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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Enbridge Line 5 saga imperils Michigan business

, The Detroit NewsPublished 11:58 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2017

Michigan business should pay closer attention to Enbridge Energy Partners LP’s rolling disclosures about missing coating on its Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
The corrosion represents far more than an environmental threat to the Great Lakes state, arguably the chief custodian of 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. A rupture at the heads of lakes Huron and Michigan could have major implications for automakers and utilities, health care companies and airlines, agriculture and “Pure Michigan” tourism.

“The state’s business community needs to get serious about the risk this poses to them — and they simply haven’t,” Patrick Anderson, CEO of the East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, said in an interview Wednesday. “Many of our largest businesses face risks they can’t quantify.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Michigan bill looks to clarify tax exemptions for distributed generation projects

A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers introduced a bill last week that aims to clear up confusion over tax collections for small-scale distributed generation projects.

Read more ...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fish farm on Au Sable River 'clearly violates' law, judge says

Garret Ellison | gellison@mlive.com
GRAYLING, MI - A judge questioned the use of public property for a private fish farm on the East Branch of the Au Sable River.
Anglers of the Au Sable River filed a lawsuit against Harrietta Hills Fish Farm - which operates an old state fish hatchery - alleging that it pollutes the downstream fishery with fish waste and uneaten food.
Crawford County Circuit Judge George Mertz said that Anglers of the Au Sable River has no legal standing to challenge alleged violations of public-use restrictions and deed restrictions. Only the state has the right to sue - not a private citizen or group.
But, he said: "This Court would find that there is no question of fact that the operation of a private commercial fish farm clearly violates the statute and the deed restrictions. ... (I)t is clear that the intent of the state in granting the property to the County was that it remain open and used for the benefit of the general public for recreating, fishing, and historical purposes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How advocates helped lead Michigan’s capital city to a future without coal

The impending closure of the Otto E. Eckert coal plant is one factor guiding Lansing, Michigan's utility planning process.

Nearly 10 years ago, the municipally owned Lansing Board of Water & Light floated plans for a new $1 billion coal-fired power plant to replace an aging coal plant just south of the capital city’s downtown.
While utility planning for the future looked quite different then, the proposal was met with swift backlash from many in the greater Lansing community who saw coal as a step backward. The BWL also wasn’t alone among Michigan utilities at the time planning a future with more coal.
Based on public pressure and years-long community engagement, the BWL ended up building a 100 megawatt (MW) gas-powered cogeneration plant to effectively replace the 375 MW Eckert Plant.
But less than 10 miles west of Eckert, the BWL owns another coal plant, the 160 MW Erickson Plant. Over the years, Erickson — completed in 1973 — had a less defined future with vague, moving targets of when it might be closed down.
By early 2014, though, the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club had been looking into the two plants, finding a long history of self-reported air pollution violations. This provided an in-road for action, according to the group, which issued a notice of intent to sue the BWL in March 2015 over more than 3,500 self-reported violations at the two plants between 2009 and 2013.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Great Nutrient Collapse

The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse. And almost nobody is paying attention.

Irakli Loladze is a mathematician by training, but he was in a biology lab when he encountered the puzzle that would change his life. It was in 1998, and Loladze was studying for his Ph.D. at Arizona State University. Against a backdrop of glass containers glowing with bright green algae, a biologist told Loladze and a half-dozen other graduate students that scientists had discovered something mysterious about zooplankton.

Read more ...

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

Talk is getting us nowhere on Line 5

The issue: Line 5 concerns continue to stack up
Our view: Inability to set a deadline is as bad as inaction
Deadlines make the world work.
Clear and rigid expectations set for entire teams of employees or businesses put newspapers on doorsteps by sunrise, ensure parts are manufactured when needed and force governments into action. Deadlines are a function of modern society we begin encountering moments after birth.
That's why state officials' inability to set deadlines when it comes to the elderly twin oil pipelines that run beneath the Mackinac Straits is so frustrating. It takes courage to set deadlines, because deadlines require action.
Enbridge's 64-year-old Line 5 flows up to 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Great Lakes each day, a route that, if proposed today, would be hands-down unacceptable because of the grave risk it poses to our state's namesake natural resources. Yet, those pipes remain in use today simply because they're there, not because they are the best technology, or safest option available to move oil.

