November 29, 2015

Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future Ad Shows Utilities are Behind Bad Energy Bills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Clean Energy Now
September 21, 2015
Contact: Marissa Luna, 989-798-3051marissa@engagemichigan.org

Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future Ad Shows Utilities are Behind Bad Energy Bills
Ad seeks to mislead public to support bills that eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy, energy efficiency standards

MICHIGAN – Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future (CMEF), a utility front group, released an ad this month calling for public support for legislation introduced in the Michigan House and Senate to eliminate Michigan’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The misleading ad falsely claims that Michigan will face power shortages unless electric utilities are given carte blanche to build expensive, dirty power plants instead of abiding by state standards for greater energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

“We’ve known from the beginning that this campaign was designed to mislead the public and promote investments in fossil fuels instead of clean energy. This new ad shows that utility companies are the ones behind the legislative effort to protect their bottom line and block expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Michigan,” said Nic Clark, state director for Clean Water Action.

Michigan’s utilities have obstructed efforts to further expand renewable energy and energy efficiency standards in the state since they were implemented in 2008, despite evidence that these measures can protect public health and Michigan’s Great Lakes, bring more jobs to the state, save people money on utility bills, and mitigate climate change.

“Utilities should support legislation that protects public health, saves customers money, and reduces our use of polluting fossil fuels like coal and natural gas,” said Mike Berkowitz, Legislative Director, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “Instead, they’re doing the opposite – funding an astro-turf campaign to support bills that gut Michigan’s clean energy policies and preclude people from producing their own energy through solar panels. In order to hold utilities accountable to making clean energy investments, which they clearly won’t do on their own, we must increase our state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.”

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Clean Energy Now is a coalition of groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power and toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity. Follow the campaign at CleanEnergyNowMI.org.

November 16, 2015

Sierra Club Endorses Gretchen Driskell for Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2015                                  

CONTACT: Mike Berkowitz
248-345-9808
Mike.berkowitz@sierraclub.org

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES GRETCHEN DRISKELL

Conservation Group Praises Work to Protect Michigan’s Environment


Saline, MIThe Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club today announced its endorsement of Gretchen Driskell (democrat) in the 2016 election in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District.

"Gretchen Driskell earned Sierra Club’s endorsement because of her commitment to protecting Michigan’s Great Lakes way of life,” said Richard Barron, Political Chair of Michigan Sierra Club. "She understands the importance of clean air, clean water, and public health. We are confident that she will work to protect Michigan’s environment for our families and our future."

As a State Representative, Gretchen Driskell worked tirelessly to protect and preserve the health of Michigan’s water, air and countryside. She introduced legislation to protect the Great Lakes such as House Bill 4514 which strengthens the Michigan’s oil pipeline regulations, increases environmental protection standards, and enhance accountability for pipeline leaks. Last month, Gretchen Driskell sponsored House Bill 5043 which would remove the costly and prohibitive permit system that’s stalled the efforts of several organizations to obtain information about stream flow and water quality in the state. Gretchen Driskell scored a 90 percent on the Sierra Club’s environmental voting scorecard during her time as a State Representative.

Gretchen Driskell is running for the Congressional seat currently held by Tim Walberg (republican). Congressman Walberg performed terribly on the Sierra Club’s environmental voting scorecard with a lifetime score of 5 percent. Walberg cast countless votes against environmental protection such as undermining clean air protections (H.R. 4795) and assaulting the clean water rule (H.R. 5078). In contrast, Gretchen Driskell encourages the expansion of Michigan’s clean energy industry and protection of pristine water.

"I appreciate Gretchen Driskell’s support for renewable energy as a pathway to cleaner air and homegrown jobs. As my Mayor and state Representative, she understood that people cared about creating jobs and protecting the planet,” said Rob Zimmer, a Sierra Club activist from Saline in the 7th Congressional District. “Michigan needs more clean energy champions in Congress and Gretchen Driskell has the skills, values and experience to lead on this important issue.”

Sierra Club’s endorsement means it will lend its volunteer strength to Gretchen Driskell’s campaign from among its 60,000 Michigan members and supporters, including over 11,000 in the 7th Congressional District.

"Getting Gretchen Driskell elected to represent the 7th Congressional District is a priority for us," said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Michigan Sierra Club. "Sierra Club volunteers will conduct outreach to our members and other voters and let them know Gretchen Driskell is committed to protecting Michigan’s environment.”

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide, and over 60,000 of them in Michigan.

