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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sierra Club official comments on ET Rover Pipeline submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

Dear Ms. Bose,

The comments submitted below are pursuant to the scoping process for the proposed ET Rover Pipeline (Docket #PF14-14-000).  These comments are submitted on behalf of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, 109 E Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906.

Nancy Shiffler
Chair, Michigan Beyond Natural Gas and Oil Committee

December 16, 2014

There is little in this proposal that reflects a “balancing of public benefits with residual impacts.”   This pipeline is part of an attempt by the natural gas industry to find a market for its over production in the Marcellus play in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, in particular to expand exports.  There is no demonstrated need for additional natural gas capacity in Michigan or in the region in general, while the impact on the safety, economic value, and environmental health of local property owners and communities would be considerable.

Public Convenience and Necessity
•      In determining the proper scope of an EIS under NEPA, an agency must consider cumulative and similar actions (40 C.F.R. 1508.25).
-          “Cumulative actions” are defined as actions which, when viewed with other proposed actions, have cumulatively significant impacts and therefore must be discussed in the same EIS (40 C.F.R. 1508.25(a)(2)).  There are at least eight existing pipelines crossing between Canada and the Eastern US and six new pipelines and pipeline expansions planned, and a total of 57 new pipelines and expansions approved or pending flowing in all directions.  FERC should consider the cumulative impact of all of these proposed pipelines, including both environmental impacts and the rate of depletion of the resources themselves.
-          “Similar actions” are actions which, when viewed with other reasonably foreseeable or proposed actions, have similarities that provide a basis for evaluating their environmental consequences together (40 C.F.R. 1508.25(a)(3)).  There are a number of proposed and existing pipeline projects that would fit this definition, including the proposed Spectra Energy Nexus pipeline, which runs parallel to the proposed Rover pipeline through Ohio and Michigan, with similar starting points and the same endpoint, and the TransCanada ANR East project which makes use of similar terminals.  The relative impacts of all of these projects should be considered together. 
-          Also relevant to this issue is the June, 2014, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et. Al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, which noted FERC’s responsibility to consider cumulative impacts.  FERC should consider the cumulative impacts of the entire length of the Rover pipeline and the activities that produce the gas to be transported through the pipeline.

•      Michigan does not need this line.  It already has considerable existing inflow capacity and outflow capacity from existing pipelines  (EIA State to State Capacity, 2013 -- www.eia.gov/naturalgas/data.cfm#pipelines).

•      Michigan has more than sufficient underground natural gas storage capacity to lessen any additional need to meet seasonal demands (www.eia.gov/state/print.cfm?sid=mi).

•      In 2013 Energy Transfer and FERC agreed that no additional pipeline capacity was needed in the Midwest, when ET proposed abandoning their Trunkline natural gas pipeline (FERC Order to Approve Abandonment, CP12-491-000, 2013).  In that order FERC agreed that the company had provided sufficient evidence that current needs could be met with existing infrastructure without the continuation of the Trunkline capacity.  FERC further ruled that comments projecting future increased needs if coal plants were converted to natural gas plants were merely speculative.  We concur with that conclusion, in that future energy needs could also be met with continued growth of energy efficiency and renewables (www.michigan.gov/documents/energy/ee_report_441094_7.pdf and www.michigan.gov/documents/energy/renewable_final_438952_7.pdf).  Any analysis of future natural gas needs in Michigan should also consider the impact of renewables and energy efficiency on those needs.

•      Jobs projections are always speculative, and projections for one project can also be met or exceeded by other projects.  The ET Rover’s projection of 3,000 temporary Michigan jobs for pipeline construction can be met or exceeded by the 100,000 jobs projected from increasing energy efficiency and renewable standards (www.micef.org/index.php/documents), or the jobs created by repairing or replacing our existing aging pipeline infrastructure.

•      Given ET’s current debt status and current market conditions, FERC should consider whether  ET has the capacity to actually complete this project.  (http://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/20140923-at-energy-transfer-shale- boom-brings-big-growth-and-big-debt.ece

Adverse Environmental Impacts
•      Because the final proposed route is still being determined as the deadline for scoping comments approaches, the public may not have adequate opportunity to comment on the actual route.  FERC should extend the opportunity for public comment once the final application is filed.

