles of Great Lakes surface area and underlying submerged lands.  These often-forgotten lands, when added to the Michigan land base above water, move Michigan from 22nd largest state to 11th. The 38,000 square miles of underwater land constitute more than one-third of the total area of Michigan and are larger than 11 states in the Union. Over water, Michigan borders not just Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, but also Minnesota and Illinois.

By virtue of the public trust doctrine, both the open waters of the Great Lakes and underlying submerged lands are held in trust by the State of Michigan on behalf of the people of Michigan. The title and ownership of these waters and underlying submerged lands vested in the State of Michigan on admission to the Union on January 26, 1837, to be held in trust for the benefit of its citizens.

The public trust doctrine confers an obligation on the State of Michigan, as trustee, to protect public ownership of these open waters and submerged lands and to protect public uses of them including swimming, boating, fishing, sustenance, drinking water, sanitation, and many others.

Great Lakes submerged lands contain significant historical, ecological, biological, geological and other features–everything from suspected ancient aboriginal hunting sites established when water levels were far lower, to lake bottom sinkholes that mimic the environment of the early Earth.

Great Lakes open waters and underlying submerged lands are a unique endowment belonging to the people of Michigan, unlike that of any other state, and should be a source of pride for all Michiganders. They should be even more than that. They should be declared a state park officially open to all, for enjoyment by all.

It is not a new idea. Legislators proposed an official state park designation for Michigan’s Great Lakes waters and submerged lands in 2007 and 2008. But the legislative clock ran out.

Designating Great Lakes water and submerged lands a state park will affect their use little if at all in the short run. There won’t be an entrance fee as exists at traditional state parks. But the park concept would open the door to education and awareness among Michigan residents of the beauty beneath the waters and the need to protect it. Michiganders would benefit from that.

It’s time to revive the idea. Talk about national notoriety–a new state park larger than the entire state of Indiana.

State of the Great Lakes

Is More of the Same Good Enough for the Great Lakes?

Give the U.S. EPA and its Canadian counterpart points for recycling. When they released the 2022 State of the Great Lakes report last week, they offered the same characterization as in previous reports: overall, the Great Lakes are fair and unchanging.

Merriam-Webster defines “fair” as ‘not very good or very bad: of average or acceptable quality.”

Is “not very good or very bad” what we want for the Great Lakes?  

Looking at the five lakes individually, the U.S. and Canadian governments grade Superior and Huron good, Michigan and Ontario fair, and Erie poor. Is this what we want?

That we have become accustomed to such evaluations of the conditions of the Great Lakes is unacceptable. That we are making little progress toward the goal of fully healthy lakes is deplorable.

In this 50th anniversary year of the signing of the original Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement by President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, it is appropriate to look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

While the governments boast of their robust programs to protect and restore the lakes, they typically gloss over the trouble spots. The State of the Great Lakes report is the closest they come to accountability. In this report, they acknowledge that only two of nine indicators (beaches and fish consumption) show improvement. The other seven are unchanging and one, invasive species, is poor.

What are the reasons for treading water like this? The fundamental facts are that correcting past mistakes will cost taxpayers a fortune – and steering a new course for the future requires political will. That will is needed if we hope to keep new toxic chemicals out of the lakes, protect key habitats from exploitation, and once and for all control invasive species.

If the political will is lacking, it is not the fault of governments alone. We who live among the lakes are also conflicted. We want them to be healthy and beautiful yet we are not willing to make the changes that would enable this to happen.

There is plenty of talk in our region about the need for sustainability, a way of approaching the environment and the lakes that avoids doing damage by changing the way we live. Primarily, changing practices that provide short-term benefits and long-term harm. Like the excess fertilization on farms in the Lake Erie watershed, which fosters algae blooms that are reminiscent of the “dead” Lake Erie of the 1960s.

Like the production and disposal of plastic products that break down into the billions of pieces fouling the lakes. We do not need to buy most of them. The industries that manufacture them will not retire them out of the goodness of their hearts, but they will respond to market forces.

