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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Democrat Janet Metsa announces campaign for 110th District State Representative; fundraiser to be June 29 in Calumet

Pictured here at work, play and community involvement, Janet Metsa seeks election as a Democratic candidate for Michigan's 110th State House District. (Photos courtesy friendsofjanetmetsa.com)

HOUGHTON COUNTY -- Local businesswoman and longtime Houghton County resident Janet Metsa recently announced her campaign for State Representative for the 110th State House District covering Keweenaw, Baraga, Houghton, Iron, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties, plus Ishpeming and Powell townships in Marquette County.

Studying the 110th District on a map of Michigan, Janet Metsa and her aide Elo Wittig of Chassell work on developing a campaign plan. (Photo courtesy Friends of Janet Metsa)

"The Western UP is a unique place, far from Lansing," Metsa says. "I have deep family roots in the UP and understand the values we prize most. Our next state representative needs to understand our issues, and to be able to effectively communicate our needs to the state legislature. I believe my background and experience qualifies me to do that and to be a strong representative for the 110th District."

Janet Metsa is pictured here receiving the Andrew H. Wisti Award for leadership in the Houghton County Democratic Party from Ruth Wisti, active Democrat and Andrew's widow. (Photo courtesy Friends of Janet Metsa)

Metsa was born and raised in Houghton County with her 4 sisters and 1 brother on the farm her grandparents established during the Finnish migration in the early 1900s. Her parents operated a dairy farm in Chassell Township on the properties from both sets of grandparents for over 50 years. She graduated from Chassell Township Schools and then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received a B.S and M.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1980.

She was employed at Eastman Kodak as a Development Engineer for 3 years and then at EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) as an Environmental Engineer in Durham NC until 1988. She returned to the Copper Country when her husband, Michael Mullins, accepted a faculty position at Michigan Technological University.

Janet Metsa is pictured here with her buddy Alphonzo (Alfie) in front of the barn her grandfather built. Photo © and courtesy Elo Wittig.

"Growing up on a Chassell dairy farm, and as a current landowner, I understand the need for wise management of our land and water resources," Metsa notes. "Forest products, minerals, and farm products have long been the financial base for the UP, and their sustainable use is essential for our economic future. Wise use of our natural resources should be balanced with maintaining the natural beauty and ecology of the western UP which attracts large numbers of visitors seeking an incomparable outdoors experience. We should ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy this same legacy."

This photo captures Janet Metsa describing how she and her husband planted blight-resistant chestnut trees on a property they own in Chassell Township. (Photo © and courtesy Elo Wittig)

Metsa is running as a Democrat focused on bringing new jobs and businesses to the area.

"As a business entrepreneur and former KEDA (Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance) Board member, Janet has been an important force in building the Western UP economy," said Philip Musser, former KEDA Executive Director and Smartzone Chairperson. "Janet not only started her own business but was also a key person on the KEDA board in designing and carrying out an aggressive economic development strategy for the Western UP at a time when businesses had closed and jobs had been lost. This is again a critical time when the Western UP needs to continue to reinvent its economy to create family sustaining jobs as it emerges from the pandemic. The Western UP region needs economic savvy leaders like Janet."

Once settled in the Copper Country, Metsa established a private consulting practice specializing in air and water environmental issues. Her clients include the EPA, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the American Chemical Council, private clients, and Argonne National Laboratories. Much of her consulting work focuses on database and model development combined with software development and review. These tools are used in assessing process sustainability and environmental impacts. She has had consulting collaborations with researchers from several universities and private industry.

In her campaign announcement, Metsa said, "Initiatives I would bring to Lansing include economic development, renewed infrastructure, ensuring public health, lower energy prices, and more autonomy for the UP on strategic issues of local importance. However, I believe the next two years will be consumed with economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Services such as education, public health, revenue sharing, pensions, and law enforcement will be under extreme budgetary pressures; and this district needs someone to make sure the UP gets their fair share of diminished state resources."

