Someone needs to get Heidi Grether a good lawyer, or at least a fixer. Is Michael Cohen available?
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality director revealed Monday her boss, Governor Rick Snyder, apparently can’t protect the Great Lakes from Enbridge’s famously, dangerously, old, battered and bruised Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Why? Well, he’s just the governor.
Heidi Grether - Director, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
“People keep saying shut them down, shut them down; part of the question is, under what authority?” Grether told reporters at Monday’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting, according to the Detroit News.
So, incredibly, after four years of studying the Line 5 problem, including whether it should be decommissioned, Michigan’s governor’s hands are tied. What can we do? Apparently only suggest solutions to Enbridge.
How embarrassing this must be for Grether, the state’s top environmental official. Particularly after Enbridge revealed Monday that a recent anchor strike in the Straits put a serious dent in Line 5, one that reportedly came close to rupturing the pipeline and causing a catastrophe in the Great Lakes that would make Enbridge’s record-setting 2010 1-million gallon oil spill in Marshall, MI look like a puddle.
Grether knows a thing or two about oil spill disasters. She is a former oil industry lobbyist and was on the front lines of spinning the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico for BP oil. That’s the one that preceded Enbridge’s giant Marshall spill by a few months. Enbridge says it may put a protective sleeve around the recent Line 5 anchor dent, but given Enbridge’s track record Grether may yet get a chance to use her PR skills with a Line 5 oil spill disaster.
It would be interesting to know if Attorney General Bill Schuette agrees with Grether that the state does not have any legal tools to enforce its environmental laws and a legal agreement with Enbridge for operating Line 5 in the Straits. Afterall, Schuette is the state’s lawyer. Perhaps he was merely bluffing when he declared more than three years ago that “Line 5’s days are numbered.” And all those letters he wrote Enbridge citing violations of its easement agreement with the state were probably just suggestions.
What Grether’s statement does is reveal what many have believed since 2014 when in response to the Line 5 threat Snyder created a task force, the first of two groups that would “study” Line 5: this former CEO turned governor was never, ever going to take on a corporation like Enbridge. Instead, Snyder put Enbridge in charge of deciding the future of the Great Lakes when it comes to oil pipelines and used an Enbridge-funded study process and a front group of pipeline “advisors” as window dressing. Sadly, too many people played along with this lengthy Enbridge-driven process and now we are at a point when Snyder plans to deliver the goods before he leaves office this year.
For Enbridge, it’s a chance not only to keep Line 5 in the Straits but remove any leverage Michigan has with the entire 645-mile pipeline, which is also 65 years old, has sprung at least 29 leaks, and crosses near 200 Michigan waterways, including Lake Michigan.
Snyder is already promoting the idea of replacing Line 5 in the Straits inside a tunnel. And with his top environmental official claiming Snyder is powerless to do much of anything at all we can feel fairly certain that whatever Snyder decides won’t exactly make Enbridge too uncomfortable.
But if Grether and her boss are not up for defending the Great Lakes in court against Enbridge, they don’t have to turn to a Michael Cohen or any other fixer for help. They can just do what they’ve been doing for the past four years: nothing. Then Michigan’s voters can decide in November what should be done when they elect a new governor, maybe this time someone who knows a good lawyer.