Of course, there is good news. It is true that there are many dedicated public servants, university researchers, local governments and citizen advocates who are making extraordinary efforts to understand the science of the lakes and to respond constructively.

There is also the fact that the U.S. government is spending over $300 million in dedicated money every year to restore the Great Lakes. That is a legacy of the late Peter Wege, a Grand Rapids philanthropist who in 2004 organized advocates to petition Congress for dedicated funding to clean up toxic hotspots, restore habitat and protect water quality. This is praiseworthy.

But it’s clearly not enough, or not the right stuff. The health of the lakes is stagnating and that’s unacceptable.

If we truly want Great Lakes that are great and improving instead of fair and unchanging, we need to make some changes. We need a new kind of agriculture, a new kind of consumption, a new approach by industry. Where is this going to come from? It begins with the residents of the Great Lakes watershed.

The history of conservation and environmental protection over the last 150 years teaches us that citizens lead and politicians follow. So it is time for us to lead by example and by engagement with our government processes, and to hold those who degrade the Great Lakes accountable.

Our job is to look at ways we can live among these lakes in harmony and to pressure our governments and institutions to do the same. Unless that happens, we are likely to see the same reports every three years indefinitely.

And is that what we want for great lakes?

 

FLOW’s 2021 Annual Report

With Gratitude: Celebrating 10 Years of Keeping Water Public and Protected with You

This past year marked an extraordinary year for FLOW, as we celebrated a decade of keeping our water public and protected. In reflecting upon this past decade, we have much to be grateful for, even in these challenging times.  

First and foremost, we are thankful for you, who have made our work possible year after year. You have understood the urgent need to steward our water as a commons protected from one generation to the next. You have seen the need for us to establish a new healing relationship with water and to apply science and the rule of law as foundational principles for making informed policy decisions that protect human health and the entire water cycle. You stood with us to take on the threats of water privatization and commodification, oil pipelines in our waters, water insecurity, an affordability crisis, chemical contamination, crumbling infrastructure, and much more. 

Because of you, our movement continues to grow, forging potent alliances and partnerships with people, organizations, and governments across the Great Lakes Basin, including indigenous tribes, frontline groups, and business and community leaders. In the next decade, it will take all of us rowing together in the same direction to secure the kind of durable and lasting water policies needed for these globally unique and magnificent Great Lakes.

We give thanks to FLOW founder Jim Olson for his visionary legal thinking, leadership, and passion in founding a nonprofit wholly dedicated and committed to protecting water as a shared commons for all peoples from one generation to the next. His lifelong dedication to clean, safe, affordable, and public water has never faltered. Jim’s work continues to this day. We cannot begin to thank him enough. 

We give thanks to our current and past board members and advisors, who have been tremendously helpful in charting our visionary policy work and establishing our unique public interest voice across the Basin.

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood

We give thanks to our staff for lending exceptional talent and devotion to Great Lakes protection every day. Our staff brings heart and soul to this challenging and rewarding work, drawing on decades’ worth of law, policy, and communication experience to improve the future of all living creatures and communities in the Great Lakes. And our policy work is richer thanks to a decade of amazing interns, volunteers, visual artists, writers, performers, and filmmakers sharing their gifts.

We give thanks to our partners, allies, and friends who share our core values and goals, working to secure water for all, and who bring diverse and rich perspectives to solving complex issues. 

The next 10 years are critical, with urgent solutions needed to protect water and public health from the climate crisis. We want you to know that your unwavering support and commitment make all the difference. 

Board Chair Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt

We thank you for empowering our work for the last decade and for standing boldly with us in the next 10 years. Our pledge to you remains the same: We are committed to law, science, facts, and truth. We focus on empowerment for the common good and public interest. We speak for the water. We include all persons and succeed together.

Our warmest wishes to you,

Liz Kirkwood and Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt

Please watch this video below of Liz and Renee thanking FLOW supporters and unveiling our 2020-21 Annual Report:

 

Reality Check: Line 5 Threatens More Jobs Than It Sustains

By Maude Barlow and Jim Olson

Jim Olson

Maude Barlow

Editor’s note: This opinion piece appeared originally in Canada’s National Observer.

