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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Michigan's wind energy farms whip up plenty of praise and complaints

Gallery: The wind energy farms of Michigan

SAGINAW, MI -- In the past decade, rural landscapes in the Thumb and elsewhere in Michigan have been radically altered by the advent of utility-scale wind farms.
Even if you haven't seen wind turbines towering over farmland, you might have seen the trucks hauling massive, white turbine blades on freeways.
Up close, the whirling blades of wind turbines stretch for miles and miles across parts of Mid-Michigan and the Thumb.
They are renewable energy signs of the times, welcomed by some, reviled by others.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Line 5 Alternatives Study - Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet – July 2017

Dynamic Risk’s Line 5 Alternatives Study: 
The Oil Industry’s View of Protecting the Great Lakes

  1. Background on why Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette should decide that the risk of an oil spill is unacceptable.
  2. The Dynamic Risk study neglects to provide the state with an independent, fair analysis of the alternatives to Line 5.
  3. Dynamic Risk’s study does not provide a credible worst-case scenario spill and cost analysis and grossly underestimates the impact on Michigan of a Line 5 spill.
  4. Dynamic Risk’s study fails to analyze existing pipeline infrastructure as an alternative to Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.
  5. Dynamic Risk’s study overestimates the impact on propane supply of decommissioning Line 5.
  6. Dynamic Risk wants a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac.
  7. Cost of A Straits Tunnel: Two Years of Massive Disruption to Tourism; Emmet, Cheboygan, Mackinac Counties; and Tribal Fishing.
  8. The Study’s Authors and Enbridge: Oil Industry Friends.
1. Background

How much risk is acceptable when it comes to an oil spill in the Great Lakes? When it comes to the aging Line 5 oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, the State of Michigan now must decide.

Even oil industry firm Dynamic Risk, which in late June produced a state-commissioned report on alternatives to Line 5 embraced by Enbridge and panned by Great Lakes advocates as blatantly biased and flawed, says that the prospect of a Line 5 spill in the Straits is very real.

Dynamic Risk’s analysis concludes there is a 1-in-60 chance of a Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac by 2053, when Line 5 turns 100 years old. And independent experts think a Line 5 disaster is even more likely given its age and deteriorating condition. While we don’t know the exact odds, we do know that a 1-in-60 chance of an oil spill in the Great Lakes not acceptable.

The state of Michigan has a duty to protect the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water for half of all Michigan residents and define our way of life. There’s no reason for Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to keep delaying action to decommission Line 5.

The underlying assumption in Dynamic Risk’s study is if Enbridge says it can sell 23 million gallons of oil that is now being transported daily through Line 5, then it is Michigan’s responsibility to figure out how the private Canadian company can continue to do that. That is a false assumption. So let’s set aside Enbridge’s profits for a minute and focus on Michigan.

It is the State of Michigan’s responsibility to protect the Great Lakes from a Line 5 oil spill, and the report’s Alternative #6— decommissioning Line 5 in the Straits—would do just that (and in the process, create 2,000 construction jobs). According to Dynamic Risk, the impact of eliminating Line 5 oil in Michigan would be tiny—about a two-cent a gallon increase in the price of gasoline. That’s because the vast majority of Line 5 oil goes to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario.

What about liquefied natural gas that is transported through Line 5? According to Dynamic Risk less than 5% of LNGs are transported to Rapid River in the Upper Peninsula for conversion to propane. The remaining 95% goes to Sarnia. The amount going to the U.P. is so modest that it could be supplied by installing a new 4-inch pipeline from Superior, Wisconsin, to Rapid River.
The Dynamic Risk Study: Deeply Flawed and Not Credible

2. The Dynamic Risk study neglects to provide the state with an independent, fair analysis of the alternatives to Line 5.

The report, authored by oil industry firms with business ties to Enbridge, is biased. It promotes building new oil infrastructure in the Straits of Mackinac that would allow Enbridge to continue transporting oil in the Great Lakes when there are other, reasonable alternatives. The Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force called for an alternatives study that was “wholly independent from any influence by Enbridge.” Dynamic Risk and other study contractors have worked for Enbridge, and they are in the business of supporting and building oil and gas pipeline infrastructure. Those businesses depend on companies like Enbridge to keep operating. They should not have been put in charge of a study whose results are tilted toward Enbridge and building new pipeline infrastructure in the Straits of Mackinac.

