December 6, 2016

State Budget Needs Infrastructure Investment

It’s no secret that Michiganders are begging for better roads, bridges, drinking water systems and other infrastructure. Yesterday, the governor’s infrastructure commission released a report on expected long-term budget needs in Michigan in relation to water systems, roads, energy and technology. The elephant in the room? Michigan simply doesn’t have the funds to address the steep costs of road funding, drinking water and an overall huge infrastructure gap we’ve been facing as a state. And to be frank, we’re underfunding almost every public service.

This committee’s report is mostly a get-well card, but what Michigan needs is a Blue Cross card—a way to pay for what ails us. 

In the case of drinking water, Public Sector Consultants Inc. found that the state is “underinvesting in drinking water infrastructure by anywhere from $284 to $563 million each year.” 

Especially in smaller cities, budgets are even more strapped— increasing public health concerns. These smaller and, often rural, areas simply don’t receive the needed revenue sharing produced by our state’s budget. Most of our states water piping has existed for 50 to 100 years. This compromised integrity caused us the Flint water crisis. The report doesn’t even mention the city, which still requires a significant amount more funding. This is on top of noted overall state drinking water needs. The report notes that drinking water infrastructure will require an additional $19 billion over the next 20 years. 

In addition, our schools still face significant shortfalls—where we underfund at least $1 thousand per student—which totals a price tag of over $1.5 billion dollars. 
Bluntly, our budget needs an increase of more than 30-40% and that’s what this report fails to stress. Our legislature isn’t moving forward quickly enough on this critical issue. When an additional $165 million was proposed in fiscal year 2017 for infrastructure, the legislature settled at a $5 million increase. They also agreed on a road package that is statutorily expected to increase $1.2 billion for the issue. However, the $600 million of this price that is to come from existing spending risks cutting already underfunded state programs. 

It’s time to have a serious conversation about where these funds will come from—or Michigan will continue kicking the can further down the road, falling behind in economic development and seriously undermining environmental and public health. Our less than $10 billion discretionary budget simply won’t cut it. 

December 5, 2016

Michigan Must Look At Alternatives To Straits Oil Pipeline

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dakota Access Decision Prompts Renewed Calls in Michigan 
for Alternative to Enbridge’s Oil Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac

A federal government decision Sunday to halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline puts more pressure on state officials here to end the threat to Michigan drinking water and the Great Lakes by beginning the process of ending the flow of oil through Enbridge Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, advocates for shutting down Michigan’s controversial pipeline said today.

“Line 5 is going to be decommissioned,” said Aaron Payment, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairperson. “The only question is whether it happens before the pipeline ruptures in the Straits, or after it ruptures — leaving us with a catastrophe that will devastate our way of life.”

Like Enbridge’s Line 5 in Michigan, the Dakota Access Pipeline was slated to cross through a critically important waterway that is a drinking water source.   In Michigan the waterway is the Great Lakes. Payment’s Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is one of five tribes with federally recognized sovereign rights within the Straits. Eleven tribal organizations, 61 Michigan counties, cities and townships have passed resolutions calling for the state to stop the flow of oil through the Straits.

A University of Michigan study said an oil spill in the Straits could impact up to 700 miles of Great Lakes coastline, including drinking water in St. Ignace, Mackinac Island and Alpena. Up to 23 million gallons of oil flow through Line 5 in the Straits each day.

“The State of Michigan’s fiduciary role to protect our public waters is analogous to the federal government’s trustee role to protect sovereign tribal rights.  They are paramount to private interests like Enbridge,”  said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW.  “The State and the Army Corps must conduct a comprehensive review of Line 5 and explore alternative routes now because of failing pipeline supports.  Waiting another year for the state’s advisory board to complete its studies does not comply with the law."

Since June, 2014 the state has been studying Line 5 while refusing to investigate multiple violations of Enbridge’s easement agreement with the state or taking legal action to decommission the decaying 63-year-old pipeline.   The state has twice cited Enbridge Energy Partners for violating conditions of its easement agreement allowing the pipeline to operate in the Great Lakes.    Independent experts, citing at least eight additional violations by Enbridge of the easement agreement, have called on Gov. Snyder to investigate the company’s pipeline operations in the Straits.  