•      The EIS should include an analysis of the impacts of all the alternative routes, including the Spectra Energy Nexus and the ANR East routes and a no action option, to address the concerns listed below.

•      The proposed route crosses through several watersheds in Michigan, including the River Raisin, the Huron River, the Flint River, the Clinton River, the Belle River, and the St. Clair River.  The EIS should address the impact on these rivers and their fisheries, including the health of the watersheds and the potential impact of invasive species.  Of particular note in the proposed St. Clair River crossing is a fish spawning reef currently under construction (joint project with Fish and Wildlife Service) and designed to provide a spawning area for sturgeon (a threatened and endangered species), whitefish, and walleye.  The fisheries in the St. Clair River are connected by fish migration to both Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair.  The St. Clair River Flats, downstream from the proposed route, is one of the largest fresh water deltas in the world.

•      Depending on the final route, there is potential harm to a number of important wetland and natural areas in Michigan, including the Irish Hills area in Lenawee County, Pinckney Recreation area in Washtenaw and Livingston Counties, and Metamora/Hadley State Recreation Area, Ortonville State Recreation Area, and Sutherland Nature Center in Genesee County, among others.  The EIS should provide an accounting of the total acreage of wetlands that would be affected by each alternative.

•      Likewise, the EIS should provide an accounting of the acreage of forests and woodlots that would be affected by the alternatives.  A number of landowners in rural areas have commented on portions of the route passing through farmland woodlots, orchards, vineyards, and nurseries, with no opportunity for restoration since trees cannot be planted within pipeline rights of way.  Consideration should also be given to the potential for the spread of diseases such as the oak wilt virus if forest and woodlot health is affected.

•      In rural areas, there has been insufficient consideration of the impact on farmlands, including farmer’s access to farm fields during construction and inadequate restoration of topsoil during reclamation.  Temporary plugging or damage to drainage ditches and underground tiling could have affects extending beyond the construction area.  Particular attention must be paid to protection for existing conservation easements, Fish and Wildlife Services contracts for resource conservation, USDA-NRCS Conservation Stewardship and Grassland Reserve Programs, and timber stand improvement contracts.

•      The alternatives should also be assessed for impacts on state and federal threatened and endangered species, including a habitat suitability survey along each route.  For Michigan, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (www.mnfi.anr.msue.edu/explorer/search.cfm) provides the listings for each of the counties on the proposed routes.

•      As part of its environmental review, FERC should estimate the green house gas impacts from the production, transport, and usage of the gas, including methane leakage from the production sites, the pipeline and compressor stations, and the CO2 releases from increased burning of natural gas.  This analysis would be in line with the President’s recently announced targets to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

•      In addition to methane and CO2 emissions, FERC should also calculate other emissions, including benzene, VOCs, arsenic, radium, and other chemicals.

•     Finally, FERC should consider the potential environmental impacts of increased use of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus region as a result of the new markets targeted by this and similar projects.  These impacts include: air and water quality (http://files.dep.state.pa.us/OilGas/BOGM/BOGMPortalFiles/OilGasReports/Determination_Letters/Regional_Determination_Letters.pdf);  health impacts (Concerned Health Professionals of New York. (2014, December 11), Compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction) (2nd ed.). http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/); and worker safety (http://www.eenews.net/login?r=%2Fenergywire%2F2014%2F10%2F20%2Fstories%2F106000753).

Adverse Impact on Landowners and Local Communities
•      Safety impacts are of paramount concern.  The required setbacks from homes and other buildings are insufficient to account for the potential impact radius in the event of an explosion.   The EIS should analyze the safety risks posed by the number of residences within the projected impact radius of the pipeline.

•      Many rural areas are served by small fire departments backed by local volunteer fire fighters, which would be stretched thin in the event of a major explosion or fire.  The EIS should assess the response time and capacity for communities along the route.

•      Local government concerns over the impact of heavy equipment on local roads and bridges must be addressed.  The EIS should assess the potential costs to local communities.

•      Individual landowners are rightfully concerned with the impact of the project on their property values, access to mortgages, and insurance coverage.  Estimates of these costs should be available from previous pipeline construction projects.

•      Landowner complaints have arisen during the pre-filing process concerning the behavior of survey crews and lack of advance information from the company.  Such behavior does little to instill confidence that the company would follow through properly during construction, reclamation, and maintenance in the future.