In 2005, Metsa established Vesitech, Inc. to explore the development and commercialization of water treatment technologies. She has been the recipient of several Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants.  Vesitech, Inc completed SBIR grants for Army Corps of Engineers (which resulted in a US Patent), the US Marine Corps (2), and NASA. For commercialization of the technologies developed, she collaborated with Cascade Designs, Inc. of Seattle, WA, a major supplier of outdoor gear for campers and the military.

Metsa's community service includes time as Treasurer of the Houghton County Democratic Party, Chair of the Houghton County Democratic Party, Portage Township Zoning Board of Appeals, Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) Board member and Chair, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Council and Lutheran Campus Ministry Board and Chair. She is a 2002 alumni of the MSU/ISSPR Michigan Political Leadership program.

Fundraiser for Janet Metsa Monday, June 29, at Carmelita's

Friends of Janet Metsa will hold a fundraiser event for her campaign from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, June 29, at Carmelita's Outdoor Patio, 618 Oak Street, Calumet. The fundraiser is being held outside as a precaution during this time of Social Distancing. Masks are recommended.

Tickets are $25, Sponsor $50 and Host $100. Tickets may be purchased through ActBlue or at the event.  No Cash. No Corporate Checks. Personal checks accepted. Please RSVP to info@friendsofjanetmetsa.com. Limited cash bar available.

Learn more about Janet Metsa and her campaign for the 110th District at friendsofjanetmetsa.com or on the Friends of Janet Metsa Facebook page.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

UPDATED: Judge orders Enbridge to cease Line 5 operations following recent damage

By Michele Bourdieu
This figure from the Executive Summary of the 2018 "Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines - Final Report," by researchers from Michigan Technological University and several other universities, shows their evaluation of risks to natural resources in and surrounding Mackinac Straits in the event of a 10-day worst-case spill from a Line 5 pipeline rupture. At the time of their research, they estimated that 201 - 552 miles of shoreline in Lake Michigan and 269 - 668 miles of shoreline in Lake Huron are at risk of oiling following such a spill from Line 5. Nearly all this reach of shoreline would require cleanup and remediation. Click on image for larger version. (Image courtesy Michigan Technological University)

[Editor's Note: See UPDATE  below on Enbridge reports to the State. We received notice of this after our first posting of this article.]

LANSING -- Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James S. Jamo today, June 25, granted Attorney General Dana Nessel’s motion for a temporary restraining order requiring Enbridge Energy to cease all transport operations of its Line 5, twin pipelines which carry crude oil and liquid natural gas in the Straits of Mackinac, and disclose information in its possession related to the recent damage caused to the pipeline’s eastern segment.

The Michigan Department of Attorney General filed motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Monday after Enbridge’s disclosure late last week of significant damage to an anchor support on the east leg of the Line 5 pipelines. The motions were filed in the parties’ ongoing case, Nessel v. Enbridge Energy LP, et al., Case No. 19-474, currently pending in Ingham County Circuit Court.*

In a six-page order, the Court granted the Attorney General’s request and ordered that the east line of the pipeline remain shut down and that the west line, which is currently operating, be shut down as soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours of receipt of the Court’s order. Both lines are to remain closed until the hearing on the Attorney General’s motion for preliminary injunction is held at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30.

"Enbridge has failed to provide the State with information about the cause of this significant development involving Line 5, and so I’m very grateful for the Court’s decision today," Nessel said. "While the fact that Enbridge reactivated one of the lines before consulting with the State is concerning, the fact that the company has failed to disclose the cause of this damage is equally alarming, considering the impact a breach in the pipeline could have to our state residents and economy. With the continued operation of this pipeline, the risk of severe and lasting environmental damage to Michigan’s most important natural resource continues to grow every day. However, this ruling, while significant, is only a short-term fix. If the lines are put back into operation, one mismanaged incident or accident would result in a historic catastrophe for our state. Work must continue toward complete removal of Line 5 from our waters."

In granting the temporary restraining order, the Court noted that the 1953 Easement Agreement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge required Enbridge to exercise due care and operate the pipelines as a reasonably prudent person would.

