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Quick summaries of environmental news items we’ve come across lately
Updates on Enbridge Line 5, the 64-year-old degraded pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac that threatens disaster for the Great Lakes
Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in Lansing draws an overflow crowd of protesters demanding that Line 5 be shutdown (March 13)
The Detroit Free Press reported that the crowd at the March 13 Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in Lansing broke out in “derisive howls and laughter” when Enbridge’s director of integrity programs Kurt Baraniecki said, “I believe this pipeline is in as good of condition as it was on the day it was installed.” Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair David Holtz was among the estimated 250 on hand to demand the pipeline’s decommissioning. EcoWatch quoted from a portion of Holtz’s remarks:
Enbridge began by saying Line 5 is as good as the day it was constructed 64 years ago. Then they went on to admit the protective coatings are peeling off while saying it really doesn’t matter. This is the same company that claimed their pipeline 6B near Marshall, Michigan, was safe just weeks before it ruptured more than a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Oil pipelines don’t belong in the Great Lakes and the governor needs to begin the process now to decommission Line 5 before there’s a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.
Holtz promised that Sierra Club would keep pressing the issue with Michigan officials.
Enbridge denies that its own work plan said what it said about some of the coating taking a “holiday” from protecting its 64-year-old Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac. (February 16)
“Officials with Canadian oil transport corporation Enbridge on Thursday denied reports that the company’s twin, underwater, 64-year-old oil and natural gas pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac are losing their protective coating,” says the Detroit Free Press. The report continues:
A work plan filed by Enbridge with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last September, now available on the company’s website, references areas of “holidays,” the oil and gas industry term for open areas on pipelines where anticorrosion protective coating has fallen off or is missing on the underwater portions of Line 5.
An Enbridge official said the references to holidays were “hypothetical,” but the Free Press says the Enbridge report is specific:
“Holiday south of E01B,” “Holiday north of E76A,” “Holiday south of W35B North,” and so on.
Concerned businesses leaders have created a new alliance in the battle to shut down Enbridge Line 5. (January 11)
Bell’s Brewery of Comstock, Michigan, and other businesses from Mackinac to Chicago have formed the Great Lakes Business Network. Their sole purpose is to eliminate the possibility of another pipeline rupture that would be worse than what still stands as the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history, the Enbridge pipeline break that devastated the Kalamazoo river in 2010. Larry Bell, founder and CEO of Bell’s Brewery, told MLive that “Enbridge’s oil disaster really hit home for me. It was absolutely devastating for our community. I pledged to do all I can to not let that happen anywhere else in Michigan.” The alliance includes business leaders “who believe that the risks posed by Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac are greater than the benefits.”
Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewas denies renewal of Enbridge Line 5 Grant of Easement. (January 5)
A press release from the Bad River Tribal Council announced that the tribe has decided not to renew the agreement that allows Enbridge Line 5 to cross its tribal land. The tribe calls for decommissioning and removing the pipeline. This affects a stretch of Line 5 in northern Wisconsin, about 300 miles west of where the worrisome 64-year-old pipeline threatens the Straits of Mackinac. The Oil and Water Don’t Mix campaign said the decision “sends a powerful message to Michigan officials.” Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee Chair David Holtz said:
Michigan’s Great Lakes way of life is threatened every day by these deteriorating Line 5 pipelines. Governor Snyder should show the same leadership as the Bad River Band Tribal Council, listen to other tribal voices here in Michigan, and stop the flow of oil through the Straits of Mackinac.
More environmental news from around Michigan
After pressure from State officials, Consumers Energy drops its EV charging station expansion plan. (March 21)
Pressure on Consumers to drop its $15-million plan to install more than 250 new charging stations came not only from Michigan’s Public Service Commission and the Attorney General’s office, says Green Car Reports. Equipment seller ChargePoint also objected, as it has in other states, citing its fear of unfair competition.
Administration’s budget proposal would eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. (March 16)
The proposal to cut U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding by $2.6 billion, about one-third of the agency’s budget, includes eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, according to Healing Our Waters Coalition. The Administration’s proposed budget cuts are “unlikely to survive intact,” says the Los Angeles Times. Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Director Gail Philbin said that the proposed budget “is telling our entire region that our health is not his [Trump’s] priority.”
Exploratory drilling begins for possible copper mine in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. (February 7, February 27, March 15)
On January 31, Michigan Department of Natural Resources okayed a permit for exploratory drilling in “the remote Michigan natural paradise,” says MLive. On February 6, Canadian mining company Highland Copper started drilling exploratory holes.
Update February 27: Drilling has stopped after four holes because the ground thawed. The permit allows drilling on frozen ground only.
Update March 15: Drilling has resumed.
Public comment period on Nestlé’s request to increase its water usage has been extended again. (February 28, updated March 2)
On November 1, 2016, the Detroit Free Press told us that Nestlé had filed a permit to “increase pumping from 150 gallons-per-minute to 400 gallons-per-minute at one of its production wells north of Evart.” Nestlé’s cost for all that water, says MLive, is “only $200 per year in paperwork fees…no state tax, license fee or royalty.”
According to MLive, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has not been satisfied with information from Nestlé regarding its request to more than double its pumping capacity. One issue DEQ raises is that Nestlé’s report “contains errors regarding the classification of aquatic species and references an inappropriate wildlife survey method.”
Jim Olson, president of FLOW (For Love of Water), also pointed out that “actual underlying data is missing; they use a lot of averages in the report rather than actual data.”
The public comment period, previously extended until March 3, will remain open as DEQ awaits better answers from Nestlé. DEQ has not named a date for a public hearing.
Update March 2: MDEQ announces April 12 public hearing; comment period extended to 5:00 P.M. April 21. According to MLive:
Ferris State University will host the hearing on April 12, which will follow an “information session” from 4 to 6 p.m. at the University Center, 805 Campus Drive, in Big Rapids. The public hearing is from 7 to 9 p.m.
Problems reported at DC Cook nuclear plant near Bridgman, Berrien County, Michigan. (December 23, December 27, January 4, March 2)
“Emergency diesel generators temporarily inoperable” at Donald C. Cook nuclear plant, says an MLive report. Workers discovered the problem Thursday, December 22, during a scheduled refueling shutdown. “Cook’s report is considered non-emergency, and action is required to reduce the risk and consequences in the case of an accident occurring,” according to MLive.
A clarification came to us by email from Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. Kamps explained that in the event of a local power power outage, the emergency generators “are the last line of defense to keep cooling and safety systems running, to prevent a meltdown.”
This issue is unrelated to last June’s Greenpeace report that Cook is among several U.S. nuclear plants using components and equipment that may not meet NRC specifications.
On December 27, the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor edition of The Herald Palladium reported that the restart from September’s refueling shutdown at Cook’s Unit 2 had already been delayed by several other maintenance issues before the backup generator problem was discovered. On January 4, The Herald Palladium reported that Unit 2 is back in operation.
At about 10 AM Wednesday, March 1, D. C. Cook workers found a one-thousand-gallon sulfuric acid leak. MLive reports that officials say the leak was contained with no environmental release and involved no nuclear material.