Monday, August 14, 2017

For the first time Democratic candidates for governor went on the record on Line 5

"Three of the four felt that the Enbridge Line 5, the oil pipeline that runs near the Mackinac Bridge, should be shut down. Whitmer said she was willing to listen to "solid science" before deciding, but emphasized that safety was paramount."

David Holtz
Mobile & Text: 313-300-4454

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More than 23,000 support decommissioning Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

Oil & Water Don't Mix
A few days ago, the state’s Line 5 public comment period closed. More than 23,000 of us voiced support for decommissioning Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.
Thank you for taking the time and caring enough about protecting the Great Lakes to submit your comments. Your comments helped make a huge impact! More than 11,000 people signed our official public comment petition, and another 10,356 people submitted postcards to the state calling on officials to stop the flow of oil in the Great Lakes.

Map of SupportersSo many supporters from all over the map care about the Great Lakes

We can’t predict when Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette will take action on Line 5. What we can say is that only with your continued support will we win this fight to save the Great Lakes from a devastating oil spill.

David Holtz
Coordinator, Oil & Water Don't Mix campaign

PS:  The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign put all its resources on the field this summer to make sure we made a big impact during the state’s public comment period. Please consider helping us refuel for the fall by supporting the campaign to stop the flow of oil in the Great Lakes with your financial contribution. Thank you!

Oil & Water Don't Mix

Learn more about the Movement.
Visit: www.oilandwaterdontmix.org
Follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Oil & Water Don't Mix
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Friday, August 11, 2017

Great Lakes Great Communities: Blog Post #2

Ryan Anderson and Marvin Bell were Doris Duke Conservation Scholars at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor interning with the Sierra Club as Great Lakes Water Protection and Conservation Interns during Summer 2017. Ryan is from Salt Lake City, Utah, and will be a senior at Brown University. Marvin is from Bridgeport, Conn., and will be a senior at Amherst College. Below is the second post of their two-part series about their experience with the Sierra Club. To read their first post, click here.

As Great Lakes Water Protection and Conservation interns at the Sierra Club this summer, we worked on a variety of water related projects, interacted with the Detroit community, and continued to forward the Club’s mission through various online platforms. With the guidance of Erma Leaphart, Gail Philbin and Dorthea Thomas we were able to develop a greater understanding of the environmental concerns most pressing to Detroit, such as storm water management, combined sewer overflows, flooding, and pollution of the Great Lakes. Other water issues include water affordability, access to clean water, and the economic burden posed by its aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

Outside of our academic introduction to these environmental and environmental justice issues, we were encouraged to supplement our research through community engagement efforts. From rain garden workshops, green infrastructure tours and  several Detroit City Council Green Task Force meetings, we were able to garner a diverse understanding of the ways that different green groups are working toward Detroit’s goal of becoming one of the greenest cities in the country.  Also, we had the opportunity to attend several Detroit City Council meetings where we were able to witness the political process first hand. At these meetings, Detroit residents have the opportunity to speak before the Council, express their grievances, and request the support of their elected official. We were also able to see how grassroots organizers utilize the political process to promote their organizational goals.

A seminal part of our internship was the chance to witness a significant portion of a green infrastructure implementation process, specifically through the ‘Rain Gardens to the Rescue’ program in which rain gardens are awarded to applicants that express interest and are also community leaders willing to share their knowledge with others. The program is a collaboration between Sierra Club, Friends of the Rouge and Keep Growing Detroit. 

Our internship kicked off with a bus tour of previously planted rain gardens in Detroit. The tour gave this year’s rain garden recipients an opportunity to see how successful rain gardens operate. The next step of the process consisted of site visits where we helped residents estimate the size and location of their future garden. At this stage, we also walked recipients through the planting process including what to expect on planting day. The rest of the process included attending a series of workshops that guided recipients through native plant selection, garden design, and rain barrel construction. We regret that we will not be present for the planting and garden installations as our fellowship concludes at the end of July. We are grateful, however, for our opportunity to learn from our mentors at the Sierra Club and all the community members we met along the way.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The State’s Orphaned Line 5 Studies