#   #   #

State Representative Gretchen Driskell

Congressman Tim Walberg

November 3, 2015

Sierra Club and Public Justice Warn Oklahoma Fracking Operators of Intent to Sue

MEDIA RELEASE  
                                                                                     
 November 2, 2015
                                                                                              
Contact:  Steve Ralls
(202) 861-5246 | 
sralls@publicjustice.net

Contact: Johnson Bridgwater
(405) 902-2288 | Johnson.bridgwater@sierraclub.org


Environmental Groups Warn Oklahoma Fracking Operators
of Potential Legal Action 

Sierra Club & Public Justice Say Industry is Responsible for Increased Seismic Activity

Oklahoma City, OK – Public Justice and Sierra Club filed a ‘Notice of Intent to Sue’ Friday with four energy companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the state of Oklahoma. The groups have notified Sandridge Exploration and Production, New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy Production Company of new evidence linking production waste from fracking and oil production with increased and ongoing earthquake activity in and around central Oklahoma. They have demanded the companies take immediate action to modify their operations in a way that will substantially reduce seismic activity, or face legal action.

see article
In 2014, seismologists reported more than 5,000 earthquakes in Oklahoma, and geologists predict seismic activity to continue at that level throughout 2015. “Since late 2009,” the groups note in their letter, “the rate of magn­itude-3 or larger earthquakes in north-central Oklahoma has been nearly 300 times higher than in previous decades.” The letter also notes that “Overlaying the locations of Defendants’ wells onto the places where earthquakes above magnitude 3.5 have been felt shows that earthquakes are occurring in the vicinity of the Defendants’ wells or along fault lines that are close to the wells.” The groups have concluded that the large volume of production waste from fracking and oil production operations that is injected into the ground is causing this increased activity and raises the likelihood of “a devastating quake that could kill large numbers of people and cause massive environmental devastation.”

“Oklahoma is literally being shaken to its core by the operations of these oil and gas companies,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “The link between Oklahoma’s dramatic earthquake activity and the industry’s fracking operations has been established by countless experts, including the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey and the scientists who have assembled the compelling and conclusive evidence referenced in our letter today. Most importantly, the impact of this devastating process is felt, every single day, by the citizens of Oklahoma. There is a clear and present danger posed by these irresponsible operations. If the energy companies do not voluntarily take action to stop it, we will take them to court.”

“I am angry and offended that the oil and gas industry has been so slow to protect Oklahoma and its citizens in the face of this earthquake crisis,” said Barbara Vanhanken, Chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Stopping this ever-strengthening earthquake crisis is critical to the health and well-being of all Oklahomans. To ignore the human cost being paid for the earthquake problems tied to oil and gas operations in Oklahoma is cold-blooded and heartless. It reinforces the concept that profits matter more than people.”

The groups have demanded the energy companies take immediate steps to curb further activity and damage, including: Immediately and substantially reducing the amount of Production Waste injected into the ground; reinforcing structures that are most vulnerable to large magnitude earthquakes; and establishing an independent monitoring and prediction center to forecast the amount of Waste that can be safely injected while tracking seismic activity to confirm and modify those predictions.

The letter warns that, “the risk is not only that there are more frequent earthquakes; it is also that those earthquakes have been, and will continue to be, more severe.” Unless the companies take substantial action to reduce this risk, the groups write, “Citizens will sue in federal court to protect themselves and their environment.”
For more information, visit www.PublicJustice.net and www.SierraClub.org/Oklahoma.

# # #

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, 
protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.
Established in 1972, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club is the largest environmental group in Oklahoma, f
ighting to protect our great outdoors, with three Groups representing more than 3,000 members across the state.

October 29, 2015

Representatives Irwin and Roberts Issue Call for Line 5 Closure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015
                          Contact: Rep. Jeff Irwin or Rep. Roberts

Irwin, Roberts Issue Call for Line 5 Closure

Urge governor and attorney general to shut down dangerous pipeline


LANSING — State Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) held a press conference today calling for Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to close Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. The US Coast Guard, citizens, legislators and environmental groups alike have raised concerns over the dangers of the 62-year-old pipeline, which carries 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac every day.
“Bills to increases pipeline safety in Michigan have been waiting for action in Lansing for over a year. Meanwhile this 62 year old pipeline continues to operate in the worst possible place for a spill and we’re supposed to trust that a company with a sketchy track record has it under control,” said Rep. Irwin. “We’ve called for inspections and anchoring of the pipelines, but the legislature and the Governor have ignored those calls. Now, with winter approaching and no action plan in place, we are calling for the pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down and for our Governor and Attorney General to stop sanctioning this threat to our greatest natural resource.”
In 2014, a study done by the University of Michigan’s Water Center concluded that due to the massive, fluctuating flows of the Straits, it would be the worst location in the Great Lakes for an oil spill to happen. Prompting a greater sense of urgency was the recent release of a report by the U.S. Coast Guard, stating they are not adequately equipped to respond to an oil spill in the Lakes. The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has indicated that the line has at least 2,400 known defects as of 2011, and also show that Enbridge, who operates the pipeline, has inspected less than 12 percent of them.
Enbridge was responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010, the largest and most expensive in-land oil spill in U.S. history. Enbridge has a history of failure and their pipelines routinely leak. There have been 15 documented failures over 17 years leaking about 260,000 gallons of oil, sometimes near the Straits, just on Line 5. The consequences of a Line 5 rupture would be much further reaching, endangering countless plant and wildlife species, as well as threatening Michigan’s $22.4 billion tourism industry.
David Holtz of the Michigan Sierra Club joined Reps. Irwin and Roberts in calling for action on the resolution. “While Michigan businesses and citizens are clamoring for action, the Governor and the Attorney General keep talking about doing more talking,” said Holtz. “At some point, Michigan needs action, not endless task forces and advisory boards that push the obvious solutions further away.”
            "In July, our own Attorney General Bill Schuette stated that “Line 5’s days are numbered,” but the task force he created to investigate the issue did not call for the line’s closure and he has taken no action,” said Rep. Roberts. “Despite the known and inevitable risks, this pipeline continues to be operated by a company with a tarnished safety record that offers little transparency about its inspection process. We cannot wait for an emergency to force us to act. Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac must be shut down.”

