Michigan

Environmental advocates applaud investment in Michigan’s first electric school buses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING – A coalition of environmental groups today applauded the rollout of 17 electric school buses for seven Michigan school districts through a Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation pilot project. The buses will transport children to and from schools in Ann Arbor, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford, Roseville, Three Rivers and Zeeland.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center was one of the earliest advocates for replacing dirty diesel school buses with zero-emission electric school buses,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate at the Midwest-based environmental group. “Adopting electric school buses both benefits children’s health and accelerates the shift to cleaner transportation. We hope this collaborative approach between schools, utilities and state government serves as a model for other states across the country.”

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)’s Fuel Transformation Program is helping replace old diesel school buses using funds allocated to Michigan via the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement. This is the first grant opportunity supported with Volkswagen settlement funds allocated to Michigan via the State Mitigation Trust. The project will be collaboratively funded by the grant, school districts and other partners, including utility companies.

“This is a win-win for Michigan’s kids and Michigan’s environment. Children spend an average of 40 minutes a day in a school bus and the air pollution caused by diesel buses can interfere with lung development and cause health problems like coughing and inflammation,” said Charles Griffith, director of climate and energy programs for the Ecology Center. “We are proud to have been a supporter of the electric school bus pilot project from the beginning, and look forward to additional opportunities to reduce emissions and improve health with future grants from EGLE’s Fuel Transformation Program.”

According to a study by the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, using cleaner school bus transportation could result in 14 million fewer absences from school a year.

“This is an important first step to bringing clean, electric transportation to schools and our communities,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “In addition to the short-term benefits of improving air quality and keeping kids safe and healthy, we will see long-term benefits as we address the causes of climate change in our daily lives.”

Diesel exhaust emissions and the soot emitted by engines can exacerbate asthma and allergies, cause lung damage and eye, throat and bronchial irritation.

“We are excited to see Michigan put on the map as a leader in transportation electrification for school buses,” said Kate Madigan, director for the Michigan Climate Action Network. “The harmful emissions from diesel buses can impact respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health of children, who are especially vulnerable. Moving to zero-emission school buses will reduce pollution, improve health and save lives.”

###

Community and Environmental Organizations Push Michigan Public Service Commission to Reject DTE’s Long-Term Energy Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING, MI – Environmental and community organizations today are calling for Michigan’s Public Service Commission to reject the proposed long-term energy plan from DTE following testimony from experts revealing how DTE’s plan will hold back a transition to cleaner, more affordable energy. Experts ranging from energy economists, renewable experts, and health professionals submitted testimony detailing significant flaws in DTE’s proposal.

Advocates argue that the plan would unnecessarily increase costs, rely too heavily on fossil fuels that should be retired much earlier, increase racial and economic inequity, and not invest enough in the clean energy resources that customers are increasingly demanding. Environmental and community organizations also call for a more transparent, fair, and inclusive planning process that would hold the state’s utilities accountable to Michigan customers.

The full case filing including testimony can be found here: https://sforce.co/2KMZROU.

The following are reactions from environmental, conservation and community organizations on DTE Energy’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan: 

“DTE has an opportunity to embrace a clean energy future for Michigan, but by submitting a plan that fails to seriously look at solar and wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and demand response, it did not give itself that chance,” said Margrethe Kearney, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This plan holds onto the old way of doing business, outdated strategies that don’t give DTE the flexibility to integrate clean, cost-effective renewables that benefit both Michigan’s economy and the environment.”

“We need a plan that puts people first, with health, affordability and community power at the forefront,” said Jackson Koeppel, Executive Director of Soulardarity. “DTE’s proposal is a transparent attempt to push the cost of their bad investments and abysmally poor management onto the low-income communities and communities of color they have been dumping pollution and rate hikes on for their entire career. DTE is intentionally ignoring community solar and other local solutions because they care more about how much money their investors will make next quarter than the lives of the millions of people they claim to serve.”

“DTE’s plan is supposed to be a vision for powering homes and businesses across the state. Instead, it’s left Michigan’s environmental justice communities feeling stripped of power,” said Michelle Martinez, statewide coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “If we want real climate justice, the process must change, must be inclusive, and must hold DTE accountable.”

“DTE’s IRP treats both carbon emissions and cost impacts on ratepayers as an afterthought, instead of a priority that needs to be addressed,” said Alexis Blizman, Policy Director at the Ecology Center. “DTE must expand energy efficiency, as well as include greater investments in clean, renewable energy, like wind and solar, to protect ratepayers against both the harmful impacts of continuing the use of fossil fuels, as well as the price volatility of natural gas. The Commission should reject DTE’s proposed IRP and send them back to create a plan that protects both people and planet.”