The United States and Canada are not only close friends and neighbours, but are also committed to resolving their differences with civility and common purpose. The 112-year-old International Joint Commission (IJC), which prevents and resolves disputes over boundary waters, is an example of this special relationship. So is the groundbreaking agreement among Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states to ban water diversions from these shared and treasured waters.

The two nations, however, are clashing over energy policy and the effects of Line 5, the Canadian petroleum pipelines in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac, a major shipping lane and important whitefish spawning ground where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. If both Canada and the U.S. take a hard look at these issues together, they will swiftly realize that co-operation, not confrontation, is in the best interests of both — and, significantly, the interests of the planet.

The current discord between the two nations is over the decision in November by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to exercise her state’s sovereign constitutional authority to revoke the 68-year-old easement that Enbridge has relied upon to transport petroleum by pipeline from Alberta to Sarnia, Ont., across the public bottomlands of the straits separating Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.

The governor took this action in light of the clear and present danger from Enbridge’s appalling track record of easement violations in operating Line 5, including lake-bed erosion undermining support of the dual pipelines in the fierce currents where Lake Michigan meets with Lake Huron. Enbridge also lacks adequate liability insurance and has steadfastly refused to provide any of the financial assurances that Gov. Whitmer has demanded.

Enbridge knew at least 20 years ago that the original design of the Straits of Mackinac pipelines was failing. Year after year, the company quietly sought approval from the state of Michigan to shore up the pipeline, passed off as “repairs,” by installing supports — now 228 of them — in effect lifting about three miles of the dual pipelines into the water column. Government officials, however, never required Enbridge to get approval for such a radical change that poses a whole set of new and serious risks.

Then, as if fate were sounding a warning alarm, a 12,000-pound anchor from a passing vessel struck and dented the twin pipelines on April 1, 2018. Last summer, Enbridge disclosed two more strikes by anchors or cables. These foreseeable accidents could have opened a gash in the pipeline, exposing 700 hundred miles of the Great Lakes shoreline — potentially including those of Georgian Bay — to a catastrophic spill costing $6 billion in economic damages to tourism, drinking water and other interests. Even worse, such a spill could trigger a domino effect of damage disrupting Great Lakes commercial shipping and steel production, slashing jobs and shrinking the U.S.’s gross domestic product by $45 billion after just 15 days. Michigan will lose tens of thousands of jobs if Line 5 ruptures.

Many families, communities, tribes and businesses understandably are skeptical of Enbridge’s safety assurances. Enbridge calls Line 5 “as good as new” and says it can last “forever,” even though Line 5 has failed at least 33 times since 1968, spilling more than 1.1 million gallons of oil in Michigan and Wisconsin. In 2010, the company was the culprit in one of the largest petroleum spills in U.S. history. A leak in an Enbridge pipeline in southwest Michigan dumped 1.2 million gallons of heavy tarsands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed, harming human health and damaging fish and wildlife habitat. The spill cost Enbridge over $1 billion to clean up to the extent possible. The U.S. agency that investigated the spill likened the Enbridge response to the spill to the “Keystone Kops” and cited “pervasive organizational failures at Enbridge.”

Many Canadians are concerned about the possible distortion of their energy supply. They shouldn’t be. Available capacity and flexibility to meet energy demand in the Great Lakes region already exists in the North American energy pipeline system operated by Enbridge and its competitors without threatening our public waters and the economy, according to experts from the Great Lakes protection group FLOW. They argue that when Line 5 shuts down, regional domestic energy needs and supplies for refineries will still be able to be met. The estimated increased cost to consumers would be a fraction of a cent per gallon of gasoline, according to a study commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.

The threat to the Great Lakes, both U.S. and Canadian waters, is clear. Equally clear is the risk to the planet of another 99 years of transporting carbon-rich petroleum from the Prairies to Sarnia for refining and ultimately releasing massive carbon dioxide emissions. Government promises of a new commitment to action on climate change are hollow if Line 5 continues operation indefinitely.