The State’s Orphaned Line 5 Studies

There’s really no better way to describe the mess that is the state’s process for determining the fate of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac than to say it is screwed up beyond all recognition or repair. Or FUBAR if you are familiar with the military’s more direct slang for screwed up.
A $756,000 Line 5 study lies abandoned by state officials who say they were counting on it to make a strong case against Enbridge’s claims its 64-year-old pipelines present little risk to the Great Lakes. The risk assessment analysis—child of a state process and midwifed with oil industry money and influence—is now orphaned. Its twin sister—a state alternatives study riddled with errors, omissions and bias—is on life support. Recall that we were told a year ago these studies would give the state what it needed to make a decision about Line 5’s future. It now appears that any decision about Line 5 may be months if not years away. Meanwhile, concerns grow about the pipeline’s condition.
Moreover, since problems with both studies are linked to ties with Enbridge one wonders if it wasn’t Enbridge’s plan all along to sabotage them. Delay is Enbridge’s friend. The Canadian pipeline transport giant’s $1.5 billion in earnings the first six months of this year include many millions from Line 5 oil being carried across the Straits through Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. It’s no accident that Enbridge’s strongest Line 5 support outside the oil industry comes from Canadian energy and government officials.
So how did we get here? The risk assessment died just days before its scheduled release in late June and was near completion when state officials discovered that a key consultant hired to do worst-case oil spill modeling on Line 5 for the state was doing the same thing for Enbridge at the same time. That conflict of interest prompted officials to scuttle the risk assessment entirely, refusing to even take delivery on the final product. They are now sitting on $756,000 of Enbridge’s money intended to pay for the risk assessment and they claim to be trying to figure out what to do next. State officials say whatever worst-case oil spill projections would come from the tainted study likely benefit Enbridge’s interests. But the reality is we may never know unless the state takes possession of the study and releases it to the public. And there’s at least some evidence from a preliminary assessment presented at a May workshop that the risk assessment may have been on track to determine that a worst-case oil spill could potentially impact up to 500 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. That’s closer to what a University of Michigan study concluded and a much bigger spill footprint than in the much-criticized draft alternatives study.
What also raises questions is that a key document requested by the state’s contractor, DNV, called a Facilities Response Plan, was heavily redacted by Enbridge. The Facilities Response Plan is Enbridge’s detailed oil spill response plan filed with the federal government and generally not made available to the public. It was to be used by DNV in determining the effectiveness of oil spill recovery in a worst-case scenario and essential for figuring out the extent of environmental and economic damage from a big spill. DNV, in an email flagged high priority, told state officials on June 16 the censored Enbridge Facility Response Plan was basically useless. It was four days later on June 20 that the state announced it was cancelling the risk assessment study. Just a coincidence? Again, we may never know.
A second study that examined alternatives to Line 5 didn’t bother doing the required worst-case oil spill analysis and even state officials who hired the firm sharply criticized the report’s failures. The fact that the lead company that authored the alternatives study has business ties to Enbridge bolstered the case made by Sierra Club and others that it was clearly biased in favor of Enbridge’s interests. Pages of errors and omissions in the study were submitted during the state’s public comment period that ended Friday, including from the state agencies themselves.
So what happens now? That was a question I posed yesterday during a meeting with Michigan Energy Agency Director Valerie Brader and Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether. Brader and Grether, who co-chair the governor’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, are in charge of the Line 5 studies. Neither, it turns out, have a plan for how to complete the study process. And there’s no framework or clearly identifiable path to reaching a decision on Line 5. With just 17 months left of a Snyder administration I asked Grether and Brader if there’s any urgency to getting the Line 5 job finished before they move on. “We have to do this as quickly as possible,” said Brader.
It might seem to some that Snyder and Schuette are running out the clock and hoping that each day that passes isn’t one day closer to being accountable for an economic and environmental disaster in the Straits on their watch. It’s been two years since Snyder and Schuette’s pipeline task force said the state should look at alternatives to the most dangerous oil pipelines in the Great Lakes basin. It’s been seven years since another Enbridge pipeline spilled 1.2 million gallons of oil along the Kalamazoo River and attention began focusing on the threat to the Great Lakes from Line 5.
The sole identifiable decision and only legally enforceable action being taken by the state involves whether the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality gives Enbridge a permit to install 22 new anchors along Line 5 in the Straits, several of them in areas where they will shore up a section of the pipeline that is bent and potentially damaged. Local residents and environmental groups want the DEQ to condition the permit on a comprehensive look at Line 5 throughout the nearly 5-mile path it takes in the Straits.
A big reason for the request is that for years—perhaps decades—the pipelines lacked proper supports. Did the massively powerful Straits currents and shifting, eroding lake bottom jar and compromise the pipelines? It seems likely and at least one independent engineer—Dr. Ed Timm—is convinced it has. Timm and others submitted convincing testimony during the July 25 permit hearing in St. Ignace but it isn’t clear the DEQ is listening. Most are betting the DEQ will give Enbridge what it wants–a blank check to not only install anchors but ensure they strengthen their claims about Line 5’s safety and lay the groundwork for increased oil transport through the Straits.
What many fear is that the state’s troubled Line 5 study process will grind on until 2017 becomes the 2018 election year for governor and attorney general and then 2018 turns to 2019 and we have a new governor and attorney general who may want to start the whole process all over again. All of the study problems and the delays benefit Enbridge, of course. They plan to continue pumping oil through their Straits pipelines and making money indefinitely—that is until the pipelines rupture.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sierra Club Line 5 Comments to MDEQ, Michigan AG and Michigan DoE