Environmental coalition: Gov. Whitmer needs to revoke 1953 Enbridge easement

Oil and Water Don't Mix, a coalition of groups, tribes and concerned citizens opposed to Line 5, said today that this temporary restraining order requires an urgent response from Gov. Whitmer.

"Today’s decision by Ingham Circuit Court Judge James Jamo giving Enbridge 24 hours to halt transporting oil through Enbridge’s damaged Line 5 pipelines is a clear victory for the Great Lakes and should be followed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer taking action to revoke Enbridge’s 1953 easement agreement with the state," stated Sean McBrearty, Oil and Water Don’t Mix campaign coordinator.

"Revoking the easement has always been the right move to protect the Great Lakes from the urgent and immediate threat from Line 5, but the judge’s order specifically cites violations of the 1953 easement and agreements they made with the state in his decision," Mc Brearty added. "Jamo cites potential 'irreparable harm' to the Great Lakes from Line 5. Clearly, there is urgency for Gov. Whitmer to take appropriate steps to revoke the easement and decommission Line 5. The judge’s conclusions on the facts and the law are a testament to Attorney General Nessel’s concerns that Enbridge is failing to exercise due care in its operation of the 67-year-old pipeline. Gov. Whitmer must act to ensure that the threat of Line 5 to the Great Lakes and Michigan’s economy ends and ends now."**

Additionally, the Court noted that a 2018 agreement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge required Enbridge to share the information related to the recent damage to the pipelines, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had requested.

Today, Governor Whitmer’s office released the following statement from Press Secretary Tiffany Brown on Judge Jamo's decision to grant Attorney General Dana Nessel’s motion for a temporary restraining order requiring Enbridge Energy to cease all transport operations of its Line 5: "Governor Whitmer applauds the court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order to shut down Line 5 immediately, following severe damage to an anchor support. Enbridge’s decision to continue pumping crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac with so many unanswered questions was reckless and unacceptable. Enbridge owes a duty to the people of Michigan and must answer to the state for how it treats our Great Lakes. The governor will continue working to keep our water safe."

In issuing the temporary restraining order, the Court noted that Enbridge’s "failure to provide sufficient documentation to the State of Michigan related to the nature, extent, and cause(s) of the newly-discovered damage to Line 5 and its supporting infrastructure has resulted in the State’s inability to review or assess any risk of harm arising from the identified damage."

The Court further noted that "the risk of harm to the Great Lakes and various communities and business that rely on the Great Lakes would not only be substantial but also in some respects irreparable."

2018 report led by Michigan Technological University analyzes "worst-case" scenario of a potential Line 5 rupture

The 2018 "Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines - final report" by researchers from Michigan Technological University and other universities discussed what would happen if there was a catastrophic pipeline failure: where the oils would go, what would happen to them, and what the ultimate costs to the environment and the taxpayer would be.

"As a result of that, we understand the hydrodynamics and fate and transport issues throughout the Straits region," said Guy Meadows, director of the Michigan Technological University Marine Engineering Laboratory and Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering. "We're continuing to work to make the Straits as safe as possible while the public debate goes on about the pipeline."***

Michigan Tech currently operates one buoy in the Straits, and is in the process of adding a second buoy, which could help provide more complete and reliable wave and current measurements. Both the current and future buoy are funded by Enbridge.

"Additionally, we're working on setting up operational high-frequency radar in the Straits that will provide 24/7/365 observations of the Straits once an hour throughout the year. The radar is funded by NOAA through GLOS. All of these efforts are combined to make the Straits as safe as possible," Meadows said.****

Enbridge fails to report cause of pipeline damage

Enbridge reported the pipeline damage to State officials on Thursday, June 18, and shut down both east and west legs of Line 5 to inspect the damage. The company failed to immediately provide the State with information surrounding the incident -- including the cause of the damage -- as requested by Gov. Whitmer in a letter sent Friday, June 19.

