April 18, 2016


April 18, 2016                                    

Mike Berkowitz


The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, a non-partisan environmental protection organization, today announced its first round of candidate endorsements in Michigan’s upcoming state house and congressional elections. Early endorsements are reserved for incumbents with proven pro-environment records and challengers who have a strong objective commitment to the principles of the Sierra Club. These endorsements precede the April 19 candidate filing deadline for the Michigan House of Representatives and US Congress.

“These Sierra Club endorsed candidates are champions who demonstrate strong leadership in promoting clean air, clean water, cleaner energy and a healthier Michigan,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Our members are committed to making sure voters are aware of the strong environmental values of these endorsed candidates. We will work hard to ensure they are sent to Lansing or DC next year.”

Sierra Club has endorsed the following candidates for Congress:

Lon Johnson (D-1)
Dan Kildee (D-5)
Paul Clements (D-6)
Gretchen Driskell (D-7)
Melissa Gilbert (D-8)
Sander Levin (D-9)
Debbie Dingell (D-12)
John Conyers (D-13)
Brenda Lawrence (D-14)

Sierra Club-Michigan Chapter also endorsed the following candidates for State Representative:

Rose Mary Robinson (D-4)
Fred Durhal (D-5)
Stephanie Chang (D-6)
Leslie Love (D-10)
Julie Plawecki (D-11)
Erika Geiss (D-12)
Kristy Pagan (D-21)
Henry Yanez (D-25)
Robert Wittenberg (D-27)
Jeremy Moss (D-35)
Chris Greig (D-37)
Martin Howrylak (R-41)
Yousef Rabbi (D-53)
Adam Zemke (D-55)
Jon Hoadley (D-60)
Annie Brown (D-66)
Tom Cochran (D-67)
Andy Schor (D-68)
Sam Singh (D-69)
Theresa Abed (D-71)
Winnie Brinks (D-76)
Collene LaMonte (D-91)
Vanessa Guerra (D-95)
Bryan Mielke (D-99)
Dan Scripps (D-101)

“Sierra Club volunteers from among the organization’s approximately 80,000 Michigan members and supporters will work with endorsed candidates in their own districts, identifying and recruiting other likely voters who are concerned about the state’s environmental and energy policies” said Richard Morley Barron, Political Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

“Sierra Club is a grassroots organization and our political strength is in educating and mobilizing environmental voters,” said Barron.  “Given the unprecedented challenges facing our Great Lakes, our climate and the recent weakening of pollution protection and enforcement, we are committed to implementing the most robust effort of any election year in our history.  The times demand it and our members expect it.”

The Michigan Chapter’s Political Committee conducts thorough reviews of all candidates based on their environmental history, voting records and policy positions through candidate interviews and responses to candidate questionnaires.

A full list of candidates and ballot proposals endorsed by the Michigan Sierra Club, including federal, state and local candidates, is available at the following website: http://tinyurl.com/SCMIEndorse

About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide, and over 80,000 in Michigan. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.

Paid for by Michigan Sierra PAC (109 E. Grand River Ave. Lansing, MI 48906)

April 13, 2016

Enbridge Line 5 Operating Illegally

Snyder, Schuette asked to shut down “Line 5” over easement violations 

Media Contacts:  Liz Kirkwood, FLOW, liz@flowforwater.org, office: 231-944-1568; cell: 570-872-4956 and David Holtz, Sierra Club, 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org
Citing new research and documentation revealing cracks, dents, corrosion, and structural defects in the twin oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, 22 environmental and tribal groups today formally requested that Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette shut down “Line 5” oil in the Straits based on Enbridge’s multiple easement violations.

The violations mean Enbridge is operating illegally and has broken its legal agreement with the state and people of Michigan.

Enbridge’s ongoing violations related to pipeline design threaten the very safety and health of the Great Lakes, and thus trigger the state’s duty to enforce its agreement with Enbridge. Under the 1953 easement, the state must provide Canadian-based energy transporter Enbridge 90 days to resolve any known easement violations. The state now has substantial legal and factual cause to terminate the agreement with Enbridge to stop the oil flow and protect the Great Lakes, public water supplies, and the Pure Michigan economy, according to an April 13 letter to Snyder and Schuette, signed by partner groups in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign.
“The law and this easement agreement are clear: state leaders cannot wait another year or more while Enbridge continues to violate safety conditions it agreed to and withholds safety inspection and other data from the public and the state,” said environmental attorney Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW (For Love of Water) in Traverse City. “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette must start the clock to terminate the state’s easement agreement that allows Enbridge to operate the Line 5 pipelines on state-owned bottomlands and waters.”

