AP NEWS

A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

June 24, 2019

The Detroit News. June 20, 2019

State still fumbling medical pot access

With only four licensed marijuana testing facilities across Michigan, and licensed dispensaries running low on product, medical marijuana patients are struggling to access items they rely on to reduce pain and other symptoms. As the state seeks to streamline its marijuana operations, this shortfall demands attention.

The new Marijuana Regulatory Agency within the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has picked up the pace on licensing across the board, with two more marijuana testing facilities “in the pipeline,” says LARA spokesman David Harns.

Currently, however, licensed dispensaries are running out of tested caregiver-grown products to sell to Michigan’s roughly 300,000 medical marijuana patients. And the state will need more than six testing facilities to keep up with demand.

In October, LARA put emergency rules in place which allowed licensed dispensaries to sell untested caregiver-grown products. These rules were set to expire at the end of 2018, but due to a lawsuit they were extended until April 1.

A court order at the beginning of April allowed 30 dispensaries whose licenses were denied to continue operating until they receive a decision from LARA on their appeal. These dispensaries can obtain and sell untested marijuana products.

Meanwhile, licensed facilities are running out of the caregiver-grown products they are allowed to sell — and which they were forbidden to obtain after April 1.

That hardly seems fair.

These are the “growing pains” of new rules and regulations governing medical marijuana, Harns says.

Right now, unlicensed dispensaries have an upper hand on licensed business owners, and many who rely on safe medical marijuana products are experiencing shortages.

LARA must prioritize licensing more testing facilities, since licensed dispensaries are required to sell tested products.

In the meantime, LARA should extend emergency regulations allowing licensed dispensaries to obtain caregiver-grown medical marijuana to offer relief to patients and strained business owners.

High licensing standards prevent patients from consuming metals, pesticides or other dangerous chemicals, but state officials should seek to make the process as efficient as possible.

Benjamin Rosman, CEO of Precision Safety Innovation Labs, says the licensing process his marijuana testing facility went through in 2015 was “harrowing.” He says the process to obtain a license took months.

“The labs are doing the best they can right now,” Rosman says. “But we certainly will need more.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rightly formed the Marijuana Regulatory Agency earlier this year to oversee regulation of recreational and medicinal marijuana. And the agency deserves kudos for increasing the pace on licensing the industry, which the state had bungled previously.

In the short term, more work must be done to ensure medical marijuana patients across the state have reliable access to the products they need.

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The Mining Journal. June 23, 2019

When it comes to electrical power, times are changing

Remember a few years ago when the Upper Peninsula’s energy picture was just a little bit murkier?

The pending closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette still loomed over the region, with some calling for its immediate shutdown, and others saying it must remain operating to keep the lights on for U.P. consumers.

Back then, the Marquette Board of Light and Power hadn’t announced anything about switching its primary source of generation over from coal to natural gas, and concerns of reliability, black outs and exceptionally high electricity rates seemed to be discussed almost everywhere.

Well, we all know that our electric rates haven’t dropped to levels below where they were several years ago, but overall much has changed for the region in just a short amount of time.

The creation of a new utility company, the Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp., and the establishment of two new natural gas-fueled power plants in Negaunee and Baraga townships allowed for parent company WEC Energy Group and its subsidiary We Energies to close down the monstrous Presque Isle Power Plant on March 31.

During roughly the same time this was all happening, the Marquette Board of Light and Power successfully sought rate increases through the Marquette City Commission to provide the financing needed for the construction of its Marquette Energy Center.

Building the energy center, another natural gas-fueled power plant which is situated off Wright Street near the city’s border with Marquette Township, allowed the BLP to take its coal-fired Shiras Steam Plant offline, officially retiring the South Marquette facility earlier this year.

Tearing down the Presque Isle and Shiras plants will both take a significant amount of time, with environmental remediation being a major focal point in that process. But when those projects are completed, the city’s shoreline and skyline will certainly be changed for the better.

In the past few years, energy industry leaders — at least regionally — have talked more and more of transitioning away from coal and moving to natural gas as their primary fuel. That can be seen in the closing of the two plants in Marquaette, and Semco Energy Gas Co.’s multimillion dollar project to install the Marquette Connector Pipeline, which officials say will provide a backup source of natural gas to meet the area’s energy demands.

Over the past few years, the BLP has also installed its community solar garden, giving its customers an option to harness the power of the sun, and — though they may not reach fruition — we’ve heard of several proposals for wind turbine generation in the U.P. as well.

These changes symbolize a shift in the minds of most people toward cleaner energy and an overall growing concern for the environment and future of our world.

High rates are still a concern for many, and wildly fluctuating bills have been an issue for customers of the Upper Peninsula Power Co. for some time. But officials say they’re working to address that by using new technology to help collect more accurate meter readings.

Something else that’s become a popular topic in the board rooms and coffeehouses across the state is Enbridge’s 66-year-old Line 5, which transports light crude oil and natural gas liquids through the Straits of Mackinac.

A $500 million project to build a tunnel that would house the pipeline beneath bedrock in the Straits was proposed, though the future of that is somewhat murky.

This list of items is not meant to be exhaustive, but more of a simple look at the changes we’ve noticed in the past few years.

