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.”
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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.” 

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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.