“The Army Corps of Engineers is pursuing a common-sense strategy to protect drinking water in North Dakota that should immediately be embraced by Michigan’s governor and attorney general,” said David Holtz, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair.   “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette need to end years of dilly dallying and strongly embrace shutting down Line 5 in the Straits as the only alternative for protecting the Great Lakes and our drinking water.”


October 14, 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Michigan Sierra Club Launches Online Political Advertising Campaign

October 14, 2016

Mike Berkowitz

Michigan Sierra Club Launches Online Political Advertising Campaign
Nation’s Largest Grassroots Conservation Organization to Target State Legislative and Countywide Races

LANSING, MI  - Today, the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club launched an online political advertising campaign in support of thirteen candidates for the Michigan Legislature and countywide offices.  The campaign includes a series of videos featuring Sierra Club Michigan Chapter activists highlighting the state’s most pressing environmental issues and calling for new leadership in Lansing.

The ads target ten state legislative districts supporting Darrin Camilleri (House District 23), Dana Camphous-Peterson (House District 24), Mike Notte (House District 30), Michael Stack (House District 39), Tom Redmond (House District 56), Annie Brown (House District 66), Collene Lamonte (House District 91), Bryan Mielke (House District 99), Dan Scripps (House District 101) and Robert Kennedy (House District 106). Three additional ads target countywide races supporting Rachel Hood (Kent County Drain Commissioner), Vicki Barnett (Oakland County Executive), and John Taylor (Kalamazoo County Clerk).

“We are using online capabilities to reach environmental supporters with a message letting them know which candidates support protecting our Great Lakes in Michigan’s most competitive races,” said Mike Berkowitz, Political Director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “This election will have long-lasting implications for Michigan’s environment and our Great Lakes. We are committed to electing candidates who will stand up for clean air, clean water, and clean energy.”

To see a full list of the Michigan Sierra Club’s endorsements, click here.

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

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


October 5, 2016

Reps. Roberts and Irwin Propose Stronger Fracking Laws

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016

Contact: Rep. Sarah Roberts
Phone: (517)-373-1180           
Contact: Rep. Jeff Irwin        
Phone: (734)-834-7152           

Bills would protect air, water and soil from fracking waste

LANSING — State Representatives Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) and Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) have announced a six-bill package of legislation to address threats to Michigan’s land, air and water as a result of fracking. Together, these bills address gaps in Michigan laws regarding the disposal of fracking waste and the leakage of methane at drilling sites.
“Other states are seeing fracking operations that dump waste, pollute the air and water, and are possibly causing earthquakes,” said Rep. Roberts. “In Michigan, we need to update our oil and gas laws to ensure we protect our environment and the public’s health.”
“Disposing of fracking waste is one of the biggest threats to our water,” said Nic Clark of Clean Water Action. “These bills protect water quality by prohibiting any dumping in groundwater aquifers and by enacting strict standards for radioactive fracking waste.”
The bills in the package would:
·        Ban radioactive fracking waste from landfills if the radioactivity exceeds strict limits
·        Require that water used in the fracking process be in compliance with state guidelines and be cleaned up before disposal
·        Ban fracking operations from injecting fracking wastes or water into an aquifer
·        Require oil and gas well operators to use methane recapture systems to reduce methane released by 99 percent
·        Prohibit oil and gas wells from burning off (flaring) methane emissions
·        Require oil and gas well operators to set up a system to check for leaks of dangerous gases on a regular basis and promptly repair any leaks found.
“Michigan is planning to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan by switching from coal to natural gas and renewable energy sources,” said Mike Berkowitz of the Sierra Club. “But methane released from the extraction of gas and oil is 20 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide, so we need to ensure gas isn’t leaking from sloppily drilled wells.”
“Michigan deserves solid rules to protect water quality and prevent wasteful or careless drilling practices,” said Rep. Irwin. “Preventing methane leaks is important to combat climate change, and it also ensures that oil and gas drillers are running professional operations that are respectful of our air and water.”
For more information about fracking, the bills in the package or to sign a petition supporting the legislation, go to


September 27, 2016

Sierra Club Road Show Brings Line 5 and 2016 Elections Info to U.P.

