May 24, 2017

Federal Funds Keep Michigan Factory Farm Pollution Flowing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:  
Pam Taylor, ECCSCM, 517-270-2419 | contact-us@eccscm.org
Gail Philbin, Sierra Club Michigan, 312-493-2384 | gail.philbin@sierraclub.org
Steve Masar, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, 415-420-7527 | media@sraproject.org

 
New Report Maps State’s Industrial Livestock Facility Waste, Subsidies
3.3 billion gal. of waste annually; $104 million subsidies; 644  violations since 1995

LANSING, MI––MAY 24, 2017––Today, the Less=More Coalition released A Watershed Moment, a report and interactive mapping project documenting how Michigan industrial livestock operations received millions of dollars in federal subsidies to prevent pollution over two decades, even as they racked up environmental violations and factory farm-fed algae blooms grew to crisis-level hazards in public waters. Sierra Club Michigan Chapter,  Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM), and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) lead the coalition seeking to level the playing field for sustainable farming in Michigan.

A Watershed Moment details that as of the end of 2016 there were 272 factory farms operating in Michigan, confining nearly 21 million animals that produced over 3.3 billion gallons of manure, urine and other waste, annually. Unlike human sewage, industrial livestock waste
​from factory farms--also known as CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)--is not treated. The vast majority of this untreated animal sewage is stored in giant open cesspits called lagoons, or under slatted barn floors, to which millions of gallons of clean groundwater are added, until it can be applied as liquid fertilizer on farm fields. These farms racked up 644 environmental enforcement actions by the State of Michigan through 2016, while receiving $104 million in subsidies since 1995.  The source of much of the waste, nearly 80 percent, was dairy cows. The remaining waste was produced by a combination of beef cattle, swine, chickens (both laying hens and broilers/pullets) and turkeys.


​Report findings include:​
  • The Southeast Lake Michigan Watershed (St. Joseph, Black-Macatawa, Kalamazoo, Upper Grand, Maple, Lower Grand, and Thornapple Rivers) is home to the most factory farms (149), the most CAFO waste produced (1.8 billion gallons), the most subsidies received ($59 million), and the most environmental enforcement actions (388).  
  • The most manure was produced by CAFOs in Huron County (Saginaw Bay-Lake Huron) at 402 million gallons, about 12% of the total produced in the State.
  • The factory farms in Allegan County received the most subsidies (around $14 million) and earned the most environmental enforcement actions by the State at 255.
  • By district, concentrated animal feeding operations in Michigan’s 4th Congressional District received the most subsidies, at $27 million.  The farms in this district also produced the most manure and waste in 2016. 
  • The factory farms in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District amassed the most environmental enforcement actions by the State of Michigan through 2016. 
A Watershed Moment provides a one-stop shop ​for Michigan CAFO data and information that has never been available before. It features an interactive map showing, by watershed and Congressional District, the location of all Michigan CAFOs with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and provides several key facts for public use.

​​“This project is a vital informational tool for public understanding of factory farms and their impact in Michigan,” said Gail Philbin, director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, a Less=More member.

Using the most current data available, this project includes:
  • the location and the owners of the farm sites;
  • the species and head counts of animals housed;
  • the facility’s NPDES CAFO permit numbers; the CAFO operator’s report on waste produced;
  • the environmental violations incurred;
  • and the taxpayer subsidies received. 
In recent years, millions of dollars have been funneled into Michigan in the form of additional federal subsidies to fund efforts to keep phosphorus from entering the Great Lakes. Phosphorus is a nutrient found in animal waste and commercial fertilizers that fuel the growth of algae.
A Watershed Moment confirms that concentrated animal feeding operations, received nearly $104 million in federal subsidies from 1995-2014, while incurring a massive 644 environmental violations of operating permits through 2016.

“The federal money keeps flowing, and so does the factory farm waste into Michigan’s public waters,” said SRAP Chief Executive Officer Kendra Kimbirauskas. “Everyone concerned about water pollution and public health needs to see this mapping project.”

“2017 is a watershed moment in the health and safely of the Great Lakes,” said Pam Taylor, a water monitor with ECCSCM, the volunteer group that has tracked factory farm pollution in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties for more than 15 years. “The amount of dissolved phosphorus, which is the type that feeds toxic algae, has nearly doubled since the 1990s in the River Raisin. It’s just a matter of time before another toxic mass floats into another municipal water intake somewhere in the Great Lakes, just as it did in 2014 in Lake Erie near Toledo.”

