Friday, June 30, 2017

Join "All Hands On Deck" event July 3 in Houghton to help raise awareness of Great Lakes protection

HOUGHTON -- "All Hands On Deck" is a gathering at Kestner Park in Houghton from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday, July 3, to raise awareness of the need to protect the Great Lakes and keep them healthy. All are invited. Boats are encouraged to congregate in front of the park by 10 a.m. Local weather predictions promise it to be a sunny day.

This event will take place on the shore and on the water with boats linking along the shorelines in communities in every Great Lakes state and Canada. In the UP, there will be gatherings in Marquette, Menominee, and Drummond Island as well as on the Portage.

"Wearing blue is encouraged," said Horst Schmidt, co-organizer, with Susan Burack, of the Houghton event. "What is important is being there and linking with others. People are welcome to bring posters voicing their support for the Great Lakes, ongoing funding for removal of legacy pollution and maintaining a healthy lake ecosystem."*

Boaters may wish to bring a blue marble to share or a blue pennant to wave during this event of solidarity for the Great Lakes.

Participants in the All Hands On Deck events are invited to link hands on the beach and link boats on the water along the shorelines in communities in every Great Lakes state and Canada. (Poster courtesy All Hands on Deck Facebook page)

All Hands On Deck represents common ground that extends beyond political and geographical boundaries. Water unifies us all. In every area, the Great Lakes are essential to the environment, economy, and everyone’s way of life. The event is a way to come together in a unique, unified expression of concern on behalf of a precious resource that needs continuing attention and support -- funding, regulations, and research -- to sustain long-term vitality.

"What is the Keweenaw without water?" asks local co-organizer Susan Burack of Hancock. "All of us who live here need to show our support for protecting our part of the Great Lakes. We, on the south coast of the greatest lake, join together with people around Ontario, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan for our part."

Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario together are the largest surface freshwater system on Earth; only the Polar icecaps contain more water. The Great Lakes contain 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water, and 21 percent of all the surface fresh water in the world. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Great Lakes are "a dominant part of the physical and cultural heritage of North America."

This event, which is taking place in more than 50 communities, is the brainchild of Charlevoix, Michigan, resident Kimberly Simon, who conceived of All Hands on Deck in response to proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

*For more information click here or email Horst Schmidt at horsthear@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State terminates independent contractor analyzing Line 5 risks; environmentalists call for Line 5 shutdown, transparency

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality and Oil and Water Don't Mix 

Displaying their "Shut Down Line 5" banner, Native and non-Native kayakers protest against Enbridge's 63-year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac during the Sept. 3, 2016, Pipe Out Paddle event in Mackinaw City, Mich. At right is the south end of the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Miguel Levy)

LANSING -- The State of Michigan terminated on June 21, 2017, a contract with Det Norske Veritas, Inc. (DNV GL), the firm preparing a risk analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline below the Straits of Mackinac. Because of a conflict of interest, the contract was terminated prior to the draft report being delivered to the state’s project team.

The environmental group Oil and Water Don't Mix, along with the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club and FLOW - For Love of Water, reacted to the decision immediately. Oil and Water Don't Mix stated, also on June 21, that this conflict of interest amplifies the need to shut down the Line 5 pipelines once and for all. The groups are calling on state leaders to inform the public and disclose all details of the DNV GL draft study.

Sign displayed during the Sept. 6, 2015, protest against Line 5 at the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Within the past month, the state’s project team became aware that an employee who had worked on the risk analysis at DNV GL subsequently worked on another project for Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., which owns the Line 5 pipeline, while the risk analysis was being completed. This is a violation of conflict of interest prohibitions contained in the contract.

"We took the initiative to terminate the contract based on our commitment to the complete integrity and transparency of this report. Ultimately the state will have to decide how to proceed with Line 5 and we can’t do that if there is any doubt regarding the nature of the information," said C. Heidi Grether, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette noted the risk analysis was supposed to be independent according to the contract with DNV GL.

"The evaluations of Line 5 were supposed to be independent, not tainted by outside opinions or information, but that’s not what happened. Instead, our trust was violated and we now find ourselves without a key piece needed to fully evaluate the financial risks associated with the pipeline that runs through our Great Lakes. This is unacceptable," Schuette said. "Terminating the contract is the only option we have to maintain the integrity of the risk analysis."