Thank you for the opportunity to present these concerns.  We look forward to your responses to all of the comments, which have been submitted during this scoping process.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Industrialized farming is ruining Lake Erie again

MLive/Jackson Citizen Patriot opinionBy MLive/Jackson Citizen Patriot opinion 
on September 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM, updated September 15, 2014 at 1:28 PM

In August, when the latest algal bloom in Lake Erie fouled Toledo's water supply, many of its 400,000 residents drove 100 miles to purchase bottled water.
Few recognized the huge animal feeding "farms" that they passed in Ohio and Michigan were the source of the pollution that fed the algae that produce the toxin that poisoned their municipal drinking water.

Dissolved phosphorus from confined animal feeding operation in Ohio and southeast Michigan produces algal blooms in Lake Erie via the River Raisin at Monroe, or as tributaries of the Maumee River emptying into Lake Erie near Toledo.

Blue-green algae, microcystis, produces the potentially lethal toxin, microcystin. Microcystin is costly to treat in public water systems, and at high concentrations impossible to remove.

Pity our Lake Erie.

Cleveland's polluted rivers caught fire in 1972 instigating the Clean Water Act. In the 1980's mismanaged municipal sanitary sewers and phosphate-laden detergents caused vast algal blooms in Lake Erie leading to international and state clean-ups.  

"Dead" Lake Erie rebounded after phosphorus reduction strategies worked then. Now the newest technology, industrialized farming, is ruining Lake Erie again.

No doubt the source of the phosphorus that feeds the algal fouling of Lake Erie that poisoned Toledo's water supply is agricultural runoff into the Maumee River.

Liquid manure applied improperly on Ohio and Michigan CAFO fields runs directly into the tributaries of the Maumee.

The question remains: Why do the great states of Ohio and Michigan allow a heavily subsidized industry, CAFOs, to threaten the water quality and health of their citizens?
State regulators, starting with MDEQ's Jackson District, administer CAFOs in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties.

MDEQ should enforce existing clean water regulations, and close those CAFOs that have racked up thousands of violations.

Michigan and Ohio should ban the risky application of liquid manure during the frozen winter months.

Soil tests for pathogens and high phosphorus concentrations should be done twice per year instead of once every three years.

CAFOs receive multi-million dollar federal and state subsidies to build giant lagoons for the animal waste produced by the unfortunate thousands of animal that are confined there.

CAFOs in SE Michigan produce billions of pounds of untreated animal waste annually.  Without these "agricultural" subsidies" and lax enforcement of clean water standards CAFOs would close in a week.

Want a $300,000 tractor? Apply for an AG subsidy. Want to spray untreated animal waste on your fields in volumes unabsorbable? The government will pay for your pumps.

From extreme nutrient loading to virulent drug resistant pathogens Lake Erie is again the sacrificial water.

Governmental regulators are well aware of the threat to Lake Erie, but have done little to save it.

"Right to Farm" proponents and international CAFO investors have sway. Still, staring down at the chartreuse stew flowing into county drains adjacent to subsidized CAFOs, one wonders, "Is industrialized CAFO agriculture sustainable"? No way.

 — Mark Muhich lives in Summit Township and is the conservation chairman of the Central Michigan Group Sierra Club.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind


HELIGOLAND, Germany — Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.
It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.
Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power.

More ...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coast Guard: We can't adequately respond to Great Lakes heavy oil spill

By Keith Matheny

Detroit Free Press staff writer

The U.S. Coast Guard and other responders are not adequately equipped or prepared for a “heavy oil” spill on the Great Lakes, according to a Coast Guard commander who is pushing for action.
A major oil spill could spell economic disaster for the states in the Great Lakes region, severely damaging the multibillion-dollar fishing and recreational boating industries and killing off wildlife.
Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard’s District 9, which includes the Great Lakes, said everyone involved in spill response on the Great Lakes is moving with a sense of urgency to come up with a plan to address a major spill.
But they haven’t found a way forward yet.
“When you get environmental groups, technical experts, oil spill recovery groups and regulators together, that’s how you find what’s the best way ahead,” Midgette said Tuesday at an international forum on heavy oils at the Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority attended by a cooperative of oil and chemical spill professionals.
Midgette said he was particularly concerned that response plans and organizations “are not capable of responding to heavy oil spills, particularly in open-water scenarios,” in an Aug. 20 memo to the Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations.
That’s a serious issue, said David Holtz, Michigan chairman for the nonprofit Sierra Club.