Much has been done to clean up the energy situation here in the Upper Peninsula, but, as we’ve said before, the road to truly green energy is a long one. These changes are at least a step in the right direction toward a brighter, sustainable future.

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The Alpena News. June 22, 2019

An important week is coming up in Michigan’s Line 5 drama

As any Michigan student will know from their studies, in 1837, before Michigan was admitted to the union as a state, a dispute with Ohio had to be worked out. When the smoke cleared from that dispute, a contested strip of land that includes the city of Toledo was deeded to Ohio.

In exchange, all of the Upper Peninsula became part of Michigan.

This past week, those two geographical areas became front and center again in an international controversy that has many in the Midwest closely observing and discussing. The controversy surrounds Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 oil and natural gas pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac, which in and of itself is nothing new.

What is new about that issue is that, now, Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, has found herself in the middle of the issue as U.P. legislators, union members, trade workers and the governor of Ohio all have entered into the discussions over Line 5. If it weren’t so serious, one would find the whole issue surreal with the growing cast of characters.

The minute Nessel was elected, her involvement in the issue began. But it really wasn’t until the end of May, when Nessel threatened to shut down the pipeline, that she became a lightning rod in the controversy. At the time, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was negotiating with officials from the Canadian-owned Enbridge about a plan to decommission the pipelineline. Nessel said she would give the governor a few more weeks to hammer out a settlement before beginning legal action to shut down the pipeline’s operations. Previously, in March, she had issued a finding saying an agreement Enbridge reached with the previous governor, Rick Snyder, to create a tunnel to house the pipeline through the Straits, was unconstitutional.

Nessel’s threat to close the pipeline drew an immediate response from leaders in the Legislature. House Speaker Lee Chatfield, in discussing that ruling, said Nessel was “grasping at straws” and that her position was based on emotion, not facts. He said he believed the administration was trying to undermine legislative actions of the past.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey called Nessel’s ruling “shameful” and warned Whitmer and Nessel there could be a lawsuit over it.

And GOP state Rep. Beau LaFave from the U.P. went even further. Approximately 65% of the propane used in the U.P. each year flows through Line 5.

“With a renewed threat to shut down Line 5 in the next month — a move that would do irreparable harm to U.P families and businesses — Attorney General Dana Nessel has once again forgotten that she does not, in fact, make laws. Her job as the attorney general is to enforce the laws as written,” LaFave said. “It’s clear from the attorney general’s actions on this critical issue that she is too blinded by partisan politics and urban bias to make the right call for rural Michigan families.”

Nessel, never one to go down without a fight, turned to social media for a response.

“Let’s see, Mike Shirkey wants me impeached for respecting the reproductive rights of women, Beau LaFave believes I should be committed to a psychiatric asylum for protecting the Great Lakes,” she said. “Too bad burning female office-holders at the stake is no longer an option.”

And who said Michigan politics was not fun?

Fast-forward to the beginning of the month, when Enbridge folks said they would sue the Whitmer administration to honor the tunnel agreement they had with Snyder last year.

Nessel’s response: “We look forward to seeing them in court.”

At the same time, the Whitmer administration, according to Crains Detroit Business, began hearing more and more from trade unions and refinery workers in Michigan concerned about losing jobs related to the pipeline and the tunnel construction. The Operating Engineers Union and Michigan Chamber of Commerce joined forces and wrote a letter to Whitmer in support of the tunnel.

“The underground tunnel beneath the Straits will be the largest construction project in Michigan since we built the Mackinac Bridge,” the Michigan Chamber and Operating Engineers’ letter says. “It will create many good-paying construction jobs, allow the continued supply of essential energy to heat family homes in the Upper Peninsula, fuel businesses and jobs across our entire state, and protect the Great Lakes as Line 5 is removed from the floor of the Straits.”

All of this leads to the past week, when Whitmer received a letter from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, asking her to do everything in her power to keep Line 5 operating.

“As you know, losing Line 5 would also put more than 1,000 good-paying union jobs at risk in Ohio and Michigan,” DeWine wrote. “Our states have much at risk in terms of potential fuel price spikes, lost jobs, airline schedule disruptions and lost transportation project funding.

“We ask that you please consider options to improve the safety of Line 5 that does not result in taking the pipeline offline.”

In the letter Dewine points out the majority of aviation fuel used at Detroit Metro Airport comes from Toledo refineries and Line 5.

In a story in the Toledo Blade on Tuesday, 550 workers at the Toledo Refining Co. learned their jobs would be in jeopardy if Line 5 ceased operation. They were told by company officials earlier that, if Line 5 closes, there are no alternative pipelines in the region that could handle the loss of the light, sweet crude oil.

The next week could prove pivotal to everyone with a stake in the pipeline controversy, which basically is all of us. Both Whitmer and Nessel are on record of wanting a resolution to the issue by July 1.

Whitmer showed with the auto insurance reform package that she signed on the porch of the Grand Hotel May 30 that she can compromise when it is prudent.

The Line 5 issue is equally problematic, if not worse. It is going to take every trick in her book, I’m afraid, if she hopes to pull off another victory in this instance.

That being said, the entire state, I’m sure, is rooting for her to present a compromise that will protect the environment while preserving the economic realities associated with the line.

Until then, all of us wait and watch.

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