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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

January 7, 2019

The Detroit News. January 3, 2019

Rush to shut Line 5 would harm state

Campaign promises don’t always translate into sound policy, as we’ve learned from President Donald Trump.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promised on the campaign trail that she’d shut down Enbridge Line 5 on her first day in office. And on Day One, she instructed Attorney General Dana Nessel to begin doing just that.

Nessel’s charge is to find legal flaws in the deal former Gov. Rick Snyder negotiated with Enbridge to bury Line 5 in a tunnel deep below the Straits of Mackinac, and have the energy transport company pick up the $500 million cost.

It is a sound solution that takes into account both the need to protect the Great Lakes and the critical function Line 5 plays in supplying petroleum products throughout Michigan.

The tunnel will be built over the next 7 to 10 years, and in the meantime, the deal requires Enbridge to put up $1.8 billion in assurance money to cover damages should a leak occur in the 60-year-old pipeline. Precautions are also in place to shut down the pipeline during rough weather.

If the new governor and attorney general are successful in scuttling the deal and closing Line 5, the 540,000 barrels of light oil and natural gas it transports each day will still need to come to market.

Those products, including propane used for heating, are vital to Michigan consumers and businesses.

Without the pipeline, hundreds more tanker trucks will take to the highways to move the oil and gas, along with more freighters on the lakes.

Both modes of transport are riskier and less environmentally friendly than the pipeline, which has never had an oil or natural gas leak.

Whitmer has not offered her thoughts on alternative methods of transporting the products, or for replacing them in an economy still dependent on fossil fuels.

It would be reckless to shut down Line 5 without presenting solutions for replacing its capacity.

Nessel is challenging the deal, approved by the Legislature, because it was “passed without the care and caution” expected for such an issue.

In reality, the deal was the result of several months of negotiations between Snyder and Enbridge officials. A number of options were offered for assuring the safety of Line 5, and the utility tunnel was considered the best. Once Line 5 is routed through the tunnel, there is a near zero chance of a leak that would impact the Great Lakes.

There may be additional safeguards that can be put in place while the tunnel is under construction. If so, Whitmer is right to press for them. Preserving the lakes should always be a top priority.

At the very least, Whitmer should more carefully study the deal Snyder put together, and if she doesn’t like it, develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account the necessity of moving Line 5′s products.

But rushing ahead with a Line 5 shutdown that would force the delivery of oil and gas by riskier methods is not in the best interest of the lakes or of Michigan residents.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). January 1, 2019

More fizzle than boom in new law

The windows rattled for only a couple of hours Monday night. Maybe the chill and damp of a New Year’s Eve midnight takes some of the thrill out of blasting fireworks all day and all night. That hour or so of dog-disturbing and sleep-stealing rumble and boom will go on for days and weeks in July in celebration of our nation’s independence and one of our Legislature’s dumbest decisions ever.

Amazingly, legislators in the just-ended lame duck session fixed the state’s fireworks excesses — a little. The bill passed and signed by the governor hardly manages to stuff the genie back into the bottle.

The new law allows local governments to restrict the days and times that enthusiasts can burn money and fray nerves by launching endless volleys of “consumer grade” fireworks into the night sky.

The Michigan Fireworks Safety Act — that is quite a euphemism for what it unleashed — became law in 2011, allowing consumers to set off fireworks that leave the ground, make loud noises or both. Before then, Michiganders were essentially limited to sparklers. The 2011 act put mortars, rockets, roman candles and firecrackers in their hands, and July hasn’t been the same since.

An amendment to the bill passed soon after restricted the bombardment to 30 days a year, national holidays and the days before and after them, and to the hours between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m.

The new law allows municipalities to set local rules that send fireworks fans to bed early, by 11:30 most days. And it grants them the power to limit legal days to just 12. Forget celebrating Presidents Day with three days of boom and flash.

But it also prevents any restrictions on certain days, because fireworks have become big business in Michigan and an important revenue stream for the state. That’s why Lansing will never admit the 2011 law was a mistake.

And don’t celebrate the lame duck session’s shift toward reasonable restrictions and local control yet.

The Black Cat brand firecrackers are out of the bag. And a local ordinance in Grant Township or Port Huron is not going to put it back.

Whatever the law said last summer, many neighborhoods suffered through more than 30 days of fireworks during July alone. Restrictions in the law are unenforced and probably unenforceable. Violators don’t wait for a cop to pull into the driveway before lighting off a string of firecrackers at 3 a.m.

Local governments and police departments don’t have the resources to find, stop and cite even a little of the fireworks mayhem unleashed on our summer nights. We’ll be surprised if this new law snuffs out a single midnight pop.

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Petoskey News-Review. January 2, 2019

New year, new government

The closing weeks of the 2018 legislature in Michigan were fast-paced and contentious, to say the least.

Lame duck session shenanigans brought Michigan politics to a divisive low. A flurry of poorly thought-out bills — some with blatantly partisan roots — shot from Senate to House to the governor’s desk at a reckless pace.

Several of those bills were widely seen as attempts to diminish power from incoming politicians before they took their elected offices. The mid-term election results mean that, after eight years of full Republican control, Michigan’s executive office will now house Democrats in the governor, attorney general and secretary of state positions.

One bill that saw notable opposition was House Bill 6553, which would have let the legislature intervene if a court action challenged the constitutionality of a state statute or the validity of any legislative act, according to the Associated Press.

The bill was roundly derided as undermining the authority of incoming Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed that bill on Dec. 28, a decision that was lauded by Nessel.

“We are grateful to Gov. Snyder for demonstrating his integrity and commitment to upholding the Michigan Constitution,” Nessel said in a statement.

We can only hope that state politicians take a cue from this exchange and work toward more thoughtful legislation and respectful cooperation in the next year.

If the government does not act in bipartisan ways, the state will not be able to address many of its major issues. An effective government means cooperation.

We saw partisan politics hit the lowest of the low in 2018. Our hope for 2019 is that bipartisan solutions will now come to the forefront of Michigan’s government.

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