The law in the U.S. and Canada recognizes the waters of the Great Lakes are held in trust to be managed by the governments as guardians for navigation, fishing and other paramount needs of citizens. Unfortunately, the Canadian and Ontario governments have joined forces with Enbridge to forsake this guardianship by pressuring Gov. Whitmer. As the company spends resources on a slick public relations campaign exaggerating the benefits of Line 5 to the U.S. while neglecting to mention its history of environmental negligence, the governments dispute Michigan’s concerns about a Great Lakes spill.

In 2016, the IJC urged governments in the Great Lakes region to adopt the public trust doctrine as a legal backstop to assure the majesty of the lakes and bottomlands is not impaired. The IJC recommendation makes sense for present and future generations. If Canada and the U.S. do so, they will inevitably support decommissioning of Line 5.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

About the Authors: Maude Barlow is an activist who served as an adviser on water to the United Nations and is Chancellor of Brescia University College. Her latest book is, “Whose Water Is It Anyway? Taking Water Protection Into Public Hands.” Jim Olson is founder and president of FLOW (For Love of Water) in Traverse City, Mich.

FLOW’s 2020 Annual Report

By Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director, and Mike Vickery, Board Chair

Being in, on, or near water brings us into balance, restores clarity, and grounds us in understanding what matters most. Water is life. These elemental connections to water and nature were profoundly important to all of us in the tumultuous year of 2020, as the coronavirus upended our lives and economy.

In reflection, as we recount in our Annual Report released today, November 2020 marked an extraordinary milestone for the Great Lakes—and for FLOW. After seven long years of advancing public trust law as the legal basis to shut down Line 5, FLOW watched Governor Gretchen Whitmer and DNR Director Daniel Eichinger assert public trust law as the cornerstone of the state’s action to advance critical legal action to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill.

Equitable and affordable access to clean drinking water remained at the forefront of our work in 2020 as we partnered with frontline Detroit and Flint groups to successfully persuade Governor Whitmer, and then the legislature, to extend a moratorium on water shutoffs through March 2021. We also partnered to form Water for All of Michigan to evaluate equitable and just financing and funding strategies to assure safe, affordable water for all communities. FLOW’s model legislation, Public Water, Public Justice, is a key part of this work.

FLOW also worked to spotlight and protect the Sixth Great Lake, Michigan’s groundwater, unveiling a groundwater story map in March and a June webinar to highlight the implications of a preliminary state decision approving Nestlé’s permit to increase withdrawals for commercial bottled water. And we chronicled a baffling decision in November by the State of Michigan to dismiss the citizen-led contested case challenging the Nestlé permit.
In a year dominated by a global pandemic, a reckoning with racial injustice, record-high Great Lakes water levels, an unprecedented national election, and profound challenges to our most important institutions, FLOW stood firm as a fair witness to, and advocate for, the power and value of the public trust in moving forward. Working alongside our partners, allies, supporters, and friends, FLOW planted new seeds from which will grow a more just, diverse, inclusive, equitable, prosperous and resilient water future for generations to come.

Your support and passion for the Great Lakes, groundwater, and drinking water for all inspires us and helps drive us forward. Thank you for our shared successes. We hope you enjoy reading about the fresh waters and public trust rights that we have protected together in our Annual Report 2020.

Reflecting on 2020, Looking forward to 2021—FLOW’s 10th Anniversary Year

Jim Olson is FLOW’s Founder, President, and Legal Advisor

By Jim Olson

With the New Year upon us, we are taking a moment at FLOW to look back at 2020 and forward to 2021, the start of our 10th year of partnering with you to protect the Great Lakes. This is a really exciting time. FLOW now enjoys a solid foundation built from the work we’ve done to protect the Great Lakes through application of public trust principles, work that cuts through politics and sustains communities with water that is clean, safe, affordable—and public.

Click above to watch a video of FLOW Founder and President Jim Olson narrating his reflections on FLOW’s progress while standing along the shores of Crystal Lake.