Enbridge then unilaterally reactivated the west leg of the pipeline Saturday, June 20, without first providing the State with an opportunity to discuss it.

Gov. Whitmer then sent another letter to Enbridge requesting that the pipeline be shut down immediately until the incident could be investigated and preventive measures put in place.

The company provided a brief summary of the damage to the State Monday, but left several critical questions unanswered -- including the cause of the damage.

Inset photos: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photos courtesy michigan.gov)

UPDATE: DNR, EGLE release Enbridge documents on recent damage to Line 5

This is one of the photos of damage to an anchor support on the east leg of the Line 5 pipelines, sent by Enbridge to EGLE and DNR. (Photo courtesy Enbridge Energy)

On June 25, directors Dan Eichinger of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Liesl Clark of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) released engineering reports and photographs received from Enbridge Inc. regarding the recently discovered damage to the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

The reports, which are available online, were requested of Enbridge by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Also requested but not yet received from Enbridge: Information about the potential causes of the damage and steps Enbridge may undertake to protect the pipeline from potential future damage. 

Click here for the reports and photos depicting damage to anchor support EP-17-1 on the east leg of the Line 5 pipeline within the Straits of Mackinac.

Editor's Notes:

* See: "AG Nessel files motions after Enbridge discloses damage to Line 5 pipeline." 

** Click here to join Oil and Water Don't Mix in emailing Gov. Whitmer to call for a shutdown now, and start a process to revoke the Line 5 easement.

*** Click here for links to the "Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines - Final Report," as well as its Executive Summary and Appendices.

Click here for the August 13, 2018, presentation on the report.

See the 2018 Michigan Tech article, "Navigating Risk," by Stefanie Sidortsova, for background on this report.

**** See also the Michigan Tech News article "Deploying High-frequency Radar in the Straits of Mackinac," by Kelley Christensen, and her recent article in Michigan Tech's 2020 Research Magazine, "Radar and Risk in the Straits of Mackinac."

Monday, June 22, 2020

AG Nessel files motions after Enbridge discloses damage to Line 5 pipeline

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy michigan.gov)

LANSING -- Today, June 22, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction related to Enbridge’s disclosure late last week of significant damage to an anchor support on the east leg of the Line 5 oil pipeline. Line 5 lies open on the floor of the Straits of Mackinac pumping nearly 23 million gallons of oil each day through two aging pipelines in the heart of the Great Lakes. The motions were filed in the parties’ ongoing case, Nessel v Enbridge Energy LP, et al., Case No. 19-474, currently pending before the Honorable James S. Jamo, in the Ingham County Circuit Court.

Enbridge reported the damage on Thursday, June 18, shutting down both the east and west legs for inspection. In a June 19th letter, Governor Whitmer asked Enbridge to provide the State with all of the information in its possession about the damage, including pictures, video, and engineering reports. The Governor requested that all digital information be provided within 24 hours of her request.*

Enbridge not only failed to provide the requested information but on June 20, 2020, the company unilaterally reactivated the west leg of the pipeline without even providing the State with an opportunity to first discuss it.  

In response, Governor Whitmer sent another letter to Enbridge requesting that it immediately shut down the pipeline until the matter could be investigated, assessed and preventive measures put in place. The Governor also requested a full report from Enbridge as to the cause of the damage and the measures Enbridge would put in place to prevent the harm from happening in the future. Once the state, or a third party selected by the state, has reviewed the information, the Governor advised Enbridge a discussion would occur as to when normal operations could resume.**

Enbridge didn’t provide any information on the damage until earlier today, when it sent brief reports on the east and west legs of the pipeline. Only a few pages long, the reports contained little content, few pictures, and left several critical questions unanswered, including the cause of the damage.

"It is evident by the pictures we’ve seen that there has been significant damage to an anchor support on the east leg of the pipeline. To date, Enbridge has provided no explanation of what caused this damage and a woefully insufficient explanation of the current condition and safety of the pipeline as a result of this damage," Attorney General Dana Nessel said. "We cannot rely on Enbridge to act in the best interests of the people of this State so I am compelled to ask the Court to order them to."