August 3, 2017
Director Heidi Grether Michigan Department of Environmental Quality P.O. Box 30458
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7958
Ms. Valerie Brader Executive Director Michigan Agency for Energy Attn: Line 5 Pipeline Study P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7958
Director Keith Creagh
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Executive Division
P.O. Box 30028
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Attorney General Bill Schuette
G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 West Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, Michigan 48909



We are writing to submit public comment on the Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc.’s June 27, 2017, Draft Final Report – Alternatives Analysis for the Straits Pipeline (“Line 5 alternatives draft report” or “draft report”) prepared for the State of Michigan concerning the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits. This submission is in addition to comments submitted on behalf of Sierra Club and other organizations by the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign.

In these supplemental comments, Sierra Club will focus on the following three errors and omissions in the report:

  1. Failure to recognize that decommissioning Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac is the only alternative that will prevent an oil spill with catastrophic consequences for the Great Lakes and the State of Michigan.
  2. Unfair bias towards building a tunneled pipeline.
  3. Serious conflict of interest concerns and failure to provide the state with an independent, fair analysis of the alternatives to Line 5. 

Decommissioning Line 5 is the only alternative to prevent an oil spill

As stated in comments submitted on Sierra Club’s behalf by Oil & Water Don’t Mix, we believe the state must end its delay in taking action on Line 5 and exercise its authority through enforcement of its 1953 easement, an agreement that Enbridge has consistently violated. Moreover, the Alternatives Analysis itself makes a strong case for decommissioning Line 5 if the interests of Michigan’s citizens are a priority over the commercial interests of Enbridge.

Despite the study’s bias toward Enbridge’s interest, the draft report clearly documents the fact that less than 5% of crude oil and natural gas liquids transported through Line 5 remain in Michigan and that feasible options exist for Michigan to replace any loss of transport from Line 5. In other words, despite their apparent effort to downplay decommissioning as the best alternative, the report’s authors document how little Michigan benefits from Line 5 and that there are readily available and preferable options for Michigan to access energy through other means.

Moreover, the draft report ‘s analysis of risk supports Sierra Club’s position that immediate action is needed to decommission Line 5 because of the threat of an oil pipeline rupture. The draft report prepared by oil industry firms claims the risk of a Line 5 pipeline rupture in the Straits presents a 1 in 60 chance of a spill by 2053. The flaws in this analysis that result in the study’s lowered risk assessment are thoroughly discussed by Dr. Ed Timm and other commenters. Dr. Ed Timm, whose analysis takes into account the age and likely condition of the pipeline, documents a 46% likelihood of an oil spill in the Straits over the next 36 years. But the bottom line is that both estimates of the risk of a pipeline rupture are unacceptable to anyone whose primary interests are protecting Michigan and the Great Lakes. Which brings us to comment on a major flaw in the study that undermines its usefulness and purpose in comparing and analyzing alternatives.