“DTE’s IRP is consistent with a century-old monopoly stuck in traditional solutions,” said John Richter, Policy Analyst at Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. “DTE has proposed utility-owned wind parks in just enough quantity to meet their legal obligations and the demands of their largest customers for green energy. While the GLREA welcomes the proposed renewable energy facilities, the assumptions formed in the overall plan are faulty and mired in the past. This plan needs substantial revision.”

“DTE’s current proposal to keep coal online for the next 20 years will have vast and far-reaching implications on the health, safety, and well-being of families across Michigan,” said Kindra Weid, RN and Coalition Coordinator of MI Air MI Health.

“Integrated resource plans are incredibly important for mapping out our energy future. It’s critical that the plans the MPSC ultimately approves are based on sound analysis,” said Charlotte Jameson, energy policy and legislative affairs director of Michigan Environmental Council. “DTE submitted a plan riddled with flaws that bias the outcome away from clean, renewable energy. These errors are clear to see, especially when you compare their plan with the one Consumers Energy submitted. As intervenors charged with protecting Michigan’s environment and residential ratepayers, we will continue to weigh in on each step of this IRP process to make sure we get the best outcome for Michigan’s residents.”

“DTE’s long-range plan fails to rein in exploding electricity costs that are burdening families and businesses,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Michiganders are seeing the negative effects of climate change every day — from flooded basements and farm fields to spreading algae in the Great Lakes and scorching droughts. It is time for DTE to move aggressively toward clean, renewable energy instead of delaying investments in solar and wind power and opening new, expensive gas plants.”

“DTE’s plan yet again shortchanges their customers’ clean energy future in favor of more expensive fossil fuels,” said Ariana Gonzalez, senior energy policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They clearly ignored the massive tide of criticism from their last proposal that led to a billion-dollar gas plant. This is why we must set a precedent in this case to ensure clean, safe and affordable energy for all.”

“DTE’s peaker fleet, which is primarily used to meet heavy loads on hot summer afternoons, contain some of the oldest units of their type still in operation,” said Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “DTE failed to provide any analysis on its peaker fleet and simply proposes to run its aging fossil fuel units for another 20 years.  By contrast, we analyzed how these failing units could be successfully and reliably replaced with clean, reliable solar + storage assets. The Michigan Public Service Commission should require DTE to analyze a move to cleaner peaking resources to reduce costs, lower emissions and expand solar deployment.”

“Instead of protecting clean water, clean air, and our communities, DTE chooses to invest in their pocketbooks by doubling down on expensive, polluting fossil fuels,” said Theresa Landrum, Detroit resident and activist with Sierra Club. “We call on the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject DTE’s polluting energy plan.  Alternatively, we ask the MPSC to require them to design a plan that protects Michiganders and those living in the most heavily impacted communities by investing in cheaper and cleaner renewable energy sources, efficiency programs, and storage technology.”

“DTE’s plan to keep relying on coal plants for the next two decades fails to account for the health, climate, and financial impacts of burning coal,” said Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Coal Program. “DTE overestimated the costs of replacing coal plants with renewables, storage, and efficiency because the company relied on flawed and outdated assumptions, instead of actual market data. Michiganders would benefit most, in terms of cost and health, from aggressive replacement of coal plants with cost-effective and reliable clean energy.

“DTE’s plan favors its own expensive power plants over a truly robust process to ensure cleaner and more affordable energy for Michigan customers. I’ve seen utility commissions reject resource plans for far less egregious missteps,” said Joe Daniel, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “DTE overestimated the cost of renewables, underestimated the benefits of efficiency, all the while ignoring risks associated with the way it operates its existing fleet of coal-fired power plants. The Michigan Public Service Commission should send this plan back to the company and insist that DTE take seriously its obligation to fairly evaluate all resource options, especially earlier investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

“Solar and other clean energy options have quickly become some of America’s lowest cost resources, and every Michigander should be able to benefit from these affordable, healthy, homegrown options. Instead, DTE is trying to double down on polluting gas and get away with offering only a very small utility-controlled green power program that will cost customers a premium when it should be delivering savings,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director with Vote Solar. “This expensive plan will put solar out of reach for many low-income families, seniors on fixed incomes, environmental justice communities and others who shouldn’t be shut out from the clean economy, which is why we’re joining together with allies today to urge a stronger, healthier and more resilient path forward for DTE.”

