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As Oil Wells Enter Neighborhoods, Townships Push Back

Jamie Calaguas mostly remembers the noise.

The grinding, whining, constant hum of industrial activity — but not from a factory. The clamor was coming from the 109-foot oil well West Bay Exploration was drilling outside her back door.

In a residential neighborhood.

Without any notification being given to the residents.

“I could hear it at night from my home with all the windows closed,” said Calaguas, whose home is about 900 feet from the well. “It ran 24-7, and the lights were very bright — it was lit up like a football field. It lasted for about 21 days.”

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Blueprint for the Great Lakes Trail

Blueprint for the Great Lakes Trail

Melissa K. Scanlan

Vermont Law School

July 31, 2014

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law, July 31, 2014.
Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 14-14


The Great Lakes are vast yet vulnerable. There is a need to focus the public’s attention on the significance of the lakes for the region as a cohesive, bi-national whole. To address this need, build on existing water law, and engage the public, this article provides a blueprint to establish a Great Lakes Trail on the shores of the Great Lakes. The trail will link together 10,000 miles of coastline and provide the longest marked walking trail in the world. It will demarcate an already existing, yet largely unrecognized, public trust easement and engage the public with their common heritage in the lakeshore.

The Great Lakes Trail is rooted in longstanding legal rights in the beach commons that have been forgotten and eroded over time. The trail provides a tangible way to restore the public’s coastal history and reinvigorate public trust rights.

In the United States, when each of the Great Lakes states entered the Union, the federal government transferred to them the waters and lake beds of the Great Lakes up to the Ordinary High Water Mark on the beach. The states were to hold these lands and waters in trust for the public use and enjoyment. In 2005, the Michigan Supreme Court held in favor of the public’s right to access and walk along this beach. This is the only Great Lakes state court decision to directly address the public’s right to walk along the Great Lakes, and it provides an excellent contemporary model decision for the region. On the Canadian side of the Great Lakes there is an existing movement to build a Waterfront Trail along all of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, as well as legislative efforts to recognize a right of passage on foot along the Great Lakes shoreline. However, the states and provinces lack consistency in how they address public access to this coast, and have not identified it as a broad public asset like the Appalachian Trail.

Establishing the Great Lakes Trail will be a monumental effort, requiring a multidisciplinary approach. It will require generating local, and especially lakeshore property owners’ support for the trail; developing a system of local volunteers; working with artists and educators to design art installations and signs that reflect each community’s values and educate the public about Great Lakes ecological and legal issues; building local tourism economies with chambers of commerce to promote trailoriented businesses; and partnering with GIS mappers and App developers to produce real time local business information and mapping. Ultimately, getting people to utilize their public trust rights in walking the coasts of the Great Lakes engages them in actively seeing the importance of the Great Lakes as an ecological, political, economic, and cultural asset, which is a precursor to developing and implementing cooperative Great Lakes governance structures.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Accepted Paper Series

‘Biggest Fracking Victory Ever!’ as New York Bans Dangerous Drilling in State

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‘Biggest Fracking Victory Ever!’ as New York Bans Dangerous Drilling in State

‘Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere,’ says prominent activist after announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Anti-fracking protesters outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s policy summit in 2012. (Photo: Credo Action/cc/flickr)

It’s official. New York state will ban fracking.

After years of lobbying and aggressive public protest by state residents to make permanent a short-term moratorium on the controversial oil and gas drilling practice, Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited harm to public health as the key reason for the decision to announce an all-out ban. “The potential impacts of fracking on water, air, land resources, community and local services are significant,” Cuomo said in a tweet just after the decision was made public.

In response to the news, Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch, which has fought aggressively against fracking in New York and across the country, declared the development as the “Biggest fracking victory ever!”

“Our growing national movement has persevered,” Hauter added in a statement. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for acknowledging the overwhelming science that speaks to the inherent dangers of fracking to public health and the environment. Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere, and the governor has smartly seized a golden opportunity to be a real national leader on health, environmental protection and a future free of polluting fossil fuels.”

As the New York Times reports on Wednesday:

The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo’s first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has listened to his constituents and scientists, said celebrating environmental activists, as they applauded Wednesday’s announcement.

Jubilant reactions among local activists and national environmental leaders was swift on Twitter.   To view the web link, click here.