“How can Michigan and the Great Lakes be in a position where two large oil pipelines are operating underneath the Straits of Mackinac, and the lead responders — the first responders to an oil spill — say they couldn’t respond effectively if something happened to those pipes?” he said.

The Coast Guard’s warning, based on its 2013 study, comes as Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant convene a task force looking at petroleum pipeline safety throughout Michigan and the state’s preparedness for spills — including on the more than 60-year-old pipelines operated by Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
The Coast Guard noted other vulnerable locations, including,\ oil pipelines running under the St. Clair River between Marysville and Sarnia, Ontario, and near Niagara Falls and Buffalo.
The study also cited the interest by a Superior, Wis., company, Calumet Specialty Product Partners, L.P., and others, to establish a dock to facilitate Great Lakes oil shipping by barges out of western Lake Superior. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources dealt that effort a setback in January — requiring an involved environmental assessment — but it could eventually continue.
The Coast Guard Research and Development Center’s June 2013 final report was frank on the limitations in dealing with heavy oil that sinks below the surface and makes traditional skimming recovery methods ineffective.
“Current methods are inadequate to find and recover submerged oil, with responders having to reinvent the techniques on each occasion,” the report states, later adding, “Responses to recent higher profile submerged oil spills have shown responders have almost no capability in detection and recovery.”
Those high-profile spills include the July 2010 spill near Marshall, where an Enbridge oil transmission pipeline burst while carrying diluted bitumen or dilbit, a sludgy oil product thinned for transport typically using petroleum-based thinning agents.
The oil spill overwhelmed Talmadge Creek, a tributary to the Kalamazoo River, as well as a long stretch of the river. As the diluents evaporated, the heavier oil sank to the river bottom, combining with sediments, churned by the rushing water and complicating cleanup. Enbridge has spent more than $1 billion on the cleanup effort, which still is not complete more than four years later.
The Marshall spill showed that no community is ready to adequately respond to a heavy oil spill, said Beth Wallace, an environmental consultant who has worked to spotlight issues related to oil pipeline transport.
The Coast Guard report is “just a scary scenario for the Great Lakes,” she said. “I would hope that the governor, with the pipeline safety task force, will take a hard look at this.”
Oil companies need to do more in the way of transparency and financially providing for the necessary response if their products spill, Wallace said. And while the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration oversees many petroleum pipeline safety issues, it is typically not there when a spill occurs, she said. That’s left to local communities’ first responders or the Coast Guard if the spill occurs on a major water body.
Complications include that oil companies use a variety of products as diluents in dilbit that can have varying effects on what happens with the oil when it spills, experts said — and the companies often keep those diluents a trade secret. Other factors affecting how a heavy oil spill behaves include temperature and water conditions.
Even finding and tracking submerged oil is a challenge, said Kurt Hansen, a project manager at the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center at New London, Conn., specializing in oil spill response.
“Once the oil goes below the surface, that sets a whole new set of problems,” he said. “You’re going to have to figure out if it’s coming back up in tiny little droplets, because that’s going to need one set of recovery response and surveillance. Or, if it goes to the bottom in a clump, that’s going to need another set of response.
“And if it mixes with the silt and sand and dirt at the bottom, that’s going to need even a third set of response and information that you need.”
While responders are ready in most cases for surface oil spills, responding to a sinking oil spill requires pulling together equipment and response capability from a variety of locations — costing precious time, Hansen noted. What’s needed, he said, is pulling those capabilities together beforehand.
“Right now, there are no hard requirements for those systems,” he said. “Somebody’s going to have to look at the legal aspects of that, at what you can require.”
Said Holtz: “Speed is everything. So if the Coast Guard has to go to other places to get what they need to deal with a Great Lakes oil spill, that’s got to change. Either that or stop having pipelines in the Great Lakes.”
Contact Keith Matheny: 313-222-5021 or kmatheny@freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @keithmatheny.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chemical Air Pollution Around The Tar Sands Is Getting Worse