###

 

ELPC Commends Congress’ Bipartisan Support to Reauthorize and Increase Funding for Successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes
(312) 795-3706
JNemes@elpc.org
 

ELPC Commends Congress’ Bipartisan Support to Reauthorize and Increase Funding for Successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over Next Five Years

“Protecting safe clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and enjoyable outdoor recreation for all is not a partisan issue”

 STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends bipartisan Congress leaders for taking a big step forward to reauthorize and increase funding for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The Great Lakes is where we live, work and play. Protecting safe clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and enjoyable outdoor recreation for all is not a partisan issue.”

“The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 42 million people. Reauthorizing GLRI for the next five years with increased funding is necessary to combat harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie, Green Bay and Lake Superior, and threats of invasive species throughout the Great Lakes. More intense rain storms driven by climate change create significantly more stress on Great Lakes infrastructure and the ecosystem. The best defense is a good offense.

“The next five-year GLRI funding cycle, beginning in 2022, should ramp up to $475 million annually during that time from the current $300 million annual allocation. The funding increase would bring the program back to the original FY 2010 level of $475 million.

“Trump’s War on the Great Lakes must be kept in check since his administration attempted to either eliminate or cut funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over the last three years. The administration fails to address toxic algae blooms by not requiring enforceable regulatory standards to reduce agricultural runoff of phosphorus pollution from manure and fertilizers that impairs safe clean drinking water for millions of people.

“Great Lakes protection and restoration has strong bipartisan support. Protecting clean water for fisheries and outdoor recreation and ensuring safe drinking water for all is not a partisan issue in the pivotal Midwest states where the 2020 election may be decided. Great Lakes protection is a core value shared by all.

“Since GLRI was launched in 2010, it has provided essential funding to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI projects also protect safe clean drinking water for 42 million people and support a $62 billion economy based on fishing, boating and recreational activities.”

###

Michigan approves first electric vehicle charging infrastructure program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Nick Dodge, Byrum & Fisk Communications, (517) 333-1606

Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, (312)-795-3706

Michigan approves first electric vehicle charging infrastructure program

Michigan Public Service Commission approves PowerMiDrive initiative to advance charging infrastructure in Michigan

LANSING – Michigan’s first electric vehicle charging infrastructure program, Consumers Energy’s PowerMiDrive initiative, was approved today by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Charge Up Midwest, a coalition of organizations working to advance electric vehicles throughout the Midwest, worked closely with Consumers Energy and the MPSC as the pilot program was developed, and contributed to the proposed settlement agreement that preceded the MPSC’s order.

“We applaud the Public Service Commission and Consumers Energy for taking this important first step to advance electric vehicles in Michigan and keep our state on the cutting-edge of the rapidly changing mobility sector,” said Charles Griffith, climate and energy program director at the Ecology Center. “This program is the first of its kind in Michigan and will promote buildout of charging infrastructure, which is one of the key challenges facing electric vehicle advancement in Michigan.”

The PowerMiDrive pilot program has been in development for more than two years. Today’s decision at the MPSC is the culmination of a stakeholder workgroup process facilitated by the MPSC. The decision approves the initiation of a $10 million, three-year pilot program to support installations of EV charging infrastructure at homes and residences, multi-unit dwellings, workplaces, and other public locations, as well as fast-chargers along highway corridors. The program will utilize rebates and consumer education to encourage program participation, and encourage “off-peak” charging through the incorporation of time-of-use rates.  Today’s decision allocates an additional $2.5 million for the program from what was originally proposed by Consumers Energy.

“We want to make sure that the benefits of electric vehicles are available to everyone, including folks in apartment buildings or anyone that doesn’t own their own garage,” said Mark Nabong, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Consumers’ new program can help more people access electric cars as a clean, cheaper alternative to gasoline cars.”

Consumers Energy is not the only utility company with proposals to expand electric vehicle charging. DTE Energy currently has a $13 million pilot program for consideration before the MPSC. Michigan’s two major utility companies are taking significant steps to promote EV charging infrastructure in the state, and if DTE Energy’s proposal is approved, Michigan will have the most forward-looking electric vehicle charging program in the Midwest.