Sierra Club Michigan staff and volunteers are traveling to the Upper Peninsula on Oct. 24 and 25 for back-to-back presentations in Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie on the Line 5 threat to the Great Lakes and the importance of the 2016 elections to environmental protection.  The events are free and open to the public. Please RSVP to

The “road show” will feature Chapter Chair David Holtz, who will offer an overview of the danger posed by Enbridge’s 64-year-old, leak-prone Line 5 which runs under the Straits of Mackinac and Sierra Club’s efforts to get this oil pipeline shut down.  Chapter Political and Legislative Director Mike Berkowitz will explore the 2016 election landscape and what U.P. residents need to know about the issues and candidates.

Each event begins at 6:30pm with mingling and a light reception followed by the program at 7pm.  Event details are below:

Marquette:  Mon., Oct. 24, 6:30-8:30pm – Community Room , Peter White Library, 217 N Front St

Sault Ste. Marie: Tues, Oct. 25, 6:30-8:30pm – Crawford Hall, Room CRW 205, 650 W Easterday Ave.

September 26, 2016

Sierra Club Endorses Michigan Legislative and Local Candidates

September 26, 2016                                       

Mike Berkowitz

Sierra Club Endorses Michigan Legislative and Local Candidates

The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, a non-partisan environmental protection organization, today announced its third and final round of candidate endorsements in Michigan’s upcoming state house and local elections. These endorsements come after a thorough review by local and state committees within the Sierra Club’s volunteer leadership.

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

Michigan Sierra Club endorsed the following candidates for State Representative:
HD 15: Abdullah Hammound
HD 23: Darrin Camilleri
HD 30: Mike Notte
HD 38: Amy McCusker
HD 52: Donna Lasinski
HD 59: Carol Higgins
HD 61: John Fisher
HD 64: Ron Brooks
HD 86: Lynn Mason
HD 92: Terry Sabo
HD 106: Robert Kennedy

Sierra Club also endorsed the following candidates for local races:
Vicki Barnett for Oakland County Executive
Julia Pulver for Oakland County Commission District 1
Pete Ponzetti for Genessee County Commission District 6
Vicki Dobbins for River Rouge School Board

Sierra Club also encourages people in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw Counties to vote YES on the regional transit millage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 6, 2016

Sierra Club and GVSU Present "Politics and the Environment" Oct. 4

Politics and the Environment
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7pm
GVSU’s DeVos Center (Room 136E), 401 W. Fulton, Grand Rapids
The event is free, but seating is limited. RSVP by Oct. 1 to

Sierra Club’s Greater Grand Rapids Committee has teamed up with Grand Valley State University’s School of Communications to offer “Politics and the Environment,” a look at environmental issues in Michigan and their role in this year’s elections.

Following the presentation, the televised 2016 Vice Presidential Debate will be livestreamed at 9pm.

 “Politics and the Environment” will provide information voters need to make the right choices for the environment on Election Day. Presenters Mike Berkowitz, the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s Political and Legislative Director, and Richard Barron, the Chapter’s Political Committee Chair, will discuss the stance of local candidates and how the fight for clean air, water, energy and natural resources could be impacted by the 2016 elections. They will also give an overview of which legislators have voted to help or hurt the environment through various measures this past year, and what to expect in the fall state legislative session.

This non-partisan talk is open to the public as part of a GVSU Communications course, “Media and Society: Politics and the Presidency,” taught by Film & Video Professor John Philbin.  Philbin teaches the course every four years as a review of how presidential campaigns have been depicted in Hollywood films since 1960 and to critique media coverage of the current election.

July 14, 2016

PRESS RELEASE: New MDEQ Director Ties to Big Oil Disqualify Her from Enbridge Line 5 Decisions

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sierra Club Calls For Heidi Grether To Disqualify Herself 
From Involvement in Enbridge Line 5 Great Lakes Decisions
New Michigan Environmental Chief Who Bragged About Protecting BP Oil 
Would Lead State's Inquiry Into Controversial Pipelines

LANSING--Sierra Club said today that a former oil industry executive appointed as the state’s top environmental official should recuse herself from involvement in decisions about the future of Enbridge’s controversial Great Lakes pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. 

