An alarming piece of legislation was introduced last week by Rep. Heise and is quickly being moved to committee Thursday, May 14th. It would exempt oil & gas companies like Enbridge from disclosing pipeline and energy-related information under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We need more information on critical pipelines like Line 5, not less! Please act today or tomorrow, and contact the State Representatives on the Oversight and Ethics Committee listed below and tell them to oppose House Bill 4540. For your convenience, we’ve provided talking points to emphasize in your conversation.
Top 5 Reasons to Oppose House Bill 4540
- Federal laws passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks provide all the protection we need for the energy sector. This legislation is duplicative and unnecessary in light of current existing federal laws, which already address national security issues and infrastructure like pipelines. A decade and a half later, there’s no need to amend Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the public’s right to know basic details about the location, condition, and contents of gas and oil pipelines and other energy infrastructure under the guise of fighting terrorism. The Michigan FOIA already has a provision that provides certain exemptions for safety and security (see Section Y of FOIA).
- This legislation is not about making us safer; rather it’s about preserving secrecy under the guise of homeland security and terrorism issues. Ironically, it is the oil and gas industry’s failures to comply with safety regulations and protocols that caused the largest inland oil spill in US history in Marshall, Michigan in 2010.The timing of this bill is also suspicious, given growing public concern about Enbridge’s Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac and the soon-to-be released Pipeline Task Force recommendations.
- The proposed legislation ignores the reality that the public has a fundamental right to know what’s running through their backyards, past their schools, parks, and places of worship, and through their Great Lakes, which generate billions of dollars a year in jobs and tourism. The burden is and should continue to be on the energy companies to justify withholding information for the public.
- The proposed legislation would allow companies to blanket their operations without explanation. The sweeping legislation has no provisions requiring a company to justify why information must be specifically covered under the new state FOIA exemption. By contrast, under several federal rules, information submitted to the government by private sector companies must include a justification as to why it should be exempt from FOIA and the government vets the information.
- With an increase in energy transportation, what’s needed now is more public scrutiny, not less. This legislation is a targeted effort to undermine that critical role at a time when regulators are already overburdened, with only 151 federal inspectors responsible for 2.6 million miles of gas and oil pipelines in the United States. What’s needed is more public oversight and transparency, not more secrecy, in order to protect residents, communities, jobs, and the environment.
Michigan Oversight and Ethics Committee
Ed McBroom (R) Committee Chair, 108th District (517) 373-0156
Martin Howrylak (R) Majority Vice-Chair, 41st District (517)373-1783, Toll-free: (877) 248-0001
Joseph Graves (R) 51st District (517) 373-1780 Toll-free: (866) 989-5151
Lana Theis (R) 42nd District (517) 373-1784
Rose Mary Robinson (D) Minority Vice-Chair, 4th District (517) 373-1008, Toll-free (855) 654-0404
Kristy Pagan (D) 21st District (517) 373-2575