“Today’s decision puts Michigan on the road to cleaner air and a smarter grid by improving drivers’ access to our cleanest and cheapest fuel—electricity,” said Joe Halso, associate attorney with the Sierra Club.  “We look forward to more work with the Commission, Consumers Energy and stakeholders to implement PowerMIDrive and position Michigan as a leader when it comes to planning for an electric vehicle future.”

“The MPSC’s decision is a major win for Michigan utility customers who will benefit with lower rates because more charging will occur at night,” said Robert Kelter, senior attorney at the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

###

Charge Up Midwest is a partnership of environmental and clean energy organizations actively working to increase electric vehicle deployment throughout the region in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. Visit www.ecocenter.org/charge-midwest to learn more.

 

Howard Learner on the State of Solar in the Midwest

ELPC’s President and Executive Director, Howard Learner, joined SEIA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Abigail Ross Hopper, November 14 at the Solar Power Midwest conference to discuss key trends facing the solar industry in the Midwest. There was a discussion on the state of distributed and utility-scale solar since the passage of critical energy legislation in Illinois and Michigan, how recent electoral outcomes factor into regional opportunities and challenges to solar, and how effective strategic partnerships can make solar a more dominant player in the Midwest energy landscape.

Howard closed the conversation with a call of optimism for the future of clean energy saying “We can blow through the 7GW of solar we have in the Midwest if we get the implementation right and seize the opportunities presented.”

Energy News Network: Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

Michigan PURPA Rulings a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Power Producers

By Andy Balaskovitz

Independent power producers say recent rulings by Michigan regulators provide short-term development opportunities but also more uncertainty in the coming years as they negotiate contracts with a major utility.

On October 5, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued multiple orders related to the prices Consumers Energy pays to independent producers under federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts.

One ruling allows for up to 150 megawatts worth of projects to qualify for PURPA contracts at rates that advocates say are more favorable for developers. The rates had been on hold for months as regulators settled questions around avoided costs and contract terms. Avoided costs are the rates paid by law to independent producers based on the price of the utility building the generation itself.

However, it’s unclear how long those terms will stay in place or how much opportunity there will be in the future. In the coming months, the MPSC may allow Consumers to restructure those rates and contract terms in ways that developers say would stifle PURPA contracts. While the most recent rulings apply to Consumers, DTE Energy’s avoided costs are also under consideration.

Clean energy advocates and independent power producers have been closely following the cases for more than two years as PURPA rules could determine the level of third-party solar development in the state. The debate over PURPA and solar development has played out in multiple states in recent years.

Margrethe Kearney, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which intervened in Consumers’ rate cases, said the rulings effectively delay certainty over PURPA contracts by pushing them into Consumers’ IRP, which won’t be finalized for another six months.

“That undercurrent is a troubling,” Kearney said. “Do we really want a commission that isn’t making timely decisions and bouncing issues from one contested case to another?”
If the MPSC doesn’t agree with Consumers’ proposed avoided costs and contract terms, the company still has the ability to withdraw its IRP, while granting the utility’s request could harm developers, Kearney said.

“They’ve suggested that if any part of their plan is not approved, they could pull the whole thing,” Kearney said. “The change in the contract terms would strike a huge blow to independent power producers.”

READ FULL STORY

Crain’s Chicago Business: Michigan Offers to Pay Millions for Illinois Asian Carp Project, but Rauner Balks

 

Michigan Offers to Pay Millions for Illinois Project, but Rauner Balks

Greg Hinz On Politics

It’s an unusual plan: A neighbor state would pick up most of the tab for efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. What’s keeping Rauner from signing up?

States nowadays have trouble paying for the stuff within their borders that’s important, much less offering to pick up the tab for a project in another state. And when they do, you’d think the recipient would say yes.

But not Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. Though the state of Michigan is offering to pony up millions of dollars a year to pay the costs of operating new Asian carp-blocking locks along the Illinois River at Brandon Road near Joliet—with seven other states and the Canadian province of Ontario chipping in, too—Rauner is not saying yes, at least so far.

The usual offer to pay costs for a project located in Illinois comes from outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder—like Rauner, a Republican.

In a phone interview yesterday, Snyder strongly pushed a “fair share” plan in which Illinois would pay just $132,700 a year of the estimated $8 million needed to operate the Brandon facility. Michigan itself would pay $3.3 million a year, based on its share of the total Great Lakes coastline, and legislative leaders in that state are committed to pay that amount for at least five years, more than $16 million total.