In a March 7, 2017 letter we wrote to the governor’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, Sierra Club raised concerns with the Scope of Work for the Alternatives Analysis. Instead of comparing alternatives on the basis of impacts on Michigan and its energy economy, the draft report would undertake a regional analysis, which, we said, would “skew the analysis toward Enbridge’s interests.” It was as inexplicable to us then as it is to us now why the State of Michigan approved a Scope of Work for Dynamic Risk that required Michigan to take into account Enbridge’s vast regional transport network and needs using an analytic approach certain to favor Enbridge’s private interests over the public interest in protecting the Great Lakes and Michigan’s tourism economy. Predictably, the draft report clearly favors outcomes that would continue and potentially expand Enbridge’s transport capacity— something that is, at best, only incidental to Michigan’s interests. The study fails to objectively assess the availability of viable alternatives using the existing regional Enbridge pipeline infrastructure, instead relying on Enbridge's assertions that there is no capacity to offset the transport of products through Line 5.

If Michigan’s interests are paramount, the weight of evidence in support of decommissioning Line 5 is overwhelming. The State of Michigan must correct its original sin of allowing oil industry consultants to study what’s in Enbridge’s private interests by eliminating from consideration in any final decision-making on Line 5 any alternative that does not prioritize protecting Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Dynamic Risk also failed to fulfill the state’s scope of work by assuming that there was a requirement to study only alternatives that continued to allow the same amount of product to be moved from oil fields to refineries. A full range of alternatives would have required consideration of the time frame for continued production of oil and gas from the Bakken field and others that produce the light crude which the state of Michigan and Enbridge have agreed is the only type of oil allowed through Line 5. The Bakken field has already passed its peak production point, yet there is an assumption in all of the alternatives that comparable amounts of oil will be produced and shipped from there to the refineries indefinitely. An unbiased alternatives analysis demands fully factoring in the inevitable decline in products flowing through this regional system, and ensuring that Michigan is not seeing either the replacement of the existing pipelines nor alternatives such as a tunnel that would impose a burden on the state in the future when they would be abandoned. In addition, the state must request from Enbridge what their plans are for decommissioning any existing or proposed new pipelines and what other products they plan to run through the Line 5 pipeline when the Bakken field is played out.

Unfair Bias Toward Building A Tunnel

Dynamic Risk showed a bias toward building a tunnel in its original proposal to do the report, and its analysis of costs and risks appears to be both cursory and flawed.

  • They note in their report that a large risk to the project would be inadequate exploration of the subsurface along the excavation route. They admit their report was based on existing data, primarily from the bridge construction, and represents only a preliminary screening; they were unable to do an adequate study of the specific tunnel route. The report does identify a deep trough running through the middle of the Straits, either from a fault zone or an ancient river channel, but was unable to determine its actual depth. Even without this information and with limited knowledge of the rock characteristics, they advocate crossing the trough using extra grouting for support as adequate and less costly than tunneling under the full depth of the trough. Considerable more analysis is needed to determine the geologic suitability of a tunnel.
  • Tunnel construction is estimated to take 27 months, require 4 to 7 acres for the staging areas at each end of the tunnel, and will use both drilling and blasting to penetrate and remove rock and soil. The report notes that this process will require trucking the extracted material for disposal, impacting roads, traffic, noise, and air quality. However, beyond an extensive analysis of the impact construction crews would have on seasonal rental housing, there is little effort to actually quantify these community impacts. Nor is there any mention of the impacts blasting, noise and dust might have on historical sites such as nearby Fort Michilimackinac or on Native American fishing right protected by treaty.
  • A number of other risks are mentioned – construction accidents, groundwater intrusion during construction, breakout of drilling hydraulic fluids, leak detections during operations. However, the report simply assumes that proper safeguards will mitigate these risks, without quantifying the risks and the costs of mitigating them.

The report’s analysis of this alternative provides a very preliminary description of the process and issues and an inadequate and flawed quantification of its operation. The result is a rosy scenario in favor of a tunnel with cost estimates that lack credibility.