Chemical Air Pollution Around The Tar Sands Is Getting Worse, Data Shows


Environmental activist Tom Steyer stands in from of the Syncrude tar sands facility in Alberta, Canada.
Environmental activist Tom Steyer stands in front of the Syncrude tar sands facility in Alberta, Canada.
Chemical air pollution surrounding the primary areas where tar sands oil is mined and processed in Canada is on the rise, according to new data released by the Alberta government.
The 2012 data released Thursday showed that levels of both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide — chemicals that help cause acid rain, smog, and myriad health problems — haverisen to levels two and three on a government-set scale of four at several monitoring sites between Fort McMurray and Fort McKay. Level four is the highest limit allowed to protect human health, but the report said levels two and three are still cause for concern and that there should be further investigation into the source of pollution. Nitrogen dioxide is also a greenhouse gas.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Toledo panic shows Great Lakes at risk

August 7, 2014 at 1:00 am  
Toledo panic shows Great Lakes at risk  
Gail Philbin

Toledo’s recent bout with poisoned drinking water should serve as a huge wake-up call to Michigan to take seriously the link between factory farming, water pollution and public health.

The story of how dangerous levels of a toxin ended up in the water supply of Ohio’s fourth-largest city is in large part the story of how we grow our food today and who decides what are considered good farming practices. The impetus for Toledo’s weekend water ban was microcystin, a toxin experts say can cause diarrhea, vomiting or abnormal liver function that probably formed in a recent algae bloom in Lake Erie. The soupy, pea-green growth in one of our Great Lakes is an increasingly common occurrence fed in part by phosphorus run-off from southern Michigan fields applied with commercial fertilizer or factory farm waste.

Why all the fertilizer and animal waste in our water? Because we eat lots of meat, dairy, poultry and eggs. The United States is the largest producer of corn in the world. Eighty percent of what we grow is consumed not by people but by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry and fish production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Vast monocultures of corn require large amounts of fertilizer to grow.

We also like cheap food and buy products that come from industrial-scale, concentrated livestock facilities, many of which have been constructed in the last decade in western Lake Erie watersheds that include southern Michigan.

Such operations are favored by federal Farm Bill subsidies that keep their product prices artificially low. This taxpayer-funded support often goes to help construct manure lagoons and other systems for handling the huge amount of waste factory farms generate. Even so, it can end up polluting nearby waterways, as shown in the 2013 report, Restoring the Balance to Michigan’s Farming Landscape. The current subsidy system rewards polluters, giving an unfair advantage over healthy, sustainable livestock farms.

More ...
Lake Erie algal bloom, photo by Tom Archer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Michigan Conservatives Team Up To Support Clean Energy

A group of Republican leaders in Michigan are pushing the state to diversify its energy sources, an objective they say has been the domain of liberals only for too long.
The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, which launched Tuesday, aims to get Michigan to adopt an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes renewable energy sources. The group’s statement of principles explains that pushing for clean, renewable energy makes sense for multiple reasons — it’s in line with the Christian tenet of being Earth’s stewards; it makes America safer by reducing our reliance on foreign oil; it’s in line with what voters in Michigan want, and will make the state’s Republicans more relevant to younger generations of voters.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sierra Club launches sustainable agriculture testimonials, Western Michigan University student project

Rosemary Parker | rparker3@mlive.comBy Rosemary Parker | rparker3@mlive.com 
Follow on Twitter
on June 26, 2014 at 8:54 AM, updated June 26, 2014 at 8:57 AM

KALAMAZOO, MI -- How do Michigan farmers and consumers feel about food from local farmers?

Since last month Erin Denay has been posing that question at farmers markets across the state to create enough video snippets to roll out one a day during the  month of July, part of a collaborative project with Sierra Club, said Gail Philbin, assistant director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

"We really want consumers and farmers already involved in the sustainable agriculture  scene to understand there are people supporting them," said Denay, 22, of Bay City. She is a senior at Western Michigan University majoring in environmental and sustainability studies and organizational communication.

Sustainable agriculture, she said, is farming that "revolves around the well-being of the surrounding environment, people, and animals while producing healthy, high-quality food that protects the quality of the land and water for future generations.

In the series of one-minute video testimonials produced by the Less=More sustainable agriculture coalition, Michigan residents talk about why meat, dairy, poultry and eggs that are locally grown under humane conditions are important to them, their communities and local economies, a news release from Sierra Club said.