“We’re interested in (protecting) the Great Lakes,” which scientists say could suffer enormous losses to native fish if the voracious carp make it that far, Snyder said. “Why wouldn’t Illinois be excited about sharing project costs?”

Snyder said that regular discussions have been occurring for months among officials from the various states and provinces, including Wisconsin, New York, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Now, it’s time to act, he said.

“We’d just as soon quit dating and get married,” Snyder quipped. “We’d like to get an agreement with Illinois.”

Michigan is so interested that it will pick up any other state’s portion of the bill if they can’t pay it themselves, he said.

Rauner, in an interview after he appeared before the Crain’s editorial board yesterday, indicated some interest. But he didn’t offer to sign up, either.

“The idea certainly has merit. We’ve been talking to (Snyder) about it,” Rauner said. But “we’re not committed to it.”

Rauner declined to elaborate, but there has been considerable back and forth lately about who will pay for construction costs that could hit $200 million or more.

Since I last wrote about this in May, the Rauner administration has dropped its request to double the width of locks to 1,200 feet to help the barge industry. Officials say barge needs can be accommodated in other locations.

In addition, Congress is in the final stages of passing legislation that directs the Army Corps of Engineers to finalize its Brandon Road study and put a specific proposal on the table by early next year. The legislation also would require the feds to pay at least 80 percent of construction costs.

That still would leave Illinois with a capital bill, but according to local environmental leader Howard Learner of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, other states are willing to pick up part of the construction costs, too.

“Rauner needs to find a way to say yes,” Learner said.

Snyder’s comments came as Michigan released results of a public opinion poll that indicate 80 percent of Great Lakes residents want action soon on the Brandon Road proposal.

READ COLUMN HERE

###

Detroit Free Press OpEd: President Trump’s War on the Great Lakes

 

August 30, 2018

President Trump’s War on the Great Lakes

OpEd

By Howard Learner

Summertime reminds us that the Great Lakes are a great natural treasure. Forty-two million people rely on this freshwater for safe drinking water supplies, but it’s more than that. The Great Lakes is where we live, work and play.

President Donald Trump doesn’t seem to get it. He won the 2016 election in the Great Lakes states, but Trump’s policy shifts and budget cuts amount to a war on the Great Lakes. The President’s budgets have proposed to zero-out or cut 90% of funding for the successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Congress has twice rejected those cuts and restored full funding of $300 million annually.

The Department of Commerce is proposing to cutting the acreage of the popular Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron along the Alpena to Mackinaw City shoreline. The EPA is attempting to roll back common-sense Clean Water Act standards that protect safe clean drinking water. What is President Trump thinking?

Both Michigan Republican and Democratic leaders have publicly disagreed with these misguided proposals. So have business, civic and environmental groups. Protecting the Great Lakes is bipartisan and nonpartisan.

The Great Lakes are a global gem. They contain 21% of the planet’s fresh water supply and provide a rich aquatic habitat for many species. The Great Lakes support a $7 billion annual fishing industry, and draw tourists who support shoreline communities’ economies.
Military analysts say future wars will be fought over water. Fresh water availability is our region’s competitive advantage. We can’t afford to mess it up. So, why this war on the Great Lakes?

First, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a common-sense program that supports shoreline and wetlands protection projects, keeping out invasive species and reducing harmful algae blooms. Congress has again rejected the President’s budget cuts and restored full funding for this important program. The White House’s response: a new Statement of Administration Policy opposing this funding. The bipartisan Congressional delegation and Governors strongly disagree.

Second, the Department of Commerce continues to “review” the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the nation’s only such freshwater preserve, and proposes to cut its size down by 90% from 4,300 to 448 square miles. Six Michigan Congress members wrote to Commerce Secretary
Ross explaining the economic, tourism and ecological value of this National Marine Sanctuary, which is a source of pride and income to northeast Michigan shoreline communities.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary draws visitors to explore “Shipwreck Alley” where 100 ships rest on Lake Huron’s bottom, and learn about Great Lakes maritime history. It’s not controversial. Gov. Snyder formally requested that Secretary Ross end the review and leave the Sanctuary boundaries alone, but the Secretary denied that request. Under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, an adjacent state’s governor can veto a boundary change. Gov. Snyder should publicly announce that he’ll do so, and call on governor candidates Schuette and Whitmer to agree.

Third, the Trump EPA is rushing to rollback clean water standards that protect safe drinking water and preserve fish and wildlife habitat. Likewise, in federal court, the EPA is resisting sensible regulatory standards to reduce agricultural runoff pollution that causes toxic blue-green algae blooms in Lake Erie, which threaten drinking water for 500,000 people in the Toledo area and harm commercial fisheries.