Conflicts of Interest and A Failed Process

Sierra Club believes two related, major barriers exist that may unnecessarily result in months or years of delay in addressing the threat of Line 5 pipelines to the Great Lakes. This is on top of what has already been more than three years of failure by Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to take action after the urgency of the Line 5 threat emerged. One barrier is the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board Line 5 study process. This process is without any criteria for decision-making, has no defined timeline for making a decision on alternatives and is being conducted outside any legal framework such as the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and Michigan Environmental Protection Act that could form a basis for evaluating alternatives. The other, related process failure is a conflict of interest.

In November 2015 Sierra Club wrote Gov. Snyder asking him to remove Enbridge Energy and Marathon from his Pipeline Safety Advisory Board. We pointed out that having Enbridge and Marathon as part of the official process of evaluating Enbridge’s Line 5 presented obvious conflicts of interest and threatened the credibility of the advisory board. We also asked the governor to ensure that Enbridge’s influence over the state’s Line 5 work would not extend to paying for studies. In a March 2017 letter to the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board Sierra Club also raised significant concerns about conflicts involving the project team working on the Line 5 draft reports.

Instead of removing these conflicts, the governor and state officials continued along a questionable path that has resulted in a failed process. The state allowed Enbridge to pay for the $3.6 million studies. In addition, the Line 5 risk analysis failed to be completed on time because of a conflict of interest involving an employee who was simultaneously working for Enbridge while being paid to provide an “independent” analysis of Line 5.

Moreover, the draft alternative report’s lead contractor, Dynamic Risk, was reportedly working for Enbridge on a related pipeline and doing the Line 5 “independent” alternatives study for the State of Michigan. Other questions have been raised regarding relationships between Enbridge, Dynamic Risk and other Line 5 study project team members and there is credible evidence that the draft alternatives report is biased in Enbridge’s favor.

Much or all of this could have been avoided if the state had chosen a more credible Line 5 study process—one reflecting the seriousness of the endeavor to protect the Great Lakes. One that certainly would have required funding from the state instead of Enbridge and one headed by one of Michigan’s premier research universities or other qualified, independent entities working with and holding accountable other project team members. One that was conducted within existing Michigan laws.

What would be a mistake is if state officials compound these errors by allowing this failed study process to slow if not stop progress toward removing Line 5’s threat. The best—perhaps only—way to do that is to bring Enbridge under the rule of law and evaluate risks and alternatives under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act for its current anchor permit request, and begin the process of decommissioning Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill.

Respectfully submitted,

David Holtz, Chair
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee

Anne Woiwode, Chair
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Conservation Committee

Nancy Shiffler, Chair
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Beyond Natural Gas & Oil Committee 

Friday, July 28, 2017

2017 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar: Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

I am a rising senior at Brown University, where I am expecting to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had little exposure to diverse opinions, cultures, or backgrounds, which greatly contributed to my choice of attending a university over 2,000 miles away in Providence, Rhode Island. I had a deep interest in exploration throughout my childhood and education, and indulged that at Brown by taking courses in 14 different academic departments from Engineering, Chinese, and Anthropology. 

After taking a couple of Environmental Studies courses, I decided that is where my future lie as I greatly appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the work. I also have experience advocating for social justice, and have worked as a Women’s Peer Counselor for two years, and a Sexual Assault Lead Peer Educator for one year at Brown University. Continuing my focus on incorporating many areas of study into one academic major, I wish to learn more about the balance between science and society, and how to use scientific data to create policies that will benefit people and their environment. 

Additionally, I spent the spring semester of my Junior year studying China’s environment in Beijing, and learned about the role of the Chinese people and globalization in climate change. In China, I continued to learn how to incorporate different disciplines into one area of study, but was unable to engage directly with members of the community. Through this internship, I am looking forward to having more opportunities for community engagement and learn about the ways local, state, and national policies can impact different communities.

2017 Doris Duke Conservation Scholar: Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell
I am a rising senior at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts where I am triple majoring in history, anthropology and sociology. Outside of academics, I am heavily involved in campus organizations and movements, ranging from the Amherst Green Project to the Queer Resource Center to the Divest Amherst movement. At the core of all my campus involvement is a passion to do work that allows me to better understand the drivers of ecological crises and their subsequent impacts on vulnerable communities. 