Oil & Water Presents to Petroleum Task Force


Oil & Water Presents to Petroleum Task Force

DECEMBER 15, 2014

LANSING – In formal remarks today to a state task force on oil pipelines, representatives of key environmental and Great Lakes groups – echoing the concerns of businesses, governments, and thousands of citizens – called on Governor Snyder to take swift and meaningful action to protect the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill from a pair of 61-year-old Enbridge pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

“A growing number of communities, businesses, individuals, and organizations are calling on the state to determine what the potential harm to the Great Lakes and our Pure Michigan economy would be if these aging oil pipelines leaked in the Straits,” said Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. “The state has the opportunity and legal duty to get answers to the public’s questions and enlist Michiganders in determining the fate of these pipelines in order to prevent a disaster.”

“The state has the opportunity and legal duty to get answers to the public’s questions and enlist Michiganders in determining the fate of these pipelines in order to prevent a disaster.” – Jim Lively, program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute

Leaders of a Campaign to protect the Straits of Mackinac from an oil spill were invited to present to the Snyder administration’s Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force, which began meeting in August to study issues related to pipelines transporting petroleum products around the state. The task force has given particular attention to the Straits oil pipelines and is expected to make recommendations by spring.

To read the full press release click here.

Detroit water shutoffs must end

BRIDGE News and analysis from The Center for Michigan

Detroit water shutoffs must end

Jim Olson

Detroit’s emergency manager filed for bankruptcy in July 2013 to force creditors to negotiate a bankruptcy plan that would slash the city’s unwieldy debt. Last month, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit approved a plan that would over time give Detroit a chance to survive. Missing from the plan, however, is any mention of the disturbance and threat to the rights to water and health of Detroit’s poor caused by the abrupt shut off of their water service.

Over the past year, Detroit has shut off an unprecedented 27,000 households ? more than 10 percent of the city’s total, preventing families, children and those with medical conditions from accessing water for drinking, cooking, bathing and flushing. The city launched the shutoffs to improve its chances of negotiating a bankruptcy plan and improve its position with the suburbs and private water companies who have been eying a takeover of Detroit’s water system.

Charities and businesses stepped forward with unprecedented donations of hundreds of millions of dollars to save the inestimable value of the collection of art at the Detroit Art Institute. Ironically, no one stepped forward to contribute or establish an affordable rate structure based on ability to pay to save Detroit’s water system that serves Detroit’s poor, mostly African American population – a wrenching irony for a city that runs along the shores of the Great Lakes.

Detroit’s loss in population, increased costs of operations, aging infrastructure, unemployment, and the loss of tax base from the flight of the auto industry and people to the suburbs have combined to pump up the average water bill above $100 per month for a family – in some instances reportedly as high as $2,000 because of mistakes or charges for which residents were not responsible. This cost is simply staggering in a city rife with poverty, where 20 percent of the city’s population lives on less than $800 per month.

In America, the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution are supposed to protect the fundamental rights of persons’ liberties and interests in property from harm. Interests in liberty and property cannot be terminated arbitrarily in our country without notice and an opportunity to be heard. As Jacque Cousteau once said, “the life cycle and water cycle are one.” It would seem that Detroit should not be allowed to shut off water service to its residents without respecting their life and liberty from harmful risks and unfair or discriminatory actions.

The city of Detroit clearly may well need to collect revenue or improve its balance sheet to exit bankruptcy free from intolerable debt. However, severing water from the homes or off the back of its remaining poor and most vulnerable residents is even more intolerable – an action that could jeopardize lives, health, and force fewer residents to pay exponentially higher water bills.

Something has gone terribly wrong here that deserves much closer scrutiny, not only for the residents of Detroit, but for people around the country and world who lack access to water to preserve health and life. The world faces a water crisis. In less than 20 years, demand for fresh water will exceed supply by as much as 30 percent. More than a billion people will be without fresh water. How we treat water services today sets a precedent on how we treat water and each other tomorrow.

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Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts

Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts

Researchers hope to predict how fish like Great Lakes cisco will adapt to a changing environment. Photo: Environmental Protection Agency

By Duygu Kanver

Great Lakes fishery managers worry that their operations may be harmed by invasive species, habitat loss and climate change in the long run, according to a new study.

The study focuses on their need for information about climate change.

Kate Mulvaney, a research participant in the Environmental Protection Agency-funded Oakridge Institute for Science and Education program, said a team of researchers “from a bunch of disciplines,” fisheries ecology, social sciences, climatology and engineering, worked in this project. Mulvaney is the lead author of the article published in the latest issue of Journal of Great Lakes Research

The study was conducted by researchers from the Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and the University of Colorado-Boulder Institute for Environmental Sciences with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Both fishery managers and fishery researchers see habitat loss and invasive species as the biggest threats, the study found. Climate change in the long term ranked third among major concerns for both groups.