“The law and this easement agreement are clear: state leaders cannot wait another year or more while Enbridge continues to violate safety conditions it agreed to and withholds safety inspection and other data from the public and the state." - Liz Kirkwood, Environmental Attorney, Executive Director of FLOW (For Love of Water)

In their letter, the groups identified eight specific violations of the easement and state law, including:
  • Concealing information about cracks, dents, and corrosion with continued, sweeping assertions and misrepresentations that the Straits pipelines are in “excellent condition, almost as new as when they were built and installed” and have “no observed corrosion.” Of the nine rust spots on the eastern Straits pipeline, corrosion has eaten away 26 percent of the pipeline’s wall thickness in a 7-inch-long area, according to newly released company data.
  • Failing to meet the pipeline wall thickness requirement due to corrosion and manufacturing defects. Newly released Enbridge data reveals that manufacturing defects in the 1950s resulted in pipeline wall thickness of less than half an inch in perhaps hundreds of sections and up to 41 percent less thick than mandated on the west Straits pipeline. Enbridge continues to boast about its “nearly one-inch-thick walls of Line 5’s steel pipe travelling under the Straits.”
  • Failing to meet the “reasonably prudent person” provision by claiming that its steel pipelines lying underwater just west of the Mackinac Bridge since 1953 can last forever and do not require a plan for eventual decommissioning. The 63-year-old pipelines were built to last 50 years.
  • Failing to demonstrate adequate liability insurance, maintain required coating and wood-slat covering to prevent rust and abrasion and adequately support the pipeline, resulting in stressed and deformed segments.
  • Failing to adhere to federal emergency spill response and state environmental protection laws, including Act 10 of P.A. 1953, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (“GLSLA”), the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), and public trust law.

March 25, 2016

Enbridge Must Release All Pipeline Safety Documents for Risky “Line 5” in the Straits

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Enbridge Must Release All Pipeline Safety 
Documents for Risky “Line 5” in the Straits
Amid New Concerns About Great Lakes Safety, Groups Back State's
Demand For Immediate Transparency from Canadian Pipeline Giant

Media Contacts:  Lynna Kaucheck 313-486-1356/lkaucheck@fwwatch.org, Liz Kirkwood 231 944 1568/liz@flowforwater.org, David Holtz 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org

Citizens groups today were sharply critical of Enbridge Energy’s failure to comply with demands by state officials to disclose information on the safety of Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

In a March 11 letter to Enbridge, top state environmental officials and Attorney General Bill Schuette—citing “continuing concerns about potential risks” from the Straits pipelines—gave  Enbridge 30 days to comply with their request for detailed information on the twin pipelines.  The letter follows disclosures earlier this year by Enbridge of corrosion in the pipelines.

“Enbridge’s refusal to make pipeline safety inspection and other data publicly available raises serious questions that require answers that only Enbridge can provide,” said David Holtz, Chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee.   “Enbridge needs to come clean on what they know and what they aren’t telling us about oil pipelines that pose a huge threat to the Great Lakes.”

In their letter to Enbridge, state officials demanded pipeline inspection, integrity, operating pressure and other information including the impact of invasive mussels that cover the pipelines.  Inspection records from 2013 show corrosion in nine spots, but the documents release by Enbridge consisted of a summary.  Other pipeline information previously shared with the state was of limited value because they were in read-only format.  Schuette, along with Keith Creagh, interim director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and William Moritz, interim director of theMichigan Department of Natural Resources, asked for detailed pipeline inspection documents and videos along with the company’s own evaluations, assessments and reports on the pipelines.

According to the state’s March 11 letter, Enbridge has asserted that the pipeline information is protected from disclosure because of confidentiality and security.  The state has challenged Enbridge’s claims.