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October 28, 2015

Gov. Snyder Should Remove Oil Industry from State Panel


For Immediate Release
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Media Contact:   David Holtz 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org

LANSING—Sierra Club told a new state pipeline board that met for the first time today that oil industry executives who are participating as public officials weighing the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac are compromising its work. 

The 15-member state Pipeline Safety Board, appointed in September by Gov. Snyder, includes Brad Shamla, an Enbridge Energy Co. Vice President, and Brad Pierson, representing Marathon Petroleum.  The Board will be making recommendations to Gov. Snyder on the future of controversial Enbridge Line 5, which carries 23 million gallons of oil a day in two pipelines through the turbulent Straits and supplies oil to Marathon’s Detroit refinery. The risky pipeline has been the subject of public scrutiny since 2014 when when researchers documented the potential catastrophic impact on the Great Lakes of a spill in the Straits. 

“Enbridge and Marathon don’t belong on a public body helping to decide the fate of pipelines that threaten the Great Lakes but earn millions of dollars in profits for Enbridge and Marathon executives and investors,” said David Holtz, Chair of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee.  “The public is entitled to the best unbiased judgment from its officials on Line 5 pipelines and there’s no chance this will happen with the oil industry."  

Holtz said the Sierra Club would write Gov. Snyder and ask that he remove Enbridge and Marathon from the pipeline board and to also reject any potential funding from the oil industry of the pipeline board’s work.  Holtz said the oil industry’s conflict of interest on the pipeline board may be in violation of state ethics laws that prohibit members of public bodies with financial conflicts from making recommendations on public policy. 

“The state already has the authority to get whatever information it needs from the oil industry without giving them more leverage and influence than they already have,” said Holtz.  “Until this conflict of interest is eliminated, the pipeline board’s credibility will be in question.”   

The pipeline board's next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14 in Lansing where it will consider how to evaluate risks posed by Line 5 through the Straits and begin examining alternatives.  One of the decisions the board will make is whether or not to consider recommending shutting down the flow of oil through Line 5 in the Straits. 
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October 22, 2015

Citizens Groups Back EPA Probe of Flint Drinking Water Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 23, 2015

Media Contacts:
     David Holtz, 313-300-4454/david@davidholtz.org

In a letter to the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today, the Ecology Center and Sierra Club today asked the EPA for a formal investigation into how the EPA and a state agency charged with drinking water safety handled Flint’s drinking water crisis. 

Today’s letter, citing a communication Wednesday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy from U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), asked McCarthy to conduct a full investigation into the causes of the water problem in Flint. Flint’s water crisis was triggered by lead contamination that documents appear to show went unaddressed since the city switched to the Flint River for drinking water in April, 2014.  The groups also joined Kildee is requesting a full review of EPA oversight of federal drinking water programs it delegated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“This is about accountability,” said David Holtz, Michigan Chapter Chair of Sierra Club.  “We need to know what the EPA knew about lead contamination in Flint and when it knew it and why the state agency charged with keeping drinking water safe failed to do that in Flint when it appears that it knew for months there was dangerous lead levels threatening public health.”

In their letter, Sierra Club and Ecology Center also asked the EPA to investigate why the wrong water treatment guidelines were used in Flint and what actions, if any, were taken by EPA to require proper corrosion controls.   The groups also asked if EPA has conducted any reviews of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of safe drinking water programs in Flint.

“Confidence in the safety of Michigan’s drinking water needs to be restored,” said Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center. “That can only come after we know exactly what happened in Flint, why it happened and what measures need to be taken to assure us it won’t happen again.”

Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Conservation Director, pointed to a track record at MDEQ of failing to protect the public health and environment that suggests only an outside investigation will result in getting the answers the public needs.

“We’ve seen too many times, whether it’s allowing dangerous levels of air pollution in Detroit, or permitting the import of radioactive fracking wastes into Michigan, where the MDEQ is failing in its central mission of protecting the public health and environment,”  said Woiwode.  “What  happened to Flint’s drinking water is one of the most serious public health disasters we’ve seen in Michigan.  Children’s health will be impacted for the rest of their lives because of what happened and the public deserves to know why.”
##

text of letter follows

October 22, 2015


Ms Gina McCarthy
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW
Washington, DC   20460

Administrator McCarthy:

We are writing to endorse the October 21 request by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct a thorough investigation into the causes of the government failure that resulted in unacceptable lead levels in Flint’s drinking water. 