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW - For Love Of Water, called on Attorney General Schuette to shut down Line 5.

"This study was tainted by huge conflicts of interest and a complete lack of transparency from the state, all with Line 5 continuing to pose a clear danger to our Great Lakes, our economy, and our way of life," Kirkwood said. "In addition to a full and complete disclosure of the facts regarding this cancellation, we demand that Attorney General Schuette starts acting like the lead attorney for the people of Michigan, who elected him to protect us and the Great Lakes, and shut down Line 5 without delay."
Inset photo: Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, is pictured here at the June 13, 2016, meeting of the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board, where she spoke about Line 5 pipeline violations -- including the absence of supports, the curvature, wall thickness, and the degradation of the pipe, as well as the low-value insurance policy on the structure. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Diane Miller)

DNV GL was hired by the state in 2016 following an extensive request for proposal process including review and selection by a team with diverse technical backgrounds. The contract requires that DNV GL employees working on the risk assessment maintain complete independence from any other project involving Enbridge during the term and length of the contract.

David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, called for transparency from the State of Michigan.

"Citizens groups have been sounding the alarm bells for months about the massive conflicts of interest between Big Oil companies and the departments that are charged with regulating them, and this cancellation raises more questions than it answers," said Holtz. "The State of Michigan owes all citizens a full account of how and why this study was allowed to continue, even in light of the massive conflicts of interest. Michiganders deserve answers."* (See below for link to petition on Enbridge permit application to install 22 anchor supports on the Line 5 pipelines -- deadline June 29.)

Inset photo: David Holtz, chair of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, addresses the Michigan Pipeline Safety Board during their June 13, 2016, meeting. He asked that the state not compromise the risk and alternative analyses by having them funded by Enbridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Diane Miller)

Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said DNV GL violated state requirements and that led to the state's decision to terminate the contract.

"The State put strict rules in place that required both contractors to avoid any appearance of impropriety," Brader noted. "We are disappointed that those requirements were not followed by DNV GL, as that rendered the work essentially unusable to us."

At the same time it hired DNV GL, the state also hired a separate firm, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc., to prepare an alternative analysis report on the Line 5 pipeline.

Public meeting, feedback sessions on Line 5 risk analysis to be held in July

Dynamic Risk Assessment System’s draft report is proceeding and will be delivered to the state project team by the end of this month. Their draft alternative analysis will be posted on the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline website, www.mipetroleumpipelines.com, for public review and comment by the end of the month.

"Public discussion of the alternatives analysis will help inform next steps regarding the risk analysis on Line 5," said Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Fundamental to the state’s actions is a shared commitment to protecting our Great Lakes."

Representatives from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems will present their findings to the public at an open informational meeting beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, 2017, at Holt High School, Margaret Livensparger Theater, 5885 Holt Road, Holt, Michigan, 48842.

Later in July, the state will hold three public feedback sessions on the report, including one in the Upper Peninsula:

-- At 8 a.m. Monday, July 24, 2017: Holt High School (same location as the meeting above).

-- At 6 p.m. Monday, July 24, 2017: Northwestern Michigan College - Hagerty Center, 715 East Front Street, Traverse City, Michigan, 49686.

-- At 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, 2017: Little Bear East Arena, 275 Marquette St, St Ignace, MI 49781.

Steve Casey, Michigan DEQ Upper Peninsula District Supervisor, Water Resources Division, Marquette office, told Keweenaw Now he would be attending the July 25 meeting in St. Ignace.

The State of Michigan commissioned the two independent contractors to complete risk and alternative analyses on the Line 5 pipeline following a recommendation in the 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report.**

Notes:

* Click here to learn about Oil and Water Don't Mix and the many groups working with them to protect the Great Lakes from the danger of aging pipelines, especially Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. You can join Oil and Water Don't Mix in submitting comments and requesting a public hearing on Enbridge's current permit application to install 22 anchor supports on the Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits by signing the petition to the Michigan DEQ here. The deadline for these comments is June 29, 2017

** Click here for the 2015 Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report.

Editor's Note: See Keweenaw Now's June 19, 2016, article, "Citizens express concerns about Enbridge Line 5 at Michigan Pipeline Safety Board meeting," by Diane Miller.