A Watershed Moment, with data taken from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s MIWaters database, Environmental Working Group, and Freedom-of-Information Act Requests to MDEQ’s Water Resources Division, serves as an appendix to Follow the Manure: Factory Farms and the Lake Erie Algal Crisis, the 2015 Less=More mapping report targeting the role factory farms and the manure they produce play in contributing dissolved phosphorus in Lake Erie’s toxic algae hazards. That report found that, between 2008 and 2015, U.S. Department of Agriculture direct payments, cost-shares and other conservation subsidies to factory farms totaled more than $16.8 million. At the time of the report’s release, the Western Lake Erie Watershed encompassed 146 industrial livestock operations housing nearly 12 million animals that produced more than 690 million gallons of waste annually.

In November 2016, MDEQ included western Lake Erie on its list of impaired state waters in its report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- one of the key recommendations of the Follow the Manure report.

The Less = More Coalition continues to push for an end to the practice of giving federal taxpayer dollars to polluting CAFOs, a ban on the application of CAFO waste on frozen or snow-covered ground, and reducing the agronomic rate for phosphorus from manure applications to match the rate recommended for other forms of phosphorus fertilizer.

For a copy of A Watershed Moment​, click here.
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Less=More is a coalition of organizations engaged in diverse aspects of our food system and seeking to level the playing field for sustainable farming in Michigan. Less support for polluting factory farms means a more sustainable Michigan. For more information, please visit MoreforMichigan.org.  

Members of the Less=More Coalition include: The Center for Food Safety, Crane Dance Farm, LLC, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Groundswell Farm, Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Young Farmers Coalition, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

April 24, 2017

Rover Pipeline Construction Spills Twice into Wetlands

Widely-Opposed Pipeline Confirms Worst Fears Before It Goes into Operation
April 24, 2017  Contact: Nancy Shiffler, (734) 971-1157, nshiffler@comcast.net   

Columbus, OH --Energy Transfer’s Rover pipeline had two major spills of drilling fluids into Ohio’s wetlands last week, according to correspondence between the company and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Construction began on the project on in mid-March 2017. On April 14th, 50,000 gallons of drilling fluids were spilled into a wetland in Richland County, Mifflin Township. On April 13th, 2 million gallons within a wetland adjacent to the Tuscarawas River in Stark County.

The Rover pipeline is proposed to carry fracked gas across four states and will cross three major rivers: the Maumee, Sandusky, and Portage, all of which feed into Lake Erie.  In Michigan, the pipeline will pass through Lenawee, Washtenaw, and Livingston Counties.

In addition to the Rover pipeline, Energy Transfer is the company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

In response, Sierra Club Michigan Beyond Gas and Oil Chair Nancy Shiffler released the following statement:

“Construction just began just a few weeks ago, yet Energy Transfer has already spilled more than 2 million gallons of drilling fluids in two separate disasters, confirming our worst fears about this dangerous pipeline before it has even gone into operation. We’ve always said that it’s never a question of whether a pipeline accident will occur, but rather a question of when. These disasters prove that the fossil fuel industry is unable to even put a pipeline into use before it spills polluting fluids into our precious waterways and recreation areas.

“Construction on the Rover pipeline must be stopped immediately, as an investigation into Energy Transfer’s total failure to adequately protect our wetlands and communities is conducted.

“In addition, the spills must heighten scrutiny of the proposed Nexus pipeline, currently under consideration at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the MDEQ.   Our waterways, from wetlands to the Great Lakes, are too precious to risk the impacts of additional spills and contamination from these pipelines. ”

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About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.7 million members and supporters nationwide, with 80,000 members and supporters 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.