“The public is entitled to know what Enbridge knows about the safety of those pipelines,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director, FLOW.   “Enbridge is going all around the state telling people that these pipelines are safe, that we shouldn’t worry about the risk of a pipeline rupture in the Great Lakes.  But their refusal to release these pipeline safety documents speak much louder than their words.”

State officials noted that pipeline safety inspection and other data are critically important to assessing risks posed by the pipelines, something that a state pipeline safety advisory board is currently evaluating as part of a process that is also looking at the future of Line 5 in the Straits.

“Shutting down Line 5 is the only real option for protecting the Great Lakes,” said Lynna Kaucheck, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch.  “It becomes clearer each and every day just how risky it is for us to be trusting Enbridge’s word on safety.”


For a copy of the State of Michigan’s letter to Enbridge email david@davidholtz.org

March 16, 2016

Sierra Club to lawmakers: Increased clean energy standards can’t wait

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Contact: Jen Flood, Byrum & Fisk Communications, (586) 531-8767

Sierra Club to lawmakers: Increased clean energy standards can’t wait

LANSING—More than 70 members of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter today traveled from across the state to meet with lawmakers to discuss the future of Michigan’s energy policy.

“We simply cannot wait any longer to pass clean energy policy that builds on the successes of our thriving clean energy sector,” said Mike Berkowitz, legislative and political director of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.  “Utility companies may spend millions of dollars on corporate lobbyists and television ads, but Sierra Club members today are pushing back and urging legislators to do the right thing and increase our renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.”

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter has organized more than 400 meetings between citizen activists and lawmakers this session alone. The organization represents more than 80,000 environmentally conscientious citizens across Michigan.

“I’m proud to be a sponsor of legislation to build on the success of our clean energy sector—reducing pollution, creating jobs and launching new businesses in our state,” said State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), Democratic vice chair of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee. “When it comes to reducing pollution and protecting public health, we can’t afford to wait.”
The Sierra Club has been aggressively urging members of the Michigan House and Senate to increase the renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2030 and the energy efficiency standard to 2 percent.

“I urge my colleagues to take action on our energy future,” said Rep. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights). “Increasing our renewable energy and energy efficiency standards will provide much-needed cost savings for Michigan families and businesses. Thanks to advances in technology, the cost of renewable energy has declined drastically over the past five years. Michigan has the highest energy costs in the region and it’s crucial that we manage these costs to grow our economy and create jobs.”

Reports from the Michigan Public Service Commission show that investment in renewable energy has leveled off as the state met its goal of generating 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

“The right to breathe clean air should not depend on your income or skin color, which is why our legislators need to act now to increase our clean energy standards,” said Dorthea Thomas, Environmental & Climate Justice Organizer for Michigan United and Sierra Club Executive Committee Member. “Pollution disproportionately affects low-income and communities of color who are much more likely to live close to a power plant.”

“It’s time for Michigan to reduce its over-reliance on burning coal and transition to more renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce pollution,” said Dave Errickson, R.N. and Sierra Club Central Michigan Group Chair. “Increasing our renewable energy and energy efficiency standards will reduce dangerous pollution and protect the health of Michigan families.”

February 23, 2016

Michigan residents flock to Lansing to urge Snyder, lawmakers to act now on straits pipeline

Michigan residents flock to Lansing to urge Snyder, lawmakers to act now on straits pipeline

Citizen lobbyists deliver 8,500 letters to governor urging action on aging Enbridge Line 5

Feb. 23, 2016

Media Contacts:  Lynna Kaucheck, Food & Water Watch, (586) 556-8805 | lkaucheck@fwwatch.org
Sean McBrearty, Clean Water Action, 
(616) 516-7758 | smcbrearty@cleanwater.org
LANSING—A growing wave of public concern about Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac brought dozens of citizens from across Michigan to Lansing Tuesday to urge lawmakers and the Snyder administration to act now to protect the Great Lakes from a disastrous oil spill. 

The day of action comes as communities around Michigan are raising their concerns about the pipeline and calling for immediate action. To date, more than 20 local units of government have passed resolutions urging Gov. Rick Snyder to use his authority to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac or demanding other state action to prevent an oil spill.