We believe that only a full review will hold those accountable for decisions regarding proper enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).  This review should encompass the EPA’s oversight of state programs delegated to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and MDEQ’s enforcement of the SDWA, LCR and other safe drinking water programs.

Moreover, we ask that an EPA review answer the following questions:
  • Was the EPA aware that the MDEQ was using the wrong guidelines under the LCR for a city of Flint’s population?
  • Did the EPA notify MDEQ that the city of Flint should add a corrosion control treatment to their drinking water following the switch to the Flint River? 
  • When did the EPA become aware that the city of Flint was using a lime softening agent as a CCT?
  • What actions di the EPA take once they learned MDEQ was not requiring the city of Flint to use a proper CCT?
  • Did EPA evaluate the testing guidelines that MDEQ was using in the city of Flint?
  • When did the EPA first become aware of the potential elevated lead levels in Flint’s water?
  • After becoming aware of the potential elevated levels of lea, was the EPA required to notify anyone?  If the EPA is not required to notify anyone, why not?
  • Since switching to the Flint River, as EPA verified the city of Flint’s compliance with the LCR themselves?
  • Has EPA reviewed MDEQ’s performance in regards to its delegated authority to enforce the LCR and other Safe Drinking Water Act regulations?  If not, why hasn’t this occurred?
We look forward to hearing from you on this important request.


Sincerely,

                              
David Holtz, Executive Committee Chair                Mike Garfield, Director                    
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter                                 Ecology Center

Anne Woiwode, Conservation Director
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter


October 2, 2015

Sierra Club Calls for Urgent Action, Probe of MDEQ in Flint Public Health Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 2, 2015

Media Contact:  David Holtz, david@davidholtz.org/313-300-4454

LANSING—Sierra Club today called on Gov. Rick Snyder to act decisively and urgently to implement plans to end the public health crisis in Flint and to support an independent investigation into the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s oversight of federal drinking water laws.

“Given the clear risks to vulnerable populations and the state’s public health responsibilities this is a time for strong leadership and accountability from state public health authorities and the governor,” said David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan Chair.  “The governor, finally, is assuming direct responsibility for responding to a crisis that every day is damaging the health of Flint’s children. His actions should be much stronger, however, and he needs to find out how we got to the point where Flint children are drinking lead and what the MDEQ’s role was in those decisions and actions.”

The Snyder administration today outlined a series of steps they will take to address Flint’s public health crisis.   They include accelerated and expanded water treatment, providing filters to some residents, expanded testing of residents and an examination of whether to temporarily switch back to the Detroit water system.  Replacing Flint’s lead pipes over time were also on the administration’s to-do list.

Sierra Club Michigan Director Gail Philbin said only independent testing of Flint’s water for lead will be credible because of questions raised regarding the city and MDEQ’s handling of past test results.

“Parents need to know drinking water is safe for their children,” said Philbin.  “Immediately they need credible testing for lead and alternatives to contaminated water.  The likely best way to ensure safe drinking water in Flint is to change to a safe and reliable drinking water source and that’s Detroit’s water system and to eliminate lead pipes.”

Investigations by the ACLU and nationally recognized drinking water expert Marc Edwards at Virginia Tech University have pointed to failures in testing and enforcement of federal drinking water standards by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.   An MDEQ spokesman reportedly attacked Virginia Tech’s results and complained about the “near-hysteria” over Flint’s water supply. The Virginia Tech researcher documented what he called “mistakes and deception” involving the MDEQ’s handling of Flint’s drinking water problem.

“Along with ensuring Flint residents aren’t drinking lead, we need for the governor to ensure that the public gets answers to what happened and why we ended up with a public health crisis in Flint,” said Holtz.   “That will require an independent investigation.  If that’s something Governor Snyder is unwilling to do we need federal authorities to determine to what extent, if any, state officials who are responsible for implementing federal drinking water standards are accountable for the public health crisis in Flint.”

The Greater Flint Health Coalition, a group of health professionals in the Flint community, has concluded that Flint’s drinking water is unsafe because of elevated lead blood levels. The city of Flint began using the Flint River as a water source in April 2014 following a decision made by emergency manager Darnell Earley. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies show that lead in drinking water can cause serious health problems and that the greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children and pregnant women.  Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.

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October 1, 2015

Sierra Club Helps Launch New Michigan Climate Initiative

For Immediate Release
October 1, 2015

Media Contacts:
Kate Madigan, Michigan Environmental Council
kate@environmentalcouncil.org/ 231-633-5353

David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan
david@davidholtz.org/ 313-300-4454


DETROIT, MI—Michigan’s first statewide coalition of citizens to advance climate change solutions was announced today with the new Michigan Climate Action Network preparing to kick off its first organizing drive at Saturday’s Detroit March for Justice event.