March 30, 2017

Lawsuit Filed to Block Keystone XL Pipeline Construction


Press Contact: Nicky Vogt at 202-331-2389 or vogt@newpartners.com



Following Ill-Advised Federal Permit for Keystone XL Pipeline, Lawsuit Filed to Block Construction 
Washington, DC – Following the Trump administration’s imprudent issuance of a cross-border permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline last week, Northern Plains Resource Council; Bold Alliance; Center for Biological Diversity; Friends of the Earth; the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in federal court in Montana to challenge the permit and related environmental reviews and approvals for Keystone XL. 
The final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Keystone XL, which the State Department completed in January 2014 and did not update before issuing, severely underestimated the project’s dangerous impacts on the climate, water resources, wildlife, and communities alongside the outlined pipeline route. More than three years later, there is increasing evidence of the risks of completing KXL. The State Department ignored much of this evidence in its haste to approve KXL under a 60-day deadline set by President Trump and relied solely on an outdated EIS. If approved, KXL would be responsible for at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year, comparable to the tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal-fired power plants. 
Kate French, Chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council, said, “As Montanans, we understand the importance of water. We depend on our rivers and our groundwater for drinking, for irrigation, and for our biggest economies – agriculture, recreation, and tourism. A threat to our water is a threat to our most basic needs. Together we must do everything we can to protect our water and our future."  Kate can be reached for comment at 406-461-5312. 
Ken Winston, Legal Counsel of the Bold Alliance, said, “The Bold Alliance is proud to stand with the millions of people our organizations represent in this challenge to the State Department’s flawed approval process for the KXL pipeline. We stand for the rule of law and protection of the air, the lifegiving water and land that sustains us. We stand against eminent domain for private gain. KXL still has no legal route through Nebraska; TransCanada has the burden to prove their proposed route is in the public interest. We do not believe they will be able to meet that burden.” 
Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The Keystone XL pipeline will spill oil, pollute our drinking water, push us deeper into the climate crisis and drive wildlife closer to the brink of extinction. We’re not going to let Trump ram it down our throats. Trump should know that any time he tries to harm people or the environment, there’s going to be a wave of resistance that will rise up to meet him – every day, every week for as long as it takes.” 
Erich Pica, President, Friends of the Earth, said “For almost a decade, Americans have fought to stop the dirty Keystone XL pipeline from polluting our air and water. We cannot stand by and allow oil and gas companies to ruin our climate and pollute our land, water, and sacred cultural sites.  This litigation continues our resistance to Big Oil and Trump’s war against our health and  planet.” 
Anthony Swift, Canada Project Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said “The Trump Administration broke the law by arbitrarily endorsing a permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It ignored public calls to update and correct a required environmental impact statement that should have led to one conclusion: Piping some of the dirtiest oil on the planet through America’s heartland would put at grave risk our land, water and climate. We’re asking the court to put an end to Keystone XL, once and for all. 
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said “The Keystone XL pipeline is nothing more than a dirty and dangerous proposal that’s time has passed. It was rightfully rejected by the court of public opinion and President Obama, and now it will be rejected in the court system. It has never been a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but rather a question of when, and Keystone XL is no different. This tar sands pipeline poses a direct threat to our climate, our clean water, wildlife, and thousands of landowners and communities along the route of this dirty and dangerous project, and it must and will be stopped. 
“We continue to meet Trump in the streets, and we look forward to meeting him in the courts to stop his reckless agenda that threatens our clean air and water and the climate. He was defeated – twice – when he tried implementing a Muslim ban; he was defeated when he tried to take health care away from 24 million Americans, and he will be defeated once again as he tries to force this pipeline on the people who have already seen its rejection. This movement has already defeated the Keystone XL pipeline, and we will do so once again.”

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          filed complaint

March 22, 2017

Line 5 Letter to the Editor, Detroit News, March 15, 2017



By Pat Egan, Emeritus Member of Sierra Club's Executive Committee

As a resident of the Upper Peninsula I need to take issue with a mis-guided and fact-challenged essay published here by Doug Stockwell of the Operating Engineers regarding the submerged old pipeline crossing under the Straits of Mackinac, and new job-ending pipelines in SE Michigan.

Mr. Stockwell calls a group of fact-finders, retired engineers, chemists, business people and serious academics “alarmists. “, connoting a cartoonish Chicken-Little. These are people who recognize the hazard of a 63-year old pipeline crossing lakes and tributaries in Michigan, and crossing under water and ice in the highest risk setting in North America. The threat of that pipeline is not just to clean drinking water, but to thousands of jobs and businesses and whole communities. 

Facts from Enbridge are hard to come by in any discussion of their Line 5. That is because the company does not have to publicly reveal what it is transporting in its pipelines, where it is eventually destined, and for what purpose. Not even the Operating Engineers know. Other, non-Enbridge facts are easier to know. We know about the currents in the Straits – twice the original design assumptions. We know about a clean up “success” of 35 to 40 percent. We know about metal fatigue and mussels. We know about easement promises and promises broken. We know that this pipeline was not designed to last over 60 years.

The Operating Engineers say that shutting off the risks posed by this aged, clunky pipeline jeopardizes warm homes, jobs and economic development.  The economic devastation of a significant spill in the Straits is obvious, it is real, and it trumps any number of jobs that Line 5 oil makes in Michigan.