“It’s clearer now than ever that people and communities throughout Michigan will not tolerate the huge risk Line 5 continues to pose to our environment, economy and drinking water,” said Lynna Kaucheck, Food & Water Watch. “Business owners, environmentalists, tribal leaders and other Michiganders from all walks of life are united in our determination to stop the flow of oil through the Great Lakes. Our efforts today should make it unmistakably clear to our political leaders that inaction is not an acceptable option.”

Citizen lobbyists met with 22 state lawmakers on behalf of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign and asked them to support a resolution before both chambers that calls on the governor to terminate Enbridge’s easement of Great Lakes bottomlands and shut down Line 5 in the straits.Participants also dropped off some 8,500 letters at Gov. Snyder’s office calling on him to shut down the pipeline. 

“I think the huge stack of letters we’re delivering today is a sign of how passionately Michigan residents care about our Great Lakes and how urgent a threat we believe Line 5 poses to our water and way of life,” said Sean McBrearty, Clean Water Action. “Every day the governor allows Enbridge to pump oil through the Straits of Mackinac is another roll of the dice, with the world’s greatest freshwater resource at risk. Let’s quit gambling with the Great Lakes.”

The 2010 Kalamazoo River disaster—the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history—was one of more than 800 oil spills Enbridge was responsible for in the U.S. and Canada from 1999 to 2010. Today the company is working to skirt public review processes and expand its GXL pipeline network in the Great Lakes region to carry 1.1 million barrels per day of tar sands crude—a significantly greater volume than was proposed for the Keystone XL pipeline—according to a report issued last week by several environmental groups. Line 5 is part of the GXL network, and carries Canadian petroleum products from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario.

“It’s time for Michigan’s leaders to stand up to Enbridge and make it clear that we will not allow the company to continue putting our Great Lakes at risk by using them as a shortcut from Canadian oil fields to Canadian refineries,” said Mike Berkowitz, legislative and political director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “The public’s concern about Line 5 could not be clearer. The Snyder administration must assert its authority before another disaster tarnishes our fresh water and our state’s reputation.”

February 16, 2016

Shame on Gov. Snyder for caving to AG Schuette, corporate polluters

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Contact: Mike Berkowitz, (248) 345-9808

Sierra Club: Shame on Gov. Snyder for caving to AG Schuette, corporate polluters

LANSING—Mike Berkowitz, Legislative and Political Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement regarding Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to pull the plug on a plan to reduce carbon pollution in Michigan:

“When it comes to actually leading Michigan’s transition away from dirty, expensive coal, we’ve seen nothing from Gov. Snyder but relentless, positive inaction. His decision to pull the plug on a common-sense plan to reduce carbon pollution in Michigan is shameful and is just another example of his failure to lead and protect Michigan’s families and natural resources. Once again, Snyder has caved to corporate polluters and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s political antics.”


February 5, 2016

Sierra Club Phone Banks Educate Citizens about Redistricting

Help Us Put People Back in Democracy

Government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, but did you know that democracy in Michigan has been hi-jacked through a process called gerrymandering? Our state legislature, like many around the country, has drawn voting districts in which lawmakers choose their voters rather than designing competitive legislative districts where voters make the decisions. The public is cut out of a process that is used by those in power to protect their power and insulate themselves from accountability to their constituents.

When elected officials are less accountable to the people they represent, it makes it more difficult for Sierra Club to have an impact. To address this, we launched a new project in February to raise awareness among Michigan residents about the negative effect of redistricting on our democracy. 

We are hosting a series of phone banks from 4-8pm at our Lansing office every other week through September to reach out to Michiganders about an issue that ultimately affects the quality of our water, air and natural resources—in short, the quality of life.

 Phone bank schedule:
Monday, April 25
Thursday, May 12
Monday, May 16
Thursday, June 2
Monday, June 13

Food, wine, beer and pop are provided for participants!

We need lots of volunteers for this to succeed! If you have just a few hours to spare to talk with fellow Michiganders, you can help. It’s extremely easy to do, using a short script with three simple questions to ask folks you call. For details or to volunteer, email amanda.adams@sierraclub.org. We are providing food and drinks for participants.

If you can’t make our office phone banks in Lansing, we can set you up for calling from the comfort of your own home. Click here to sign up: http://tinyurl.com/fixdemocracy