“Michiganders want action on climate change. By coming together we will build a stronger movement in Michigan to confront the defining issue of our time,” said Kate Madigan, Michigan Climate Action Network Coordinator. ”Climate change solutions mean cleaner air, cleaner energy, and community-based efforts to prepare for theimpacts of climate disruption. Our future is at stake. Michigan needs to lead.”

Leading citizens groups from throughout Michigan—including Detroit, northern Michigan, west Michigan and statewide organizations—formed Michigan Climate Action Network to strengthen grassroots organizing and public education efforts around climate change in the state. 

“We are excited to kick off our first major organizing drive at the Detroit March for Justice this Saturday,” said Kimberly Hill Knott, Project Director of the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative (DCAC).  In Detroit, and around the world, low-income and minority communities are the most vulnerable, but least responsible, for carbon emissions and other dangerous pollutants.” Our homes are flooding now, increases in asthma attacks due to extreme heat are happening now. We need our leaders to ACT on climate change now!
Membership in Michigan Climate Action Network is open to any individual or group with a commitment to the network’s mission.  Current network members are Citizens Climate Lobby Michigan Chapters, Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan & Emmett Counties, Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, Ecology Center, Food & Water Watch, Groundwork Center, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, TC350 and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Rev. Deb Hansen of Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmett Counties said northern Michigan residents are ready to act on climate solutions.

“Our communities, our businesses and our families are so tied to the health of the Great Lakes.  Pure Michigan must be more than a marketing slogan,” said Hansen.  “Our love for the beauty and quality of life we enjoy will help us to make wise choices.   We need our elected officials to understand that time is not on our side when it comes to climate change."

Rachel Hood, the Executive Director of West Michigan Environmental Action Council, said cities will lead the way to climate resiliency in Michigan.

“Grand Rapids is often seen as a model in the state and among mid-sized cities in the US.  But each community has a unique context in which to work and from those unique viewpoints, innovation for climate change will begin.  Michigan’s cities need to stick together and learn from each other to thrive.”Rachel Hood of West Michigan Environmental Action Council said. “Hats off to the organizers of Michigan Climate Action Network for bringing us together to put a spotlight on climate change solutions in Michigan.” 

##

About Michigan Climate Action Network
The Michigan Climate Action Network is a network of groups and individuals working to build and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement in the Great Lakes state to call for local, state, national and international policies that will put us on a path to climate stability and climate justice. We support citizen actions that bring urgency and advance progress to slow climate change. More information is at www.miclimateaction.org.

September 3, 2015

Citizens: Shut Down Enbridge Line 5 By December

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 3, 2015

Citizens: Shut Down Enbridge Line 5 By December
Coast Guard Warns Pipelines In Icy Straits of Mackinac Are High Risk

Media Contact:    David Holtz david@davidholtz.org    313-300-4454

LANSING—With Coast Guard and oil spill recovery experts citing challenging winter conditions in the turbulent, icy Straits of Mackinac, citizens groups today demanded that state officials shut down the flow of oil through Enbridge Line 5 in the Straits by December to avoid a worst-case catastrophic spill. 

“Winter’s coming and the icy Straits makes effective oil spill recovery virtually impossible,” said David Holtz, Chair, Michigan Chapter of Sierra Club.  “When it comes to oil recovery, there is no good plan for the Great Lakes.  It just makes sense that we stop the flow of oil through the Straits and that we do it by December before the ice comes.”

More than eight feet of ice can form in the Straits where two Enbridge oil pipelines are up to 200 feet below the surface. 

At a government-funded pipeline workshop last week in Petoskey, the Coast Guard’s contingency preparedness specialist, Steve Heck, said the Straits were at the top of the Coast Guard’s high-risk oil recovery sites in the region. Ice conditions in the Straits would make recovery operations very difficult, Keck said. Michael Popa of T& T Marine Salvage, an oil recovery firm, also told workshop participants that oil recovery in the Straits is a much greater challenge in the winter. 

Moreover, experts confirmed that the threat from oil pipelines in the Straits isn’t confined to winter.  “Recovery operations in other times of the year would also be challenging due to strong winds and currents often found in the Straits,” Keck told Sierra Club. 

“We feel a sense of urgency about stopping the flow of oil as an interim measure while the recommendations of the Petroleum Pipeline Task Force are being implemented, including a risk assessment and an alternatives study.  Our fisheries, drinking water supplies, and local businesses are at risk,” said Rev. Deb HansenConcerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet County.   “Michigan’s executives have both the authority and responsibility to protect the Great Lakes.  With no credible plan for a clean-up in the winter months, action is needed and needed now.”  

Since the release of a report in July from a pipeline task force co-chaired by Attorney General Bill Schuette and the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder, there has been little action on the report’s recommendations.  Snyder is expected this week to issue an executive order creating a new pipeline safety committee but no action is immediately expected on the report's major recommendation of looking at alternatives to transporting oil through the Straits pipelines.  In the aftermath of the report release, Schuette had publicly predicted that "the pipeline's days are numbered."