In her motion, the Attorney General asks the Court to order Enbridge to provide all of the information in its possession related to the nature, extent and causes of the newly-discovered damage to Line 5. She also requests that the Court order that operations of the pipeline be suspended until the State of Michigan has conducted a full review of the information provided with the assistance of independent experts. 

"The State deserves to see all of the information in Enbridge’s possession about this significant incident and to independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information provided," Nessel said. "I will continue to use all the resources at my disposal to protect Michiganders from companies with an incentive to prioritize their own profits over the safety and well-being of our residents."

Governor Gretchen Whitmer released this statement today, June 22, following Attorney General Nessel actions against Enbridge: "I fully support Attorney General’s action today on Line 5. Enbridge resumed operation of the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac without any explanation of the cause for the damage to the pipeline structure or plan to prevent it from happening again. Moreover, Enbridge has not timely complied with the state’s request for full and complete information and resumed operation without even consultation.  This brazen disregard for the people of Michigan and the safety and well-being of our Great Lakes is unacceptable." 

The filed documents are available at the following links:     

Motion for temporary restraining order.

Brief in support of motion for temporary restraining order.

Motion for preliminary injunction.

Brief in support of motion for preliminary injunction with exhibits.

Inset photo: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy michigan.gov)

Editor's Notes:

* See: "Governor Whitmer sends letter to Enbridge following newly discovered damage to Line 5; groups call for action."

** See: "Governor Whitmer calls for Enbridge dual Line 5 pipelines to shut down immediately until review, preventative measures in place."

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Governor Whitmer calls for Enbridge dual Line 5 pipelines to shut down immediately until review, preventative measures in place

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy michigan.gov)

LANSING -- Governor Gretchen Whitmer, on June 20, sent a second letter to Al Monaco, CEO of Enbridge, requesting that Enbridge immediately shut down the dual pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac until damage is investigated, assessed and preventative measures are put in place.

"Given the gravity of this matter, I was taken aback to learn the company has unilaterally resumed operation of the west leg without even opportunity for discussion," said Governor Whitmer. "At this moment, Enbridge is pumping crude through the Great Lakes on state-owned bottomlands without any explanation for the cause of this damage to the pipeline structure and no assurance that Enbridge has taken sufficient steps to mitigate future harm. This disregard for the safety and well-being of our Great Lakes, and Enbridge’s due care obligations under the 1953 Easement, is unacceptable."
 
According to Oil and Water Don't Mix, Enbridge's questionable track record on pipeline safety includes damage from a 2018 anchor strike denting and gouging Line 5 under the Straits. No warnings were triggered. Three weeks passed before underwater vehicles contracted by Enbridge could safely navigate the turbulent Straits to check the damage. (Photo courtesy Oil and Water Don't Mix)

In addition to the governor’s prior information request, she also asked Enbridge to provide a full report as to the cause of this damage and what measures Enbridge will put in place to prevent this harm from happening again. Once the state, or a third-party selected by the state, has reviewed this information, the state and Enbridge can discuss when normal operations may resume.

On Thursday, June 18, Enbridge alerted the State of Michigan an anchor support on one of the dual pipelines running along the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac had incurred significant damage. This support lies approximately 150 feet from a section of the pipeline where damage to the pipeline coating was discovered on or around May 26, 2020.

After discovering the damaged anchor support, Enbridge shut down the pipeline and is gathering more information through divers, the use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and other means. The east leg of the pipeline remains shut down as Enbridge continues to gather more information.*

"One close call with Line 5 is one too many, which is why I am calling on Enbridge to proceed with the utmost caution and care. At this point in time, Enbridge has provided no reason to think this damage could not happen again, but next time with oil gushing into the Great Lakes," Governor Whitmer said.

Click here to view the Governor's June 20, 2020, letter.

* Editor's Note: See our June 19 article, "Governor Whitmer sends letter to Enbridge following newly discovered damage to Line 5; groups call for action."