This letter was sent to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board requesting the addition of public comment period during the Alternatives and Risk analyses. It was signed by organization members of the Oil & Water Don't Mix campaign.
December 9, 2016
Ms Valerie Brader, Co-Chair
Ms Heidi Grether, Co-Chair
Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board
Sent via email
Thank you for the opportunity to submit for the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board’s consideration recommendations for public outreach in connection with public comment and public hearings on draft and final risk analysis and alternatives to Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.
As you are aware, there is great public interest in the threat posed to the Great Lakes and Michigan communities by Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Providing recent evidence of the tremendous public interest in this issue, more than 6,000 people submitted comments on a permit request from Enbridge Energy Partners to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in August. In addition, more than 65 local Michigan governmental organizations have passed resolutions calling on the State of Michigan for more action to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill in the Straits. Michigan residents take seriously the State of Michigan’s public trust responsibility for protecting the Great Lakes in perpetuity. Therefore it is vitally important that the state design the most effective public outreach plan as it considers the future of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.
Unfortunately, the state’s public outreach thus far has been disappointing. Often pipeline board agendas are published just days ahead of pipeline board meetings. All public documents related to those meetings are not routinely available on the web page dedicated to pipeline safety, making it unnecessarily difficult for members of the public to engage in a meaningful way. It is our desire that these recommendations will help improve your public outreach on Line 5, with particular attention to the upcoming public comment period on draft alternatives and risk analysis.
It is our understanding that Line 5 draft alternatives and accompanying risk analysis will be completed by June 2017 and publicly available for comment. We urge you to consider using as a model the Michigan Public Service Commission’s 2012 public process on state energy policy and implementing the following five recommendations with respect to the public comment period:
- Establish a minimum of 45 days for the public to comment on the first draft alternatives and risk analysis report and 30 days on the final draft report. The state should provide detailed responses and rationales for accepting or rejecting specific points raised in public comments and should allow public comment to extend beyond scheduled public hearings.
- Schedule a minimum of seven public hearings on the first draft report. Those hearings should take place in Sault Ste Marie or Marquette, Mackinaw City, Traverse City, Lansing, Grand Rapids and the Detroit area. The Line 5 oil pipelines affect and are of interest to people throughout the state, and as such we request the state hold multiple public hearings near population centers around the state.
- State officials who are decision-makers on the future of Line 5 in the Straits and are accountable to the public should conduct all public hearings.
- Public hearings should involve a format that allows citizens to address their comments to the appropriate state officials in a setting where members of the public can hear and benefit from their statements.
- Public hearings should be streamed online and the state’s pipeline safety web page used as a platform for the public to post questions for feedback.
Moreover, we recommend that you begin making pipeline safety advisory board agendas available at least 10 days in advance of pipeline board meetings and that you make all public documents sent to pipeline board members available on the state’s pipeline safety web page at the time they are distributed to board members. We also ask that you put the pipeline board’s 2017 meeting schedule on the state’s web page.
Finally, we also urge the advisory board to share the independent contractors’ scope of risk and alternatives and assumptions prior to the completion of the draft and final risk and alternatives analyses. The public must understand the assumptions and full scope of what alternatives and risks are being evaluated by these independent contractors under the guidance of the advisory board.
Thank you for the opportunity to make these important recommendations.
Jane A. TenEyck, Executive Director
Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority
Nic Clark, Michigan Director
Clean Water Action
Concerned Citizens of Emmet and Cheboygan County
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director
FLOW (For Love of Water)
Mariah Urueta, Michigan Organizer
Food & Water Watch
Kate Madigan, Energy and Climate Specialist
Michigan Environmental Council
Greg Reisig, Chair
Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council
Aaron Payment, Chairman
Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
David Holtz, Chair
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Executive Committee