I know we slogged through a lot in 2020. We all feel the pain and disruption of the pandemic, the political unrest, climate disaster, poverty, and endemic racism that dominated last year. Families and friends were separated, schools disrupted, and many lives were lost or left with health challenges.

But 2020 also yielded good things, too. After seven years of work by FLOW and our allies, the public trust doctrine became the legal basis for Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to revoke the 1953 easement and eventually bring an end to Line 5 and the transport of crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac. Line 5 is dangerous, and under the public trust law it shouldn’t exist. Gov. Whitmer had no other lawful choice, and she did the right thing.

We also saw the beginning of the end of water shutoffs and the recognition that people are entitled to have access to drinking water. Thank you Governor Whitmer, for taking charge, thank you to Mayor Mike Duggan for suspending water shutoffs in Detroit through 2022, and thank you to the Michigan Legislature for passing the bipartisan bill to continue the statewide moratorium through March 2021.

We’ve also seen progress in our work on Public Water, Public Justice. There’s a real battle on the planet over the question of who owns the water and whether it can be sold and traded on Wall Street, as if it’s iron ore, oil, or coal. Water is a commons, and the public trust protects it for all of us.

Looking to the future of FLOW’s work, this is a time to build on the successes that we’ve had, and to understand, particularly in this last year, that there are individual rights and there is the commons. The common good comes first. Individual rights have no value at all if you don’t have common good and you don’t have the commons, like water, which everyone shares. There’s no wealth to anything short term if this water is destroyed.

We at FLOW are looking forward to celebrating 2021 with you. We’re moving toward an economy buoyed by clean water and clean energy, and we’re going to make it happen together. We’re asking you to continue supporting our work to protect the Great Lakes, groundwater, and drinking water for all. 

Thank you everyone who has supported FLOW since our founding in 2011. Thank you for our shared successes. Your support continues to drive us forward. 

Happy New Year!

O&WDM: Groups, Tribes Ask U.S. Army Corps to Reject Proposed Enbridge Oil Tunnel

Editor’s note: This is an Oil & Water Don’t Mix (O&WDM) media release.

Twelve organizations and Michigan tribal representatives today (Dec. 7, 2020) called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject the Enbridge Line 5 Straits of Mackinac oil tunnel project. If not dismissed now, the Army Corps risks a repeat of a July court ruling that threw out a permit in another major federal pipeline case.

In their submission of comments, the groups told the Army Corps that the permit for the tunnel should not be approved without a full review that evaluates the consequences of an oil tunnel for the Great Lakes, coastal wetlands, historic archeological finds, and navigation within the Straits of Mackinac.

“Enbridge’s proposed tunnel is a major federal action demanding a full environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW (For Love of Water), a Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City. “A review of Enbridge’s incomplete application reveals a highly controversial project with extraordinary impacts to coastal wetlands, millions of gallons a day of surface wastewater discharges and water treatment additives, underwater archeological sites, incomplete geotechnical studies for tunnel construction, lack of a credible estimate of project cost, and unprecedented climate change impacts to extend the life of Line 5 for the next 99 years.”

Official comments from the organizations come as the Army Corps holds a single public hearing today on Enbridge’s proposal for a federal Clean Water Act permit to construct the oil tunnel.  The Army Corps public comment period ends on Dec. 17.  It comes as the Michigan Public Service Commission and the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy also evaluate permit applications from Enbridge and follows a decision by Gov. Whitmer to revoke Enbridge’s operating agreement for the existing Line 5, citing the company’s history of failures and ongoing, incurable violations of the agreement.

“Line 5 will transport 540,000 barrels of oil that when burned will emit over 57 million metric tons of atmospheric carbon annually – more carbon than is emitted by the nation’s three largest coal plants combined,” said Kirkwood.  “Let’s not forget what’s at stake – a proposal to build a mega tunnel in the heart of the largest and most valuable fresh surface water system in the world.  It’s difficult to conceive of a project more worthy of a full environmental impact statement under federal law.”