"Sustainable agriculture is farming that revolves around the well-being of the surrounding environment, people, and animals," Denay said, " so as to produce healthy, high-quality food that protects the quality of the land and water for future generations."

"We want them to know we are here for them," Denay said, "and to draw more attention and tax dollars to them," the farms practicing sustainable agriculture methods.

Maynard Beery of Beery Farms in Middleville, for instance, told Denay that though he could not keep up with soaring demand for his grass fed beef "there is no way that I can compete with a 50,000 animal feedlot. They're happy if they wind up with $10 a head in profit and no, that's not going to support myself and my son."

Farm subsidies for which he  currently does not qualify would allow his farm to expand, he said.

The project also hopes to let people know there are 300 farmers markets in Michigan, and lots of choices when it comes to shopping for food. "We want to illuminate the opportunities to eat local, sustainable healthy food," Denay said.

What were the most promising findings of Denay's interviews?

"The appetite, pardon the pun, for local, healthy food is alive and well in Michigan," Philbin said.

The series kicks off July 1 with the release of the testimonial of Jill Johnson and Mary Wills of Crane Dance Farm in Middleville via Less=More's Twitter account, @MoreforMichigan, and its Facebook page.

The remainder of that week the videos feature Kalamazoo farmers and consumers, Denay said.

"Being involved with this project has made me so much more aware of the healthy, high-quality food that is being made available by small-scale sustainable farmers in Michigan communities," Denay said. "I want this testimonial series to really highlight the wonderful things they are doing and why they deserve our support so they can succeed and grow and continue to provide for their communities."

Sierra Club believes issues such as antibiotic overuse, the viability of local economies,  climate change, fair wages and working conditions for workers and animal welfare can be traced back to how food is grown.

"Many consumers are searching for a way to have some control over the food they eat because they are disillusioned or disgusted with the industrial food system," she said. "Growing your own food or buying from local farmers they know is a good way to do that."

Sierra Club is a member of the Less=More Coalition, producers of the video series. The group is made up of national, state and local organizations as well as consumers and farmers who support sustainable agriculture and seek to level the playing field for sustainable livestock farmers.

Specifically, the coalition is tackling inequities in the subsidy system that the coalition argues is weighted toward concentrated livestock operations.

In 2013, the coalition's report "Restoring the Balance to Michigan's Farming Landscape" noted that some farms continue to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies even when they have been fined for violations of environmental law and blasted the farm subsidy system for favoring concentrated animal feeding operations in the award of funds.

Less=More members include: Beery Farms of Michigan, LLC, the Center for Food Safety, Crane Dance Farm, LLC, ELFCO Food Cooperative, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, Food & Water Watch, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Groundswell Farm, Zeeland, Humane Society of the United States, Michigan Farmers Union, Michigan Small Farm Council, Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Young Farmers Coalition, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

The coalition is also asking people to contribute their own food stories to the series. For more information on submitting a testimonial, email:Moreformichigansc@gmail.com

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gov. Snyder and lawmakers urged to take steps to meet EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan

Gov. Snyder and lawmakers urged to take steps to meet EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan
This guest post was written by Sue Browne, Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance.
On Tuesday at the Michigan AFL-CIO offices in Lansing, labor and environmental leaders called on Governor Snyder and state and local lawmakers to take the lead in crafting a flexible state plan to help Michigan meet its emissions reduction targets, as laid out in EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The plan includes the first ever proposal of its kind to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants—while also expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts that create jobs across the state.
Mike Schulte, a staff representative with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Bryan Grochowski of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Dave Holtz Chair of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter also advocated for renewing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which is set to expire next year.
The RPS is not only saving consumers on their energy bills, but can also help the state to meet the emissions reductions targets laid out by EPA. “We can’t start soon enough on the important conversations about how to make these standards work best for Michigan,” said Mike Schulte with CWA. “It is important that Governor Snyder, lawmakers and community leaders begin the work of finding out which actions best build on our economic strengths while achieving the necessary reductions in carbon emissions.”