3. Dynamic Risk’s study does not provide a credible worst-case scenario spill and cost analysis, and grossly underestimates the impact on Michigan of a Line 5 spill.
When the State of Michigan, at the 11th hour, fired another oil industry contractor doing a major risk evaluation of a Line 5 oil spill it was left solely to Dynamic Risk to provide a credible worst-case oil spill analysis. This was a specific requirement of its work agreement with the state. Instead, Dynamic Risk uses assumptions of risk and an averaging model of all oil spills that are not credible. It estimates that:
  • Only 20-miles of shoreline would be impacted by a spill. This is 3% of the 720-mile area the University of Michigan found vulnerable to a spill in its 2016 study.
  • An oil spill would cost $100 to $200 million even though Enbridge’s cleanup costs of its Kalamazoo River Line 6B pipeline oil spill in 2010 cost more than $1.2 billion. 
The Dynamic Risk report grossly underestimates a worst-case release from Line 5 limiting this number to 4,500 barrels (coincidentally the number Enbridge uses to estimate worst-case spill). A different analysis done by an independent engineer involving an anchor strike that removes both 20” lines under the Straits (a distinct probability) concludes there would be a release of 60,000 barrels or 2.5 million gallons of crude oil in comparison to the 24,000 barrels released into the Talmedge Creek tributary to the Kalamazoo River (Enbridge’s Line6B Marshall spill).

4. Dynamic Risk’s study fails to analyze existing pipeline infrastructure as an alternative to Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.
This was a requirement of Dynamic Risk’s work agreement with the state and was an essential recommendation from the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force. Yet Dynamic Risk says it made an early decision to eliminate from its study a comprehensive analysis of transporting Line 5 oil through other existing pipelines, a decision that skewed study results. It failed to even consider the fact that Enbridge’s Line 6B capacity was doubled after Enbridge’ massive 2010 oil spill.

5. Dynamic Risk’s study overestimates the impact on propane supply of decommissioning Line 5.
What we know from Dynamic Risk’s study is that data provided by Enbridge says more than 95% of liquefied natural gas transported in Line 5 goes to Sarnia, Ontario. Less than 5% stays in Rapid River in the Upper Peninsula for processing into propane. Yet the flawed report finds that up to 35 railcars per week or 15 truckloads per day would be necessary to transport propane in the UP. A different, independent study found it would take only one railcar or 3 - 4 truckloads per day to replace Line 5 propane supply to the U.P. and the study admits that it would only take installation of a 4-inch pipeline to continue supplying liquefied natural gas to the Rapid River processing facility.

6. Dynamic Risk wants a tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac .
In its April 2016 proposal to the state, Dynamic Risk expressed enthusiasm for the idea of putting a tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac, a project that could potentially benefit oil industry contractors and consultants like Dynamic Risk. Dynamic Risk’s alternatives study delivers on that enthusiasm with a projected cost estimate for a tunnel that is much lower than other estimates for this type of infrastructure. Dynamic Risk would have us believe that constructing a tunnel would cost $50 million less than decommissioning Line 5. At the same time, they admit they did not have the site-specific information about the underlying rock formations to determine the conditions and depth for the tunnel. Of course underground oil pipelines still rupture and a tunnel would still leave the Great Lakes vulnerable to oil spills, including other portions of Line 5 along the Lake Michigan and its tributaries.

7. Cost of A Straits Tunnel: Two Years of Massive Disruption to Tourism, Emmet, Cheboygan, Mackinac Counties and Tribal Fishing
Tourists visiting the tip of Michigan’s mitt and permanent residents would find their lives, communities and economies unnecessarily upended for more than two years because of massive tunnel construction, including drilling and blasting, that will impact everything from air pollution to traffic congestion to police, fire and medical services. At each end of the tunnel up to 7 acres of land would be set up as a construction and staging area, potentially impacting local parks. Seasonal workers and construction workers would compete for limited rental housing; during the lengthy construction period and everyone in three northern Michigan counties would experience a steady stream of 18-wheel trucks hauling massive amounts of rock and soil excavated to make room for a proposed 30-inch pipeline. Dynamic Risk, which admits all of this in its report, predicts police and medical services “could be stretched beyond their limits.” Moreover, the Straits are, by treaty, fishing grounds for native tribes in Michigan and would likely see large areas impacted by the construction project.

8. The Study’s Authors and Enbridge: Oil Industry Friends
Enbridge paid for the $3.5 million alternatives and risk analysis and serves alongside Marathon Petroleum on a board that is advising Gov. Snyder about Line 5. But Enbridge’s reach goes beyond paying for studies that are supposed to determine the fate of the Great Lakes. Instead of turning to one of the state’s university to lead the study, officials chose Dynamic Risk even though the firm has worked for Enbridge on pipeline projects and is a leading player in the pipeline infrastructure industry. Dynamic Risk worked for Enbridge on the Midwest Sandpiper project and it was recently disclosed that while working on Line 5 studies for the State of Michigan, Dynamic Risk was also working for Enbridge on its Line 3 project in Minnesota. Dynamic Risk also conducted studies for Canadian officials that led to the approval by Quebec authorities of the reversal and expansion of 39- year-old Enbridge Line 9B, which in March 2016 began transporting heavy crude oil from western Canada to Sarnia, Ontario.

