Still flowing: Petroleum continues to flow through Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, despite Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order that the company shut it down by May 12. Here’s the latest on the situation:Enbridge said that only the federal government has the power to shut down Line 5. But the U.S. State Department stated that the U.S. and Canada “are not engaged in any formal treaty negotiations” in regards to Enbridge.
Whitmer said earlier in the week that if the pipeline wasn’t shut down, she would consider all profits after May 12 to be the property of the state of Michigan.
But before the legal dispute between Enbridge and the state can move forward — or Michigan can collect the money that Whitmer says Enbridge will owe the state — District Judge Janet Neff needs to decide whether the case will remain in federal court or be moved to Ingham County.
Meanwhile, the Bay Mills Indian Community executive council voted to banish Line 5 from its territory. This is deemed a punishment of last resort in tribal law. The tribe is asking the federal government to enforce this move as part of its legal duty to protect tribal treaty rights for hunting, fishing, and gathering in ceded territory, which includes the Straits of Mackinac.
In Enbridge’s corner are various unions and chambers of commerce. And on Wednesday, Republicans in the Michigan Senate passed a measure to pay the Canadian company’s legal bills — using money from the staff of the Department of Natural Resources — in the event the state loses the lawsuit over its termination of the easement that allows the pipeline to use the Straits of Mackinac. (PBS, Detroit News, Michigan Radio, MLive)
Bridge-to-bridge: Abandoned in 1979, the former Uniroyal site on the Detroit River is on its way to becoming the final portion of the Detroit Riverwalk. The $11-million project will connect Belle Isle to downtown, and future plans will extend the pathway all the way to the Ambassador Bridge, completing a 5.5-mile walking and biking trail. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy says that the park is visited by 3.5 million people annually, and that usage increased by 20% during the pandemic. (Detroit News)
Paying for PFAS: Minnesota-based 3M is suing the state of Michigan over its regulations for the PFAS family of chemicals, which are among the strictest in the nation. 3M manufactured products containing PFAS for years, including the popular water and stain repellent Scotchgard. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has previously sued 3M and other PFAS manufacturers to recover cleanup costs for PFAS contamination. 3M called Michigan’s drinking water standards for PFAS, “the result of a rushed and invalid regulatory process” and “scientifically flawed.” Nessel criticized the lawsuit, saying it was an attempt by 3M to “shirk its responsibility to Michigan residents and to the health of the water resources that define our state.” Among the items 3M may be trying to shirk are some hefty bills for PFAS contamination. In 2020, 3M paid footwear company Wolverine World Wide $55 million to finance the extension of water mains to areas of Kent County where Wolverine had contaminated the groundwater with Scotchgard. It’s also been reported that in the fourth quarter of 2019, 3M spent $214 million on PFAS litigation. (Detroit News, MLive)
Sludged: Roughly 200,000 gallons of sludge and wastewater escaped from a temporary, unpermitted lagoon at Arbre Farms near Walkerville, Michigan (northeast of Muskegon). The 900-acre farm processes fruits and vegetables from its own farm and other operations into frozen food products. The pollution made its way into the Big South Branch of the Pere Marquette River, which flows into Lake Michigan. Although Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) responded to the spill, they did not inform the public. EGLE has said the waste poses no public health risk, although it could endanger fish and other aquatic life. It’s unclear if Arbre farms will face fines or other enforcement actions. (Freep)
Electric avenue: U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has been organizing meetings for labor and environmental groups, including The United Auto Workers, the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and others to discuss policy that would cut greenhouse gases while also protecting jobs as the auto industry shifts to electric vehicles. “So many times, we make false choices, it’s one or the other (protecting the environment or jobs). The environmentalists are listening to labor talk about the challenges, they’re trying to understand them, and we’re working on policy solutions that do both,” Dingell said. Labor unions note that electric vehicles last longer, require fewer parts, and need less maintenance, all of which could mean fewer jobs. Yet losses in car manufacturing could be made up by battery plants and charging operations. Union leaders are pushing Ford and General Motors to extend union contracts to joint ventures for battery production. (Detroit News)
Scrapped: In a move that could signal where the Biden administration stands on environmental justice, Environmental Protection Agency head Michael S. Regan has raised concerns about General Iron’s car shredding facility that was due to be moved to a predominantly Latinx community in Chicago’s Southeast Side neighborhood. “Substantial data indicate the current conditions facing Chicago’s southeast side epitomize the problem of environmental injustice, resulting from more than a half-century of prior actions,” said Regan in a letter to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “This neighborhood currently ranks at the highest levels for many pollution indicators.” Lightfoot has suspended General Iron’s permit review for the facility until a study to determine its health effects on the community has been completed. (Chicago Sun Times)
Heating up: New data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows how America’s climate is changing, and it looks like Michigan is getting much hotter and much wetter. Large portions of the state are 1.5 Fahrenheit warmer compared to the 20th-century average, and see 9% more precipitation. And another batch of data released by the Environmental Protection Agency this week shows that a warming climate is producing bigger wildfires that start earlier in the year, more heatwaves, and an increase in flooding. “There is no small town, big city or rural community that is unaffected by the climate crisis,” EPA head Regan said. “Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close, with increasing regularity.” (NY Times)