The leaders urged Michigan lawmakers and Governor Snyder to craft a proposal that responsibly reduces carbon pollution from key sources, upgrades infrastructure, and expands clean energy and energy efficient technologies. They emphasized that doing so will build on the progress Michigan has already made in clean energy technology—spurred by state policies like the Renewable Portfolio Standard—while creating and maintaining middle class jobs and helping to revitalize the state’s manufacturing sector.
“We are working to ensure that Michigan’s leaders will get to work crafting compliance mechanisms that are best suited to the local and regional economies,” said Bryan Grochowski with SEIU. “We need solutions that will protect existing jobs—while reducing carbon pollution—and create new job opportunities, encourage investment, and jumpstart new technologies.”
The group said the Clean Power Plan is a step forward as America works to tackle the effects of climate change, while also ensuring power reliability and fostering economic stability.
Michigan’s clean economy is helping power the state’s recovery, employing more than 76,000 workers. As Michigan expands its clean energy production, the renewable energy industry could support nearly 21,000 jobs in manufacturing alone by 2020, if the industry sources components from local manufacturers. 

“Michigan has made great progress in clean energy technology and that’s been spurred by state policies like the Renewable Portfolio Standard,” said Dave Holtz with Sierra Club. “Clean, renewable energy has created and maintained middle class jobs and helped revitalize the state’s manufacturing sector. Our progress will stall if the state’s standard is allowed to expire in 2015.” In the third quarter of 2013, Michigan ranked fourth in the nation in clean energy jobs announced. Michigan’s clean energy sector supports 20,500 jobs and $5 billion in annual economic activity.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Official Price of the Enbridge Kalamazoo Spill, A Whopping $1,039,000,000

Mon, 2013-08-26 14:26CAROL LINNITT
Carol Linnitt's picture

Official Price of the Enbridge Kalamazoo Spill, A Whopping $1,039,000,000

Enbridge Kalamazoo oil spill
The largest onshore oil spill in US history - Enbridge'sruptured Line 6B that released nearly 3 million liters of tar sands diluted bitumen into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan - finally has an official price tag: $1,039,000,000 USD. That's according tonewly disclosed figures released by Enbridge in aRevised Application to expand another one of its pipelines, the Alberta Clipper.
The total cost, which includes clean up and remediation, was topped off with an additional $3,699,200 fine levied by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). According to the docket, Enbridge violated several laws involving pipeline management, procedural manuals for operations and maintenance, public awareness, accident reporting and qualifications among others.
The spill, which went unaddressed for over 17 hours, was exacerbated by Enbridge's failed response according to the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). At a hearing last year the NTSB's chair Deborah Hersman likened the company to a band of Keystone Kops for their bungled response, which included twice pumping additional crude into the line - accounting for 81 percent of the total release - before initiating emergency shut down. The disaster revealed numerous internal problems within Enbridge that were further described by the NTSB as “pervasive organizational failures.”
Communities along Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan experienced sickness from the fumes associated with the spilled dilbit, or diluted bitumen, that blanketed miles of intersecting wetlands and waterways. Dilbit is a mixture of heavy oil from the Alberta tar sands and corrosive liquid chemicals, including benzene known to cause cancer in humans, that allow the viscous crude to flow.
The particular composition of dilbit is in part responsible for the spill's high costs - nearly 10 times more than any other onshore spill - because of dilbit from the tar sands which sinks in water, rather than floating like conventional oil. Enbridge, despite several attempts to clear the riverbed of remaining oil, spent nearly 3 years working on clean up of submerged oil.
As recently as March 2013 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Enbridge toperform additional dredging in the Kalamazoo to clean up unrecovered oil along the river's bottom.
At the time of the spill Mark Durno, a deputy incident commander with the EPA told InsideClimate News “submerged oil is what makes this thing more unique than even the Gulf of Mexico situation.” Because Enbridge did not disclose to federal and local officials the contents of the pipeline, it wasn't until a week later that responders knew what they were dealing with.
PHMSA records show that the defect that led to the 6 and a half foot gash in the side of Line 6B was detected at least three times before the incident, although neither Enbridge nor the federal regulator felt the damage required repair.
In a recently-released report addressing Enbridge's Line 9, pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz claimed Enbridge “has a culture where safety management seems to not be a critical part of their operation.”
Currently Enbridge has several proposed pipeline plans including the Northern Gateway Pipelinethat would carry tar sands crude to the British Columbia coast and Line 9 that would transport tar sands crude to the eastern seaboard. Both lines would open the coasts to export opportunities. Local communities point to Kalamazoo and sinking dilbit as reasons coastal ports should not consider carrying tar sands crude on oil tankers bound for Asian or other shores.
Enbridge's most current application, a 'Certificate of Need for a Crude Oil Pipeline,' was presented to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this month as a part of Enbridge's “ongoing efforts to meet North America's needs for reliable and secure transportation of petroleum energy supplies” via the Alberta Clipper.
The Alberta Clipper, or Line 67, will increase its capacity from 570,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 800,000 bpd should the application be approved. The application is the second phase of Enbridge's proposed capacity increase for the Alberta Clipper. The first application, filed October 8, 2012, initially proposed the line be increased to 570,000 from 450,000 bpd.
Currently the line carries crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to terminal facilities in Superior, Wisonsin where the line meets up with Enbridge's Mainline System for distribution across the US.
Image Credit: EPA

