A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials
The Detroit News. November 30, 2017
State must monitor Line 5 carefully
New information regarding Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is alarming and has brought to light previously unknown weaknesses in the infrastructure running under the Straits of Mackinac. Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t wasted time in working out a legal agreement with the Canadian company, and that’s the right approach.
In July, we said the facts should determine how to proceed with the decades-old pipeline. An independent initial report from Dynamic Risk on the safety of Line 5 at that time showed there was no cause for worry and that the line could operate indefinitely without environmental risk. But some of the facts have changed.
This week Snyder announced an agreement with Enbridge, which will require the company to replace a section of the pipeline and enact other safety measures, including shutting down the pipeline in bad weather. The pipeline carries 23 million gallons of oil and liquid natural gas daily, and environmental activists and others have long raised alarms about the potential damage if leakage occurred. Attorney General Bill Schuette has also advocated for replacing the pipeline with a new one in a tunnel, given the age of Line 5. He proposed that over the summer, while maintaining his overall support for pipelines.
It this latest agreement, the Snyder administration has required Enbridge to study the feasibility of tunneling as an alternative to the current pipeline.
Michigan officials were very displeased that Enbridge engineers had known for three years that there was damage to the exterior enamel coating on the pipe, yet didn’t disclose that information until this fall. That is outrageous and damages the company’s credibility.
“Business as usual by Enbridge is not acceptable and we are going to ensure the highest level of environmental safety standards are implemented to protect one of Michigan’s most valuable natural resources,” Snyder said in a statement. “The state is evaluating the entire span of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline and its future, but we cannot wait for the analyses to be completed before taking action to defend our waterways.”
Valerie Brader, director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said Enbridge and the state have until August 2018 to reach a deal on the pipeline’s future. If there isn’t an agreement by that time, the state will make the final call.
The extensive final analysis from Dynamic Risk, released in November, didn’t differ much from its draft months ago, so that should quell some fears of an impending pipeline failure. Plus, the 645-mile pipeline benefits the state’s economy, along with its Midwest neighbors. The report had found shutting down Line 5 would lead to increasing propane and gasoline prices.
The report found that “time is not a significant factor on the failure probability estimates for the Straits pipelines.”
Snyder and other state and federal officials are holding Enbridge accountable, and as long as the company follows through with safety precautions in the short-term, the timeline in place for finding alternatives to Line 5 seems sufficient.
Lansing State Journal. November 30, 2017
Lansing’s Board of Water & Light is a leader among public utilities, both in renewable energy and lead-free water infrastructure.
The utility has long been a dedicated community partner and has made marked improvements to services following the disastrous ice storm of 2013.
Ratepayers who want that type of local service to continue should understand the need for a reasonable rate increase, and should support the decision the BWL Board of Commissioners is expected to make on Dec. 5.
Residents and ratepayers will have the opportunity to weigh in this Thursday, Nov. 30, at a public hearing of the BWL Board of Commissioners - it begins at 5:30 p.m. at the REO Town facility located at 1201 S. Washington Avenue.
The 3-year plan includes an increase of 3.9% to residential electric bills and 5.5% on both water and steam. The first increase would take effect in February 2018, with subsequent increases in 2019 and 2020.
Even with the increases, BWL’s rates still will remain lower than private utility rates in the area, according to BWL General Manager Richard Peffley.
More: Lansing Board of Water & Light plans rate increases beginning 2018
More: BWL removes Lansing’s last lead water service line
With proposed increases come clear benefits: Better reliability as new substations come online, cleaner fuel as the city goes coal free by 2025 and an expanded network to better assist neighboring municipalities.
The substation strategy is a direct result of the ice storm and several smaller outages. Sharing the energy load across more substations increases reliability and can speed restoration of outages.
The plan to go coal-free is a result of the Eckert and Erickson plants nearing the end of their life expectancies in 2020 and 2025, respectively. Regardless of the shifting winds on energy policy at the national level, Lansing is sticking with its environmentally sound plan to eliminate coal use in favor of renewable sources.
A 2016 survey of 700 BWL customers showed “a balanced energy mix” was preferred by a majority of residents, and there is “overwhelming support” to move away from coal. The added cost required to accomplish that goal is worth it for the increased quality of life it will mean for Greater Lansing.