Coast Guard, EPA and other government agencies are conducting an oil spill training drill Sept. 24 in the Straits.  At last week’s workshop, an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Eric Anderson, presented data showing that within 60 hours of a spill a wide area from the western shores of Lake Michigan to beyond Mackinac Island would be impacted by a pipeline rupture.   A University of Michigan 2014 study said within 20 days of a major spill contamination could spread far beyond NOAA’s projected impact area.

Coast Guard and other officials said it could take several days before full oil recovery efforts were in place following a major spill because of the time it would take for manpower and equipment to arrive on the scene.

The workshop was hosted by Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and funded by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  Several Enbridge officials who attended assured the public that its 62-year-old pipelines through the Straits were safe.   They have not, however, publicly released detailed pipeline safety inspection data.   

After a six-inch breach last May in a Santa Barbara, California pipeline spilled 101,000 gallons and created a 9-mile ocean slick, journalists using the state’s open records act discovered that pipeline officials had earlier claimed in documents to government agencies that the pipeline was safe.   Corrosion is suspected in that pipeline breach. At last week’s workshop, Enbridge acknowledged that more than 200,000 gallons of oil would spill into the Great Lakes within five minutes of pipeline ruptures to Line 5 in the Straits.  The company is behind a current effort in the state Legislature to exempt oil pipeline safety records from Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. 

“Enbridge officials are putting big bucks into marketing the idea that their pipelines in the Straits are safe,” said Jim Lively, Program Director, Groundwork Center.  “But the PR spin isn’t matched by transparency and accountability and common sense tells you the Straits are no place for oil pipelines." 

“Given their terrible track record on oil spills, “ said Lively, “and the government’s acknowledgement that effective oil spill recovery in the Straits would be nearly impossible during ice conditions, it’s past time for the governor and attorney general to use their authority to protect the Great Lakes and shut down Line 5 before winter.”

##

August 10, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: Sierra Club Files Amicus in Palisades Nuclear Plant Case

For Immediate Release 
August 10, 2015

Contacts: Mark Muhich: 517- 787- 2476 or markmuhich0@gmail.com
Walter Taylor: 319-366-2428 or wtaylorlaw@aol.com
Sierra Club Files Amicus in Palisades Nuclear Plant Case

The Sierra Club has weighed in on the safety of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert, MI, owned by Entergy, with an amicus brief [1] filed August 7th with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The 44 year old Palisades plant is one of the oldest nuclear power plants in the world, and has the most “embrittled” reactor pressure vessel of any US nuclear plants. Entergy is now seeking unprecedented “regulatory relief” from federal rules governing the testing and maintenance of the nuclear reactor’s pressure vessel. 

"Entergy is trying to avoid following NRC regulations that would assure the safety of the Palisades pressure vessel,” says attorney Walter Taylor of Cedar Rapids, IA, who is representing Sierra Club.  “This is putting Michigan residents at risk of radioactive exposure."
Sierra Club’s brief supports a decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel to require a full evidentiary hearing on this matter, which was issued on June 18th [2].

Four environmental organizations, Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future-Shoreline Chapter, and Nuclear Energy Information Service, submitted the petition to the ASLB panel calling for a formal evidentiary hearing into the severity of “embrittlement” of the Palisades reactor pressure vessel after Entergy applied for regulatory relief.  On July 13th, Entergy appealed the ASLB decision to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Sierra Club has long maintained a national policy of “unequivocal” opposition to commercial nuclear power,” said Mark Muhich, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Nuclear Free Michigan Committee. “We felt compelled to weigh in on this case because a rupture of the Palisades pressure vessel due to embrittlement could kill thousands of western Michigan residents, ruin thousands of square miles of the best agricultural land in the state, and poison Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for millions of people.”

View a text version of the amicus brief here, or email markmuhich0@gmail.com for a full copy.


[1] Sierra Club’s full amicus brief is available upon request to Mark Muhich (contact info above) or a text version is available at this link.
[2] ASLB panel Memorandum and order from June 18th can be found here: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1516/ML15169A273.pdf

August 4, 2015

Press Release: Gov. Blanchard Asked To Act on Enbridge Line 5 Great Lakes Threat

Gov. Blanchard Asked To Act on Enbridge Line 5 Great Lakes Threat
Former Governor Is Now Enbridge Board Member

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Media Contacts:   David Holtz 313-300-4454 david@davidholtz.org
                               Anne Woiwode 517-974-2112 anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org

LANSING—Sierra Club today asked former Michigan Gov. James J. Blanchard, a member of Enbridge Inc.’s Board of Directors, to compel the company to publicly disclose safety inspection results and cooperate in an independent investigation sought by the state of the dangerous Line 5 pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac.