I am currently a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. As a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, I am encouraged to examine the ways my personal history shapes my perception of nature and conservation. Under the guidance of faculty from the School of Natural Resources and Environment, I have been equipped with the skills that are needed to facilitate discussion and inspire innovation in an increasingly environmentally conscious world. I hope to continue to use my passion for environmental justice to develop sustainable policy-level solutions; in this capacity, I aim to mitigate the adverse affects of stratified economic, social, and political policies on those most susceptible to environmental harm.

Sierra Club's Great Lakes, Great Communities Program: Blog Post #1

By Ryan Anderson, Doris Duke Conservation Scholar

The Doris Duke ConservationScholars Program aims at taking a diverse group of students and providing them with opportunities both conducting research and working for environmental organizations. This summer, Marvin Bell and I are working for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s Great Lakes, Great Communities program.  Marvin is a rising senior at Amherst University studying Anthropology, History, and Sociology, and I am a rising senior at Brown University concentrating in Environmental Studies. Upon arriving at our internship, Marvin and I were very excited to see what opportunities lay ahead of us. I was particularly interested in seeing what working in a small office for an NGO could look like, and I have not been disappointed by the plethora of projects offered to us.

The project that we dedicate most of our efforts to is the Rain Gardens to the Rescue program. This program is a collaboration effort between Sierra Club, Friends of the Rouge and Keep Growing Detroit.  It has been helping citizens of Detroit plant rain gardens in their community. Since the project’s inception, one of its main goals has been to protect the Great Lakes from climate change impacts.  Warmer climates result in more intense storms.  Rain gardens a type of green infrastructure that captures stormwater keeping it out of combined sewer drains; helping to prevent combined sewer overflows.

Sierra Club has worked with their partners, other NGOs, and community members to implement green infrastructure from the residential to organizational level and advanced local policy on green infrastructure. The rain gardens project promotes relationship building with community leaders, and recognizes the values and priorities of community members.  Residents of targeted geographic areas submit applications to participate.  Those selected, participate in training and are encouraged to educate other Detroiters on how to build upon the network of green infrastructure opportunities by creating their own rain gardens.

Rain gardens are particularly helpful to Detroit, as its combined sewer system has resulted in the dumping of untreated wastewater into local rivers during large rain events. To help finance upgrades to it’s aging infrastructure, and waste water treatment, the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department charges rate payers a drainage fee.  This fee has been in existence since 1975.  To be more equitable, DWSD has updated the way the charge is calculated so that all rate payers pay based upon the amount of stormwater runoff produced by each lot from impervious surfaces.  

Implementation of green infrastructure e.g. rain gardens has the potential to help customers receive “green credits” and lower their drainage costs. The “Rain Gardens to the Rescue” program is aimed towards this end. The first day of our internship kicked off with a tour of rain gardens already planted in the community, and we got to see what successful gardens looked like. Soon after, Marvin and I began participating in site visits, and helped applicants plan the space for their garden. While our internship will end before the planting begins, I am very excited for this round of rain gardens, and have been inspired to look into green infrastructure opportunities in my own community.

To read Blog Post #2, click here.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Line 5 is bent and deformed where Enbridge wants to anchor it

Gallery: Enbridge Line 5 west leg anomalies

MACKINAW CITY, MI -- What happened to the west leg of Line 5?
Of the 22 anchor supports that Enbridge Inc. is seeking permission to install on the twin 20-inch pipelines crossing underneath the straits of Mackinac, 17 of them are on the west leg.
Of those, five of the proposed anchors are clustered along several hundred feet of the west leg just north of where inspection reports show the pipeline is bent and "ovalized," a term for a section of pipe that's been misshapen enough to lose its roundness.
Documents show that section of pipe is bent in five places and ovalized twice. It's not known for sure how the deformities happened, but Enbridge says they are nothing to worry about, pointing to recent pressure testing as evidence the pipeline is in good shape.
However, inspection reports show that both ovalizations have worsened slightly since 2013.
The anomalies are documented in 2013 and 2016 inspection reports generated by sending "geoppig" robots inside the pipeline to check for problems. The anomalies are also referenced in the 2017 draft analysis of Line 5 released by Dynamic Risk Assessments, which speculates the bends occurred during 1953 construction.
But a retired fluid dynamics expert who has exhaustively studied Line 5 suspects that underwater currents long ago scoured a large section of lake bottom from underneath the pipe, leaving it free-spanning with nothing underneath to support its weight.