Neighboring municipalities count on the BWL’s expertise for both short-term and long-term solutions, especially for aging water systems. That means the utility must be doing something right.
BWL is not perfect. But it has made significant strides in the wake of ice storm and is rebuilding the community’s trust with new leadership and transparency.
A rate increase is necessary for the utility to implement its strategic plan. The investments now certainly will pay long-term dividends.
Times Herald (Port Huron). November 30, 2017
Election ban would be a new scandal
As the Rep. John Conyers-must-resign bandwagon begins to creak under the weight of its passengers, even Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House, has called for him to step down. Conyers, in the light of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct made worse by his own admission he paid to cover them up, needs to resign his position.
But in reaction to Pelosi joining the chorus Thursday, Conyers lawyer Arnold Reed said, “Pelosi did not elect the congressman and she sure as hell will not pressure him to leave.”
The first part of that is exactly right. When Conyers resigns is up to his conscience. Whether he deserves to be in Congress is up to voters in his district. It is not up to Pelosi to decide who is qualified to serve in the House of Representatives.
Likewise, it is not up to Michigan legislators to determine who may or may not join their little club. Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit lawmakers who resigned or are expelled from the state House or Senate from running in the subsequent special election to fill the vacancy they created.
The measure stems from the Cindy Gamrat-Todd Courser fiasco in which the pair were forced out after conducting an affair in their legislative offices and then concocting a bizarre scheme involving made-up blackmail and worse. The whole torrid, tawdry mess is still making its way through the civil and criminal courts.
Along the way, the soap opera left its mark on the state House. Questions remain about who know what when, who could have put a stop to it before it became a circus and what exactly finally motivated leadership to do something about it. Things happened that we don’t know about. Deals were made. Bad politics happened.
Now, lawmakers want to make sure headaches such as Gamrat and Courser don’t come back. We don’t think they get to decide that. They didn’t elect Gamrat and Courser.
Anyone qualified to stand for election should be allowed to do so. And anyone who collects the majority of votes in that election should take his or her seat in the Legislature. Yes, there certainly are those who would never vote for either Gamrat or Courser, but that only matters if they are among the majority of voters. If either received the majority vote, it would not be the first time that a candidate won even though some, many or even most people found unpalatable.
Lansing isn’t the only place where officials are playing this dangerous and unconstitutional game. In Washington, Congressional leaders are talking about what they will or won’t do if Roy Moore is elected. There is only one thing they can do — comply with the will of the people who elected him, assuming there are enough voters who can stomach him.
The Alpena News. December 2, 2017
Enbridge agreement a small step in the right direction.
We suppose the agreement announced this week between Michigan officials and Enbridge regarding oil transportation through Line 5 in the Straits is a step in the right direction.
If that’s true, however, consider it a baby step.
In our estimation a lot more needs done by Enbridge to assure the public of the safety of the line. And, honestly, we’re not sure the public ever would believe it at this point. Assurances we have heard in the past from the Canadian oil transportation company have fallen short on the truth meter.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge officials announced an agreement Monday that would require Enbridge to replace a portion of Line 5 running underwater in the St. Clair River with a new pipeline through a tunnel under the river bed. A similar study will be done on the Straits portion of Line 5. And, in periods of sustained bad weather, it was agreed that Enbridge would shut down the operation because of the greater risk posed to the Great Lakes should a spill occur.
While State Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, was supportive of the agreement, she indicated that she wished it had gone further.
“In my opinion it doesn’t go far enough. We need to address the issue of the thick ice that accumulates in the Straits in the wintertime, and the impact it could have on preventing crews from responding in the event of a spill. I will continue to monitor the situation and fight to ensure that Enbridge is meeting their obligations.”
Let’s face it, the negative publicity Enbridge has suffered from Line 5 over the past years certainly has to be impacting the company’s image. At some point one wonders how long Enbridge can sustain such negative press without it impacting their financial profit and loss statements as well.
If Enbridge officials had been truthful with the public from the start, that would be one thing. The fact that they haven’t only has made matters worse.
Michigan officials can’t risk a disaster in the Straits. Line 5 is an environmental nightmare that needs an objective solution found quickly.