Blanchard chairs the board’s Committee on Social Responsibility which oversees Enbridge’s environmental stewardship policies and he was requested in a letter from Sierra Club to commit to getting the company “to permanently remove the threat of Enbridge Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac by ending the flow of oil through the Straits pipelines. “

“As governor, Mr. Blanchard created the state’s first Office of the Great Lakes,” said Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Conservation Director.  “We now need him to step up once again. We need him to make sure the company he now helps lead isn’t responsible for a Great Lakes disaster.”

Sierra Club’s letter to the former Michigan governor, who still maintains an Oakland County residence, follows the July 14 release of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report.  The report identified crucial areas where Enbridge failed to disclose pipeline safety information on Line 5 in the Straits, failed to identify critical pipeline safety threats, failed to maintain legally required pipeline infrastructure and provided inconsistent information about its liability in the event of a catastrophic oil spill.  The state government task force also concluded that Enbridge’s assertions that the 61-year-old Straits pipelines can be operated indefinitely without replacement plans are unreasonable.

Sierra Club, in its letter to Blanchard, said, “The documentation and conclusions in this task force report, reflecting the expertise and judgment of the state’s top environmental, legal and natural resources officials, point to a pattern of behavior on the part of Enbridge officials that is in conflict with Enbridge’s corporate environmental stewardship policies and authorized business practices.  Those fall within your area of responsibility as Chair of Enbridge’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee.”

The letter, signed by Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair David Holtz and Woiwode, cited Enbridge’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Statement on Business Conduct policies.  Those policies were revised in the wake of the disastrous 2010 Line Enbridge Line 6B pipeline rupture, the largest oil spill on land in United States history.  The new policies pledged Enbridge to the “highest standards of business conduct” and directed its subsidiaries, including Enbridge Energy Partners, to “establish and maintain…operations in an environmentally responsible manner in accordance with applicable environmental laws, regulations and standards.” 

“Violating its agreements with Michigan about Line 5 and keeping pipeline safety data secret even from the state of Michigan violates Enbridge’s own stated policy of operating responsibly and following the law,” said Holtz.  “Governor Blanchard is not only in a unique position to protect the Great Lakes from an Enbridge catastrophe, as an Enbridge board member he is responsible to Enbridge shareholders for making sure the company stops behaving badly.”

Blanchard was asked to:
  •  Publicly commit to working within Enbridge, Inc. and its subsidiary, Enbridge Energy Partners, to permanently remove the threat of Enbridge Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac by ending the flow of oil through the Straits pipelines.
  •  Require Enbridge to immediately and publicly disclose all pipeline inspection information for Line 5 dating to the pipeline’s construction in 1953.
  • Provide immediate access to all information and documents that would allow independent analysis of Enbridge’s pipelines through the Straits. 
  • Instruct all of Enbridge’s lobbyists, public relations consultants and corporate officials to withdraw from authoring and supporting proposed changes that undermine Michigan’s open records law by making pipeline safety and other vital data secret.
  • Require Enbridge to fully comply with the liability requirements of its Easement Agreement with the State of Michigan by providing a “worst case” estimate of potential damages resulting from pipeline ruptures instead of the “conflicting, incomplete, and inadequately supported estimates of its total liability under the Easement,” as the task force report stated.
##

MICHIGAN CHAPTER
                

Sierra Club Letter to Former Michigan Governor Blanchard

August 4, 2015
Hon. James J. Blanchard
DLA Piper LLP
500 Eighth Street, NW
Washington, DC  20004

Dear Governor Blanchard:

We are writing to you in your capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of Enbridge, Inc. and Chair of Enbridge’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, which oversees the company’s environmental stewardship.

Governor, you are a longtime Enbridge corporate Director and the former Governor of Michigan so you are no doubt aware of Enbridge’s Line 5 operations through the Straits of Mackinac and the high risk these pipelines pose to the Great Lakes due to the potential for a catastrophic oil spill. We know you have a strong commitment to Michigan and care about the Great Lakes.  As an Enbridge Director with fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and for the corporation’s environmental stewardship policies, we are bringing to your urgent attention and requesting immediate action in response to a pattern and practice of Enbridge’s operations that puts the Great Lakes and Michigan at tremendous risk and violates Enbridge’s own Corporate Social Responsibility Policy[1] and Statement on Business Conduct[2].

As you may know, the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force issued a report[3] and recommendations on July 14 regarding Enbridge Line 5 through the Straits.  The report noted that “…in light of the massive 2010 oil releases from Enbridge’s Line 6B near Marshall, Michigan, the well- documented systemic failures there, the age of the Straits Pipelines, and location of those pipelines literally in the Great Lakes, there has been growing public and governmental concern about the Straits Pipelines. Their location makes them especially critical. Releases of oil from the Straits Pipelines could have a devastating ecological and economic impact. Water quality, fisheries, beaches, and the iconic center of Michigan’s tourist economy would likely all be gravely damaged[4].”
The report identified crucial areas where Enbridge failed to disclose pipeline safety information on Line 5 in the Straits, failed to identify critical pipeline safety threats, failed to maintain legally required pipeline infrastructure and provided inconsistent information about its liability in the event of a catastrophic oil spill[5].  Significantly, the state government task force concluded that Enbridge’s assertions that the 61-year-old Straits pipelines can be operated indefinitely without replacement plans are unreasonable[6].