We in the Upper Peninsula have several sources for home heating oils and gasses. We will live the same lives we are now living the day after the State of Michigan realizes its responsibility and shuts down oil transport in a pipeline that has been, and presently is, violating legal easement agreements

Enbridge has multi-billion dollar revenue every financial quarter. The Canadian-based company keeps that revenue unless it is fined, as it has been many times, or has to pay damages for its many spills. 

The Michigan Operating Engineers benefit from pipeline maintenance and construction, and yes, pipeline catastrophes. They do not mention the jobbers and truckers who will lose their jobs when new pipelines are built in South East Michigan. They would also suffer with the rest of us if businesses and the entire tourism economy of Michigan takes an ink-stained hit when oil blackens the Straits.

The people of Michigan are taking all the risk with this obsolete and dangerous pipeline. The oil Line 5 carries to a Detroit refinery is about 3% of its load, and that refinery has almost 90 percent of its supply from other sources. Instead of defending this high-risk pipeline, the Operating Engineers of Michigan should become “alarmists” as well, and recognize the significant hazard that is Line 5.


March 16, 2017

Sierra Club Statement on Trump Budget Cuts to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2017



Sierra Club Statement on Trump Budget Cuts to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

LANSING, MI - Today, the Trump Administration released its 2018 budget proposals for discretionary spending. Among those proposals, Donald Trump has proposed a complete elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

In response to today's news, Gail Philbin, Director of the Sierra Club's Michigan Chapter, released the following statement:

"President Trump's proposal to completely eliminate all funding for Great Lakes protection and cleanup programs is a shocking abandonment of crucial, successful efforts to protect our drinking water and the most important natural asset for our entire region.

"Budgets are much more than numbers, they are statements of values and priorities.  By hitting the delete button on all federal efforts to protect the Great Lakes, President Trump is telling our entire region that our health is not his priority.  By cutting Great Lakes protection, President Trump is cutting good jobs in water infrastructure projects, he is cutting the cleanup of toxic pollution in our drinking water, and he is cutting off hope for communities that rely on these resources.

"Protecting our Great Lakes has long been a bipartisan priority for our region's leaders.  Trump's Great Lakes cuts should be dead on arrival for all members of Congress from our region.  We are ready to work with all of the people and communities of our region to resist and reverse Trump's cuts, and continue the critical work to clean up and restore the Great Lakes that are so important to all of us."


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February 27, 2017

FERC Rushes ET Rover Pipeline Approval Despite Widespread Opposition





Michigan Chapter


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 3, 2017

Contact:  Nancy Shiffler, (734) 971-1157  nshiffler@comcast.net

FERC Rushes ET Rover Pipeline Approval Despite Widespread Opposition
Approval Comes Just Prior to FERC Losing Quorum

Lansing, MI – Late Thursday evening just prior to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission losing a quorum on the resignation of one of its members, the commission approved the ET Rover pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania and Ohio through Ohio and southeastern Michigan to Canada.

In response, Nancy Shiffler of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Beyond Natural Gas and Oil Committee released the following statement:

“FERC’s decision to rush this dirty and dangerous project is nothing short of reckless.  People across Michigan and Ohio are concerned about the significant health and safety risks the operation of a pipeline this size will pose to their families.

“Rover pipeline crosses major scenic rivers which feed Lake Erie and passes through the east side of Pinckney Recreation Area.  Crossing Lenawee, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties in Michigan and eighteen Ohio counties, Rover will result in the destruction of hundreds of acres of upland forest affecting migratory birds, the Indiana bat and significant plant life as well as damaging farmlands. In our view this fight is not over. We will stand strong supporting community safety, clean water and Michigan waterways.”


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February 13, 2017

Spartan Sierra Club looking to halt crude oil flow from Line 5

Spartan Sierra Club looking to halt crude oil flow from Line 5

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Spartan Sierra Club, an on-campus and student-run environmental group, is on a mission to stop the "dangerous" flow of crude oil through Enbridge’s Line 5 in Michigan’s Great Lakes, grabbing signatures for petitions and hoping for President Lou Anna K. Simon’s support with their mission.
“We have a three-fold approach,” said international relations senior Courtney Bourgoin, vice president and co-founder of the club. “We do environmental campaigning on environmental issues that affect Michigan, we do service and volunteer in Flint and recycle every weekend after basketball games and then the third thing we do is outdoor exploration, so like hiking and camping trips.”
Line 5 is a 645-mile petroleum pipeline, which is part of a larger system, that transports crude oil from Wisconsin, across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and through northern Michigan to Ontario. Most notably and controversially, the pipeline moves through the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.