The groups and tribal representatives warn that approving Enbridge’s proposed application would violate the same federal law that prompted the U.S. District Court in July to block a final permit for the Dakota Access pipeline in the Dakotas.  In the Dakota Access case, the court said the Army Corps must conduct a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act because it was a major federal project with widespread potential impacts, including threats to drinking water sources for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The Army Corps has yet to decide whether Enbridge’s permit application for the tunnel should be subjected to a full federal review that could include looking at other alternatives, including existing oil pipelines within Enbridge’s massive North America pipeline system.

Concerns with the tunnel proposal cited by the groups and shared with the Army Corps include:

  • Drinking water threat. Enbridge proposes withdrawing 4 million gallons a day of water and discharging 5 million gallons a day of water and slurry into the Straits of Mackinac. Nearby communities of Charlevoix, Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, Alpena, East Tawas, and Tawas City rely on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron for drinking water.
  • Geotechnical problems. Independent experts who studied Enbridge’s proposed tunnel plan concluded that it “raises serious concerns regarding the feasibility, integrity, and planning for the construction of the tunnel.”  More than 75 percent of the tunnel boring area is in “very poor” or “poor” quality rock conditions, the experts warned, also citing the potential for explosions because of the presence of methane gas.
  • Sovereign tribal and fishing rights. The Straits of Mackinac are the spawning and fishing grounds for 60 percent of the commercial tribal whitefish catch, which could be negatively impacted by the tunnel project and continued operation of Line 5 in the Straits.
  • Northern Michigan economy. Emmet, Cheboygan, and Mackinac counties would be heavily impacted by the tunnel project, straining police, fire, health emergency services, and rental housing that would typically go to seasonal tourism workers who constitute an annual $153 million payroll. Dust, noise, and intense trucking and machinery activity will also stress local communities.

    “Michigan deserves more than a rubber-stamp permit approval from the Army Corps,” said Sean McBrearty, Oil & Water Don’t Mix coordinator.  “What we need is for the Army Corps to follow the law and prioritize protecting the Great Lakes, our drinking water, and our climate. A Canadian company’s oil profits shouldn’t be more important than Michigan’s future.”

    Those submitting joint comments include For Love of Water (FLOW), League of Women Voters of Michigan, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Michigan Environmental Council, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, Straits of Mackinac Alliance, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, TC350, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA), the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and the Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment.

    Oil & Water Don’t Mix is a citizens’ movement committed to protecting the Great Lakes and decommissioning Enbridge’s dangerous Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. More information: https://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/about.

    Comment by Oct. 19 on Permits for Risky Line 5 Oil Tunnel

    enbridges-line-5-under-the-straits-of-mackinac

    On Monday, October 19, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will conclude its public comment period on pending state permits for the expected wetland and wastewater impacts, and alternatives to constructing and operating Enbridge’s proposed, roughly four mile-long oil tunnel under the Great Lakes. The proposed tunnel, at roughly 20-feet in diameter, would house a new Line 5 pipeline to continue for another 99 years carrying up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids a day through the public trust bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron.

    It’s important for the members of the public—including individuals, families, business owners, community leaders, and others—to submit comments. Many people and groups, including FLOW and Oil & Water Don’t Mix, already have expressed deep concerns about the Canadian pipeline company’s tunnel proposal and its lack of necessity, and risks to the Great Lakes, drinking water, the fishery in the Straits, Tribal rights, the Pure Michigan economy, the climate, and a way of life. 

    Below is guidance from FLOW on what to include in your written comments and how to submit them online by Monday’s deadline. EGLE expects to issue its final decision on the oil tunnel permits and for wastewater impacts in late November and impacts to wetlands and submerged lands in early December.