“Heidi Grether’s ties to the oil industry should disqualify her from taking part in important decisions involving oil pipelines in the Great Lakes,” said David Holtz, Michigan Chapter Chair of Sierra Club  “Grether should make it clear she will recuse herself from being involved in the state’s evaluation of Enbridge’s Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.  Protecting the Great Lakes shouldn’t fall to someone with such close ties to an industry whose profits will be directly impacted by her decisions as a public official.”

Grether, who will take over as director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on August 1, will oversee the state agency that is co-leading the state’s response to the threat of Line 5 in the Straits.   The MDEQ is also playing a key decision-making role in pipeline policy as co-chair of the governor’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.  

As General Manager of Gulf Coast External Affairs for BP America Inc., Grether oversaw the oil giant’s response to the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Her work in the oil industry dates to 1993, according to her LinkedIn page.  She took credit on her LinkedIn page for preventing “legislation adverse to BP being introduced in the Gulf states.”

“Grether, as director of MDEQ, may be tempted to help out the oil industry in Michigan, just as she did in 2010 in the Gulf when she lobbied against legislation impacting the industry,” said Holtz.   “It doesn’t make sense to have someone with those close ties to the oil industry overseeing protection of the Great Lakes from oil pipelines who in a few months may be looking for another job when Gov. Snyder leaves office.”


July 13, 2016

Groups Call on Feds to Investigate Possible Civil Rights Violations in Flint and Detroit

Representatives from Flint and Detroit, as well as state-wide and national groups, are calling on federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to review whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are violating civil rights laws that prohibit actions and policies that discriminate on the basis of race, national origin or disability.

In a letter released this morning, the groups called on the EPA Office of Civil Rights and HHS Office for Civil Rights to review whether MDEQ and MDHHS are in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bar the use of federal funds for activities that have an unjustified, unequal impact on the basis of race, color, national origin or disability.

The letter asked federal agencies to require the Michigan state agencies to institute policies designed to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The groups asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to coordinate the interagency investigation.
"The federal government, including the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights, HHS and the DOJ, have a duty to ensure that Michigan comply with the law and stop taking actions that imperil the health and well-being of the state’s residents of color, immigrants and people with disabilities who have the same rights as other Michigan residents," said Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado, who helped draft the complaint letter on behalf of Flint and Detroit-based community organizations as well as state-wide and national groups and individuals.

In the letter the groups say MDHHS and MDEQ have been failing to comply with these federal civil rights laws. "The Flint water crisis is the tragic result of the chronic refusal of MDEQ and MDHHS to comply with their civil rights obligations," the letter states.

Groups signing the letter include The ACLU of Michigan, Community Development Organization, Crossing Water, Food & Water Watch, Genessee County Hispanic Latino Collaborative, IHM Justice, Jesus People Against Pollution, Michigan Voice, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Peace and Sustainability Office, Michigan Faith in Action, NRDC, Ocean Future, Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit, Sierra Club, St. Francis Prayer Center, Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, Water You Fighting For, West End Revitalization Association, and Yemen American Benevolent Association.

The groups claim both agencies exacerbated the crisis in Flint.

"MDEQ demonstrated callous and unjustifiable indifference to the concerns of Flint's residents – most of whom are African American – before, during and after the switch to Flint River water," the letter states. "Despite noting the poor quality of water in the Flint River, MDEQ disregarded the complaints of residents and failed to take the most basic steps to protect their health."

"I do think race is a factor," said Nakiya Wakes, a Flint mother of two, who is among those supporting this effort. "Flint is a majority black city. The two highest lead levels found were in majority African-American areas," she added.

Wakes, who volunteers with Michigan Faith in Action and Flint Rising, said lead levels in her home were determined to be 1,100 parts per billion, which is more than 70 times EPA’s actionable standard when lead levels are considered to be unsafe.

Wakes had a miscarriage while she was pregnant with twins last year before news of the Flint water crisis broke, when she was unaware of the toxins in the water. Her two children, who had extremely high lead levels in their blood, have serious emotional difficulties and visit therapists. They’ve had problems in school and behavioral issues.