The documentation and conclusions in this task force report, reflecting the expertise and judgment of the state’s top environmental, legal and natural resources officials, point to a pattern of behavior on the part of Enbridge officials that is in conflict with Enbridge’s corporate environmental stewardship policies and authorized business practices.  Those fall within your area of responsibility as Chair of Enbridge’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee[7].  
In Enbridge Inc.’s Statement on Business Conduct, revised in October, 2012 following the disastrous Enbridge Line 6B pipeline rupture near Marshall, Michigan, Enbridge pledged itself to the “highest standards of business conduct” and directed its subsidiaries, including Enbridge Energy Partners, to “establish and maintain…operations in an environmentally responsible manner in accordance with applicable environmental laws, regulations and standards.” 
As documented in the task force report, Enbridge’s failure to comply with the conditions of its 1953 Easement Agreement with the State of Michigan for Line 5 through the Straits seem to clearly constitute a breach of appropriate business conduct as defined by Enbridge corporate business conduct policy adopted in the wake of the Line 6B pipeline disaster. 
As the former Governor of Michigan, current Enbridge Director and Chair of its Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, we respectfully request that you consider taking the following steps toward safeguarding the Great Lakes and putting Enbridge into compliance with its environmental stewardship and business practices polices:
  • Publicly commit to working within Enbridge, Inc. and its subsidiary, Enbridge Energy Partners, to permanently remove the threat of Enbridge Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac by ending the flow of oil through the Straits pipelines.  For Enbridge to act in an environmentally responsible manner it must acknowledge the magnitude of harm to the Great Lakes from a “worst case” pipeline rupture in the Straits and immediately begin eliminating this as a threat.
  • Require Enbridge to immediately and publicly disclose all pipeline inspection information for Line 5 dating to the pipeline’s construction in 1953.  As the task force reported, “While Enbridge has publicly listed the numbers and types of pipeline inspections that it or its contractors have performed, it has not fully disclosed the actual results of most of the inspections or the limitations of the test methods used[8].”  As a result of Enbridge’s failure to disclose this information, there is no opportunity to subject the inspection regime and results to public evaluation and review by experts.  Enbridge’s failure to disclose this pipeline safety information as required in its Easement Agreement with the State of Michigan is in conflict with Enbridge policy requiring adherence to environmental laws.
  • Provide immediate access to all information and documents that would allow independent analysis of Enbridge’s pipelines through the Straits.  As the task force report concluded,  “Enbridge has pointed to its use of remotely operated vehicles as a means of verifying the continued integrity of the external coating originally applied to the Straits Pipelines. But Enbridge has failed to acknowledge that much of the Straits Pipelines are now heavily encrusted with invasive quagga and/or zebra mussels and that, where present, make it difficult or impossible to view or photograph the external surface of the pipe. 
Moreover, Enbridge has not addressed the potential for acidic secretions from these mussels to promote corrosion of metal where the pipeline coating has been compromised. 
Given Enbridge’s failure to maintain the legally required intervals for pipeline supports during an apparently extended period of time, and the very significant underwater currents at the Straits, there is a need to analyze the resulting stresses on the pipelines and potential impacts to their integrity[9].”
  • Instruct all of Enbridge’s lobbyists, public relations consultants and corporate officials to withdraw from authoring and supporting proposed changes that undermine Michigan’s open records law by making pipeline safety and other vital data secret.   Weakening Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to prevent public disclosure of pipeline safety records is inconsistent with the environmental stewardship Enbridge claims its corporate policies support. 
  • Require Enbridge to fully comply with the liability requirements of its Easement Agreement with the State of Michigan by providing a “worst case” estimate of potential damages resulting from pipeline ruptures instead of the “conflicting, incomplete, and inadequately supported estimates of its total liability under the Easement,” as the task force report stated[10].   
We are grateful to present this information to you and hope that you will consider this an opportunity to, once again, serve your state by using your unique position as a member of the Enbridge Inc. Board of Directors to protect the Great Lakes. We look forward to your response and are, of course, available to discuss this with you at your convenience.

Sincerely,

   /s/                                                                                       /s/

David Holtz, Chair                                                     Anne Woiwode, Director
Michigan Chapter Executive Committee                 Michigan Chapter Conservation



CC:       U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
Michigan DEQ Director Dan Wyant




[2] October 2012 Enbridge Inc. and Its Subsidiaries, Revised Statement on Business Conduct  http://www.enbridge.com/AboutEnbridge/CorporateSocialResponsibility.aspx
[3] Michigan Petroleum Task Force Report July, 2015
[4] Page 43, task force report
[5] Page 44, task force report
[6] Page 47, task force report
[8] Page 44, task force report
[9] Page 44, task force report
[10] Page 46, task force report