    Points to Make in Public Comments by Oct. 19

    FLOW is providing this content for you to draw from and supplement with your own information and perspective in your comment to EGLE on the proposed Line 5 tunnel permits:

    • Not authorized by the state — EGLE cannot properly proceed on administering the Enbridge permit applications unless and until the December 2018 Easement and tunnel lease have been authorized under sections 2 and 3 of the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and the Public Trust Doctrine.
    • Not good for the climate or Gov. Whitmer’s goals  — EGLE must take into account the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the proposed petroleum tunnel, particularly in light of Governor Whitmer’s Executive Directive 2020-10 setting a goal of economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. Extending the life of Line 5 for the next 99 years with  the tunnel project is fundamentally at odds with the reduction of greenhouse gases necessary to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
    • Not good for public health, safety, and welfare — EGLE is required to determine whether extending the life of an oil pipeline that will emit approximately tens of  million tons of greenhouse gases annually for the next 99 years, under the state Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, “is consistent with the promotion of the public health, safety and welfare in light of the state’s paramount concern for the protection of its natural resources from pollution, impairment or destruction.”
    • Not a public need for the oil tunnel — EGLE must make a number of specific determinations, including whether the benefits of the project outweigh reasonably foreseeable detriments, the extent to which there is a public and private need for the project, and whether there are feasible and prudent alternatives to the tunnel project. Unless these determinations are clearly demonstrated by the applicant Enbridge, the permit is prohibited by the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and the Wetlands Protection Act.

    How to Submit Your Comments to EGLE by Oct. 19

    Be sure to submit your comments on Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 oil tunnel by the Monday, Oct. 19 deadline. The public can submit comments either by email to EGLE-Enbridge-Comments@Michigan.gov — referencing Application Number HNY-NHX4-FSR2Q — or via two EGLE web pages for commenting separately on each of the permits. Click on each link below and follow the instructions provided by the state:  

    • EGLE public comment page for Part 303 wetland impacts and Part 325 Great Lakes submerged lands impacts.
    • EGLE public comment page for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater impacts.

    How to Learn More about Line 5 and the Risky Oil Tunnel

    To learn more about Enbridge Line 5 and the proposed oil tunnel, see these resources on FLOW’s website:

    Thank you for speaking up for the Great Lakes, drinking water, and a way of life here in the Great Lakes State!

    FLOW Welcomes New Board Members Barbara Brown and Benjamin Muth

    FLOW (For Love of Water), the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, is excited to announce the growth of our board of directors as we welcome Barbara Brown and Benjamin Muth.

    Brown, an attorney based in St. Ignace just north of the Mackinac Bridge, was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan from 1987-2003 and 2008-2011, where she served in the Attorney General’s Finance, Executive, Transportation and Municipal Affairs Divisions.  She was the recipient of the Attorney General’s 2010 Excellence in Opinion Draftsmanship Award and co-author of the chapter “Power to Formulate Local Policy,” Michigan Municipal Law, published by the Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 2012. Brown also worked as an Administrative Law Judge and, by appointment of former Governor Granholm, a former 92nd District Court Judge. Brown served 14 years on the Mackinac Bridge Authority and is currently a member of the St. Ignace Downtown Development Authority Board. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Vermont and a Juris Doctor from Cooley Law School.

    “While the waters of the Great Lakes provide livelihoods and recreation opportunities, these waters do not belong to any one person, group, or corporation,” said Brown. “Above all, the waters of the Great Lakes are the very source of life for millions of people. We each have a moral obligation to protect our natural resources not only for those of us with temporal interests in them, but for all living beings in times to come. I am honored to have the opportunity and am looking forward to working with the remarkable people at FLOW to protect our most precious and life-giving resource—the waters of the Great Lakes.”

    Muth, an attorney based in Ann Arbor, teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation as the lead organizer of the “Oil and Water” film tour in Charlevoix, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, and Chicago in 2015-2016, which advocated for a shutdown of the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Muth also assisted the implementation of the Line 5 Michigan Business Coalition. And he conducted voter outreach and a candidate education campaign in Ohio surrounding harmful algal blooms.

    Muth graduated from Vermont Law School in 2012, where he was web editor of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law. He also authored An Urban Agriculture Permit System for Detroit’s Vacant Land and researched public trust doctrine history for FLOW founder Jim Olson’s law review article, All Aboard: Navigating the Course for Universal Adoption of the Public Trust Doctrine.