"I do believe lead contamination had something to do with the loss of my twins. The lead prevented them from forming," said Wakes. I lost one at five weeks and the other once in the second trimester."
Lead causes physical and mental impairment. It can cause miscarriages in expectant mothers and has been linked to ADHD and impulsivity.

San Juana "Juani" Olivares, president of Genesee County Hispanic Latino Collaborative, Inc., saw the disadvantages that people with limited English proficiency faced in Flint.

"Huge failures by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services led to the Flint Water Crisis but that crisis was compounded when access to help was not provided in languages that people can understand well," Olivares said.

When public health advisories went out about water filters and bottled water, many people had no knowledge that such help was available and continued to consume toxic water. These state agencies are failing and causing disparities if they do not communicate to people who have limited English proficiency."

Vincent Martin, an executive board member with Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit, said the complaint is necessary "to be protected from institutional racism."
"The environmental decisions that are made nationally are targeted towards communities such as 48217 and Flint." Zip code 48217 is the most polluted zip code in Michigan and predominantly African American.

"When a majority white community has environmental issues, they are resolved with haste. For communities of color, decisions are delayed with excuses and finger pointing. Environmental racism has damaged communities of color for generations. Decisions made are killing off our population."

The groups say the discriminatory origins of the crisis are clear. "MDEQ and MDHHS would never have treated a white, affluent city with the callousness that characterized their approach to Flint. This fundamental injustice has caused Flint residents, and especially Flint’s children, irreparable harm," the groups state.

The groups argue that the federal agencies could help bring Michigan into compliance with federal civil rights laws, eliminate some of the systematic failures that led to the crisis, and help Michigan start on the road toward regaining the trust of its citizens.

David Holtz, the chair of Sierra Club Michigan, which also signed the letter, said the Flint Water Crisis is an issue of fairness and equity.

"Every family, regardless of skin color, has the right to expect that the air they breathe is clean, that the water they drink is safe, and that their government will treat them with fairness and equality," Holtz said. "In Flint, that clearly wasn't the case. There are serious questions about whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was following the law and it's the federal government's responsibility to find out."

The groups offered numerous examples of MDEQ and MDHHS actions in Flint and Wayne County that have had a disparate impact on the basis of race, national origin and disability.

In Flint, the groups charge, MDHHS repeatedly failed to offer information about emergency services in languages other than English, which created a barrier to accessing services for those with limited English proficiency. Flint’s immigrant community experienced additional barriers to services when MDHHS announced that officials at water distribution centers would ask for a form of government-issued photo identification. An estimated 1,000 immigrants in Flint are undocumented and government-issued identification is not available to them. As a  result, many continued to consume unsafe water.

The groups also state that the emergency response has failed people with disabilities that limit their ability to access centers where water and filters are provided. Because they were not provided with services in their homes, these individuals have been forced to either rely on the efforts of volunteers or continue to drink and use contaminated water.

The groups state that discriminatory practices at MDEQ are not confined to Flint. In Wayne County, Michigan, MDEQ has demonstrated a pattern and practice of ignoring the disproportionate burden of pollution borne by the local community when making permitting and enforcement decisions.

"MDEQ has recurrently granted emissions limit increases and other permit expansions in overburdened communities of color; entered weak enforcement actions when industrial sources repeatedly violated their permit limits; and ignored the communities’ health concerns, despite comments from community groups consistently raising concerns about the disproportionate health impacts on low-income immigrant communities and communities of color," the letter states.

Some Facts About Disparate Environmental Impact in Michigan
  • A portion of Wayne County, zip code 48217, in Southwest Detroit, is 79.5 percent African-American (only 12 percent white) and University of Michigan scientists found it to be the most polluted zip code in the state.
  • Neighboring Dearborn is approximately half Arab American, eighty percent of Dearborn residents speak a language other than English, and 40 percent have incomes that fall below the poverty line
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health has referred to Detroit, a predominantly black city, "as the epicenter of the asthma burden in Michigan."
  • That same agency found that the prevalence of asthma among adults was 50 percent higher than the statewide average.Ninety-two schools in Wayne County are in areas that violate federal environmental protection laws.The Flint crisis had numerous impacts including: an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that resulted in at least 10 deaths and lead exposure for an unknown number of the city’s children, who have now sustained permanent neurological damage.
The groups note that the disparities in health and environmental protections continue.