Other companies with direct ties to Enbridge are playing key roles in the alternatives study. The Stantec Company, which designs pipelines from engineering to construction, provided design support for the Keystone Pipeline and has been involved in the construction of multiple tunnels. According to Dynamic Risk’s proposal to the state, G.A. Purves, Director of Oil & Gas for Stantec, and a member of the Line 5 Project Team, has provided engineering support for six Enbridge pipeline projects over two construction seasons. Harold Henry, another Line 5 Project Team member for Stantec, was project manager on Enbridge’s Line 4 pipeline expansion. Riyaz Shiyji, Stantec director, provided support for multiple Enbridge projects in Canada.

Kelly Geotechnical Company was selected to participate as a key Line 5 Project Team member while also providing engineering work for Enbridge pipelines in Minnesota and North Dakota on the same Sandpiper project involving Dynamic Risk. In addition, Kelly worked on an Enbridge gas pipeline project in 2015, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project from 2005-2015, and Spectra Energy projects from 2009 to 2011. Enbridge recently merged with Spectra. Line 5 project team member Shane A. Kelly, senior engineer for Kelly, worked in support of two Enbridge pipeline projects and two Spectra Energy projects.


Oil & Water Don't Mix Campaign 148 E Front Street, Suite 301, Traverse City, MI 49684. 231-480-4112.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Tsuga’s View: Part 9

A Long-Term Look At Environmental, Political, and Social Issues, From The Perspective Of Michigan’s Oldest (and Most Optimistic) Tree Species

By Marvin Roberson

In a recent installment, I described the difference between Ideology and Values, and noted that the Right operates on Ideology, and the Progressives operate on Values, and I claimed that Values will always triumph over Ideology in the long run.

This plays out in how the two movements operate. The Right is generally opposed to things, while the Left generally advances an agenda which is positive, not reactive. This is made a more severe contrast by the fact that the Right (Ideologically) bases their opposition on people, while the Progressives base their support on outcomes.

What do I mean? A friend used to say “We hated what Bush did, but they hated who Obama was”.

In other words, the Left based their opinion of Bush on what he did, and the outcomes. The Right based their opposition to programs proposed by Obama based on the fact that he supported it.


Senator Kennedy worked on “No Child Behind” because he supported the aims of the program, and he did not oppose it simply because Bush was behind it (now, ultimately, it was not a success, but that’s a different matter).

Obama proposed a slight variation on “Romneycare”, which was a Republican-based program, which was widely praised by the Right when it was implemented in Massachusetts. However, the moment it became “Obamacare” (simply by being proposed by Obama), the same folks who had praised it to high heaven now opposed it.

In other words, Kennedy (who epitomized the Left) supported a bill promoted by Bush, because Kennedy supported the aims of the bill. Republicans opposed a bill which they invented, because Obama supported it.

As an aside, speaking of Kennedy - the first time I ever went to DC to lobby on behalf of the Club, I was being shepherded around the Capitol by Anne Woiwode. As we were racing through the basement of the Senate, we rounded a corner and I bumped into Ted Kennedy. I said to Anne “That was Senator Kennedy!”. She smiled a bit sadly, and pointed out “Well, Marvin, you are in the basement of the US Senate, you might expect to see Senators here”.

In that same trip, I learned the lessons of this installment at my first lobbying training. One of the most important things I was told is that “We do not have friends and enemies in Congress. We have allies and opponents, and an ally on one issue may be an opponent on the next”.

What that meant, in practice, was that because we agree with some Congresspeople on some issues, and disagree with those same people on others, we should concentrate on the issues, and not the person. Expressing disagreement on an issue is fine, but demonizing the opponent on one issue might jeopardize their help on the next.

It’s also simply an example of how the Progressives have a consistent vision of what we want, and it’s based on outcomes which reflect our values. Whereas the Right often bases their position on who supports or opposes it (remember the Republicans indicating that they would oppose anything Obama did, regardless of whether or not they has previously supported it?).

This must be exhausting for the Right. First they have to figure out who they hate (that smart Black guy. That experienced, talented woman). Then they have to figure out what those people support. Then they have to oppose it, even if that means changing their own position until they twist in knots.

For some great examples of this, see “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks”, by Thomas Mann and Norman Oresnstein. Both authors are with the American Enterprise Institute, hardly a left wing think tank. They document a number of bills which were introduced by Senator McConnell, which he later filibustered after Obama supported them. Let me repeat that: the Senate Majority Leader filibustered his own bills based upon the fact that Obama supported them.

I have a cousin who once told me “If Obama supports it, that’s good enough for me, I oppose it”. When I pointed out that this meant that he was letting Obama determine his position on issues, he just looked at me blankly.

But this is a perfect example - we have long-term values, and we work for outcomes which will promote those values. They have people they hate, and their positions twist in the wind based on what those people support.

Of course our path is the long-term winner.

Next Time:

False equivalency, and how it fits into all this.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Despite Trump, Sierra Club urges business to take action on climate

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The head of the Sierra Club stressed the importance of adopting sustainable practices in an address to West Michigan business owners Friday evening.

"We're in a challenging time where we have an administration that is mostly aligned with Congress on arguable the biggest problem our society faces -- climate change -- where the federal government is working in the opposite direction of where we need to go," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

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