Good policy is good politics. The battle for Great Lakes protection is well worth fighting for and winning, but it shouldn’t have to be fought. The public and wise political leaders know better

READ OpEd HERE

Detroit News: Environmental groups sue U.S. Coast Guard over Great Lakes oil spill response plans

by Beth LeBlanc

Two environmental groups are suing the U.S. Coast Guard for its admitted inability to respond adequately to a Great Lakes oil spill and, by extension, the lawsuit seeks to invalidate the response plans for facilities such as Enbridge, which operates Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Detroit federal district court stems from comments former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft made during a November congressional committee hearing, when he told lawmakers the agency is not prepared for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes.

His comments, the lawsuit said, belie and invalidate the Coast Guard-approved Northern Michigan Area Contingency Plan and violate the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, according to a statement from the National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The current plan leaves the Coast Guard unprepared to address a worst-case spill from Enbridge’s Line 5, which could affect more than 400 miles of shoreline and 60,000 acres of wildlife habitat, said Oday Salim, a staff attorney for the National Wildlife Federation.

. . . . .

The lawsuit asks the judge to declare the approval of the Northern Michigan contingency plan a violation of the Oil Pollution Act and invalidate sections of the plan that relate to open waters and any facility-specific response plans created in coordination with the plan, including Enbridge’s facility response plan.

“You are not allowed to operate without a facility response plan,” Kearney said. “If the court agrees, as they should, that the area contingency plan is not valid then certainly one of the outcomes could be someone requesting that Line 5 be shut down.”

READ FULL ARTICLE 

Environmental Groups Sue U.S. Coast Guard for Approving Northern Michigan Plan and Later Admitting Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, JNemes@elpc.org (773) 892-7494

Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, lubetkin@nwf.org  (734) 904-1589

Environmental Groups Sue U.S. Coast Guard for Approving Northern Michigan Plan and Later Admitting Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

Lawsuit Claims that Coast Guard fails to comply with Oil Pollution Act of 1990

DETROIT – Contradicting its certification that the Northern Michigan Area Contingency Plan (NMACP) is adequate to remove a worst case discharge of oil into the Great Lakes, (former) Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testified under oath before Congress that the Coast Guard is not prepared for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard disregarded the law when it approved the NMACP, while then publicly admitting that the Coast Guard is “not semper paratus for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and the National Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan asking the Court to declare that the Coast Guard violated the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) when it approved the NMACP, thereby invalidating the portions which apply to oil pipelines in the Great Lakes. As a result, any individual Facility Response Plan for an oil pipeline operating in the open waters of the Great Lakes, such as the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, would likewise be invalid. The U.S. Coast Guard in June 2017 approved the NMACP, purportedly certifying that the plan was in substantial compliance with all of its requirements, including the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“The U.S. Coast Guard admitted that it’s not fully ready and fully able to protect the Great Lakes from a major oil spill as required for a response plan under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director and attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The Great Lakes are where we live, work and play, and supply safe clean drinking water for 42 million people. If the U.S. Coast Guard is unable to fulfill its emergency response duties, then our Great Lakes waters are even more at risk from a potential Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline spill.”

In 2014, Enbridge discovered dozens of damaged areas on the 4.5-mile segment of Line 5 that runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Environmental advocacy groups have been calling for Enbridge to shut down Line 5 before a major break potentially sends oil flowing into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Earlier this year, an anchor strike dented portions of the pipeline and Enbridge was forced to reduce the pressure in Line 5 by 40% as a critical precautionary step.

“The Coast Guard’s admission that it cannot adequately address an oil spill in the Great Lakes puts our most important natural resource at risk,” said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Coast Guard’s failure to ensure that there is a plan in place to respond to a worst-case oil spill threatens our access to a clean drinking water supply, our irreplaceable Great Lakes and unique wildlife habitats, and the strength of our Pure Michigan economy.”

“Until we decommission this aging, risky pipeline, we need the best-possible spill response plan to protect our Great Lakes, our communities, our wildlife, and our economy,” said Oday Salim, Staff Attorney for the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center. “A worst-case oil spill from Line 5, even according to an Enbridge-funded study, could impact over 400 miles of shoreline and 60,000 acres of unique wildlife habitat as well as cause billions in economic losses and the irrevocable loss of wildlife and cultural resources.”

 

 

###

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 25 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now