    “FLOW is the only organization in Michigan exclusively dedicated to upholding the public trust doctrine, which protects Michigan’s waters and beaches from privatization,” said Muth. “As a lifelong Michigander and lover of our lakes, supporting FLOW is not a decision, it’s a mandate. Our grandchildren deserve the same pristine lakes that I enjoyed as a child, and FLOW brings that mission to life.”

    FLOW to U.P. Energy Task Force: Act Fast to Protect Residents, End Reliance on Risky ‘Line 5’ Oil Pipeline

    Photo by Kathryn DePauw for FLOW.


    To alleviate the rising threat to the safety and economic security of Upper Peninsula residents, a state energy task force at its April 13 online public meeting should act with urgency to adopt, prioritize, and schedule the implementation of the 14 recommendations in its draft propane supply report.  Swift action is needed in order to end reliance on the risky Line 5 pipeline, dismantle the Canadian energy monopoly over the Upper Peninsula, and secure more diverse and renewable energy choices, said FLOW (For Love of Water) in formal public comments sent Monday to state officials.

    FLOW’s letter to the U.P. Energy Task Force, which Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created last June, comes at the deadline for the public to review the March 20 draft report on propane supply options. FLOW is urging the task force to act immediately on both short-term and long-term recommendations for the State of Michigan to resolve the clear and present danger to public health and the Great Lakes posed by Line 5.

    FLOW finds that the most reliable, secure, lowest-cost, and lowest-risk alternative for propane supplies in the short term is a combination of the recommendations on rail and truck, plus an increase in propane inventory in the Upper Peninsula. Highest priority should be given to recommendations with a full range of diverse alternatives that are not dependent on the decaying Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, which crosses the Upper Peninsula and the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac.

    FLOW also urges the task force to evaluate all of the environmental and health impacts and risks that each alternative poses to air, water, and land resources. The Great Lakes and other natural resources remain at grave risk with the continued daily operation of Line 5, and impacts to these public trust resources must be fully considered in the final propane report.

    FLOW also calls on the task force to expedite its work and complete its renewable energy plan in 2020, well ahead of its March 2021 deadline for reporting to the governor. Michigan and the Great Lakes cannot wait another year for more studies as Line 5 continues to age.

    “The U.P. Energy Task Force draft propane report concludes that both short-term and longer-term feasible and prudent alternatives exist to decommission Line 5 and to secure reliable, safe, and affordable energy to U.P. residents based on adjustments within the energy system,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City.  “Given the current propane monopoly and lack of backup alternatives to Line 5, U.P. residents are exposed to substantial financial and safety risks. Moreover, Line 5 also poses unprecedented and devastating economic, environmental, and public health risks to the Great Lakes.”

    With the help of the task force to prioritize recommendations and advance much needed energy planning, the State of Michigan can work as expeditiously as possible to decommission the aging Line 5 pipeline and transition to safe and affordable energy alternatives for U.P. residents.

    Background

    The U.P. Energy Task Force, formed by Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2019-14, is charged with “considering all available information and make recommendations that ensure the U.P.’s energy needs are met in a manner that is reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound.” The Order also directs the Task Force to examine “alternative means to supply the energy sources currently used by U.P. residents, and alternatives to those energy sources.”

    The precipitating force behind this urgent energy analysis is Enbridge’s increasingly risky 67-year-old Line 5 pipeline, which has ruptured or otherwise leaked at least 33 times since 1968, and the failure to date to prioritize and assure a backup alternative for delivering propane in the Upper Peninsula. Line 5 is operating far past its life expectancy and continues to threaten the Great Lakes, public health, and drinking water supplies for thousands of Michiganders. With no backup plan for delivering alternative propane supplies to the U.P. in the event of a catastrophic Line 5 pipeline rupture, including in the dead of winter, the outdated pipeline also endangers the safety, security, and energy independence of Upper Peninsula residents who rely on propane to heat their homes.