"Though disparities in environmental protection in Wayne County have not been the focus of national attention, children of color in Wayne County and across Michigan are saddled with health burdens at an early age because MDHHS and MDEQ similarly refuse to protect them," the groups state.

The groups are asking the federal government to take the following actions, among others:
  • Conduct a thorough compliance review of MDEQ and MDHHS and, particularly, the actions, policies and practices that gave rise to the Flint Water Crisis and, also, the concentration of polluting sources in Wayne County.
  • Require MDEQ and MDHHS to evaluate, in consultation with affected populations, whether a decision will have a "disproportionately high and adverse effect" on the basis of race or national origin and, if so, create mechanisms to ensure that it will only be carried out if further mitigation measures or alternatives that would avoid, minimize, or mitigate the disproportionately high and adverse effect are not practicable.


Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5236, (757) 897-2147
Marianne Engelman Lado, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7393
Christine Ernst, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7385

Legal Case

Challenging EPA's Failure to Investigate Civil Rights Complaints 

Take Action

July 12, 2016

PRESS RELEASE: State’s Line 5 Agreement Gives Enbridge Special Treatment

Tuesday, July 11, 2016

State’s Line 5 Agreement Gives Enbridge Special Treatment
 Pipeline Giant To Get Access to Final State Recommendations Ahead of Northern Michigan Communities & Public

Media Contact:  David Holtz 313-300-4454/

LANSING—Leading citizens groups with the Oil & Water Don't Mix campaign criticized an agreement announced today by state officials that gives a Canadian pipeline conglomerate access to a final government report on controversial Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac ahead of the public in exchange for $3.5 million in funding from the company to pay for the report. 

Enbridge Energy Partners, Inc., owner of the twin pipelines running through the Straits, will have a minimum of five days to review a state government study of its pipelines in the Straits before the report is released to the public, according to an agreement between the state and Enbridge that was announced today in a press release from Attorney General Bill Schuette. 

"Today’s announced deal with Enbridge not only gives Enbridge a big leg up to publicly shoot down recommendations they don’t like; it also provides them an opportunity to lobby for changes in the report while the public is kept in the dark,” said David HoltzSierra Club Michigan Chapter Chair.  “It’s extremely disappointing that the governor and attorney general are continuing to grant concessions to Enbridge that call into question whether they are truly committed to ending the threat of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

Gov. Snyder appointed an Enbridge executive and others with ties to the industry to a state pipeline advisory board that is charged with overseeing the state’s risk assessment and alternatives studies that are focused on the company’s Line 5 pipelines in the Straits.  Today’s agreement means Enbridge will also be funding the studies while getting special access to their recommendations for Line 5 ahead of the public, including local northern Michigan communities and residents who could be directly impacted by the study’s recommendations.

“Enbridge has huge profits on the line and it’s understandable that their priority is protecting the interests of their shareholders and executives,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW (For the Love of Water). “But protecting Enbridge’s profits shouldn’t compromise protecting the Great Lakes.   It’s the governor’s job and the attorney general’s job to prioritize protecting the Great Lakes. Today’s agreement again calls into question whether that’s really going to happen. There should be no compromises on the integrity of the state's study when the consequences for Michigan and the Great Lakes are so enormous.” 

Since June, 2014 state advisory groups have been studying what to do about Line 5 in the Straits following intense public pressure surrounding the risky pipelines that were constructed in 1953 and carry up to 23 million gallons of oil a day through the turbulent Straits of Mackinac, including during the winter when the pipes are largely inaccessible under thick ice.

“At a time when the state should be prioritizing transparency and public input it has once again chosen to prioritize the interests of a private company, Enbridge, instead,” said Lynna Kaucheck, Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer. “When it comes to something as precious as our Great Lakes we need to put our communities, our economy and our environment over profit. Shame on the attorney general for giving Enbridge this unworthy advantage over the people of Michigan.”

More than 50 local governments have passed resolutions urging action to protect the Great Lakes from a Line 5 oil spill.  Enbridge in 2010 was responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history in the Kalamazoo River.  Enbridge insists its pipelines in the Straits are safe.