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Court upholds UP ethanol plant review but project likely dropped

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had assessed the project’s implications for forest resources, wetlands and air quality. That review “adequately supported its finding that the plant would not have significant impact on the environment,” the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
But Sierra Club forest ecologist Marvin Roberson called the promised federal grant “a boondoggle then and it’s even more of a boondoggle now. “It takes so much wood that we thought it was a lousy use of our forest resources,” said Roberson, who is based in Marquette County. “It’s not just an environmental issue or just an economic issue. Are we going to use a whole boatload of our resources and produce very little energy?” he said.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Menu for success — renewables, efficiency

June 4, 2014

Menu for success — renewables, efficiency

Cherryland Electric Cooperative’s Tony Anderson (May 5 forum) says no single energy source can protect our environment and pocketbooks; our “energy plate’s” main course must be coal, natural gas, or nuclear, with energy efficiency and renewables sprinkled on top.
His recipe is upside down; sticking with it will cook our goose. In fact, the goose is in the oven: Michigan’s energy recipe is 49 percent coal, 25 percent nuclear power, and 20 percent gas, with just 5 percent renewables (headed for 10 percent, thanks to state law) and 1 percent efficiency per year sprinkled on top. Those main ingredients have problems.
Coal’s costs far outweigh its benefits. Prices are high because fuel transportation and mining costs are growing very expensive. And importing it annually exports $1.2 billion to coal states.
Pollution from Michigan’s nine oldest coal plants annually cost us $1.5 billion in health care. Also their mercury emissions make some fish in every lake and river dangerous dining. Coal’s high carbon emissions cause climate disruption, which is linked to historically low Great Lakes water levels and destruction of cherry and apple crops.
Natural gas is cleaner than coal, with half the carbon, but fracking goes far beyond traditional extraction. It drills deeper vertically and farther horizontally, permanently poisons 100 times more fresh water, and injects toxic stews into the ground. There were 170 contaminated water sites, including well water, in the northern Michigan area reported in 2009. There have been at least 10 accidental and deliberate fracking fluid spills and oil and gas accidents since 2010 in our immediate area. Some heavily fracked states have endured unsafe drinking water, higher toxic air pollution levels, and soil and water contamination.
Nuclear ties up huge financial and natural resources, and poses grave safety and health problems in any serious accident. South Haven’s Palisades plant reported seven leaks since 2012; six caused shutdowns.
Renewables cannot be just sprinkles on top. New wind power is far cheaper than new coal, is just as reliable, pollutes nothing, and keeps more hard-earned dollars cycling through Michigan’s economy rather than headed to Wyoming.
Solar power prices are half what they were a few years ago; energy efficiency measures are the cheapest form of power; Gov. Rick Snyder’s renewables and efficiency reports find room for big servings of both — far healthier fare with the same tab.
We don’t have to consume dirty energy that hampers our health, economy, and Great Lakes. Our state’s elected leaders should increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard and prod those monopolies to foster new, clean-energy developments that replace lost tax revenues and produce new jobs.
This is no fantasy: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana are following a regional energy plan that uses wind power and efficiency to move almost entirely away from fossil fuels and hydroelectricity by 2030.
Renewables and efficiency must be our main course. For dessert, we’ll enjoy strong economic and public health, plenty of jobs, and national leadership in the unstoppable, global, clean-energy economy.
About the author: Rebecca Estelle-Skeels is chair of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Clearwater Conservation Committee. which covers Kalkaska, Antrim, Otsego, Crawford, Missaukee and Roscommon Counties.