In fact, they see climate change as directly related to their primary concerns according to the study, which quotes a participant in a Lake Ontario focus group who said, “I mean climate change and habitat are not independent. I mean none of them are.”

According to the study, scientific research on climate change and its possible effects on Great Lakes fisheries exist, but are not easily accessible or comprehensible to the fisheries managers.

“It is absolutely essential for fishery managers of the Great Lakes region to have an understanding of the input into climate change, and the effects of climate change on the fisheries,” said Marc Gaden, the communications director and legislative liaison of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

“These are the men and women who are on the frontlines. They make myriad decisions every day about fisheries and fishery management, and they need as complete an understanding as humanly possible.

“That said,” Gaden said, “area scientists are also in the frontlines of being sources of good information. They are in a good position to understand what the anglers’ expectations are.”

In surveys and focus groups for the study, fishery managers said they need scientific information tailored to their needs.

Mulvaney said the researchers also found that fishery managers prefer new information to be presented to them in person so they can ask questions to better relate the information to their work.

“They get so many e-mails with new reports that they can easily miss an e-mailed PDF,” she said.

One objective of the study was to explain the expectations of the angling community to the scientific research community.

“I thought Mulvaney’s study was very good in stating the fact that fishery managers are the partners in this,” Gaden said.

Mulvaney said the researchers asked many people to participate in the study. “We contacted fisheries managers from all of the Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario. We also contacted managers from the United States and Canadian federal governments and leaders from several tribes.

“Finally, we reached some of the fishing and environmental stakeholders from both the United States and Canada,” she said.

Study participants’ biggest fear about the effects of climate change is the decrease in the fish population due to migration of cold water species.

Mark Kotlick, the owner of Calumet Fisheries in Chicago, expressed his worries this way:

“I think the warmer weather and harsh winters has kept the fish population deeper and further from the shore. The chub (cisco) population has been basically extinct for five years now.”

Ciscos are also known as lake herrings.

Study participants didn’t specifically mention cisco but did express concerns about the effects of climate change on other salmonids. The study said fishery managers would like to learn about the future of salmon, trout and whitefish in the warming waters of the Great Lakes.

“Commercial fishermen are getting less and less fish in their nets,” said Kotlick. “I fear the same thing with the chubs might start happening to the trout and salmon population in the future.”

Gaden, who is a co-author of the recent National Climate Assessment, said the fishery managers’ worries are not unfounded.

As Great Lakes water temperatures rise, warmer water species like bass, walleye and yellow perch are projected to expand while the habitat for cold water fish like salmon, trout and whitefish will continue to shrink.

“We have seen the waters warming slowly since the 1960s” Gaden said. “By 2050, we will see an additional rise by about 7 °F in the surface water temperature, and by the end of the century, by 2100, a rise by 12 °F.

“Fishery managers are going to have to react to that. There may have to be changes in management or hatchery policies and angler expectations in the future,” Gaden said.


Source: D. Kanver, Great Lakes Echo, Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts


Accessed: October 30, 2014

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 FLOW staff partnering in Lansing to save the Great Lakes

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The Northern Express –  This Week’s Top 5


Environmental groups want Gov. Rick Snyder to take action after the US Coast Guard announced they would be unprepared to respond to a potentially catastrophic oil spill at the Straits of Mackinac.

The area between the Upper and Lower peninsulas has drawn increasing attention since Enbridge, operator of a 50-plus-year-old underwater pipeline that crosses the Straits, said they planned to expand the pipeline’s capacity.

“If our governor is serious about protecting the Great Lakes, he will heed the Coast Guard warning and prevent tar sands from moving through the Straits as a condition of the state’s easement with Enbridge,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water in Traverse City.

Enbridge has said the heavy tar sands oil from the Canadian Prairies is not moving through the Straits, but the watchdog groups point out this could change without notice. An Endbridge pipeline failed near Kalamazoo in 2010 causing the largest inland oil spill in US history.

The Coast Guard, Enbridge, and other responders conducted a simulated oil spill exercise Sept. 17 in the area south of the Straits.

FLOW Urges the Department of Environmental Quality to Strengthen Its Proposed 2014 Fracking Regulations to Protect Michigan’s Water, Air, and Land Resources

August 1, 2014


Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director

231 944 1568 or

FLOW Urges the Department of Environmental Quality to Strengthen Its Proposed 2014 Fracking Regulations to Protect Michigan’s Water, Air, and Land Resources

Traverse City, Mich. – On July 31, 2014, FLOW submitted extensive public comments to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding their proposed fracking regulations on water withdrawals, baseline water quality sampling, monitoring and reporting, and chemical disclosure. FLOW’s comments urge the DEQ to take a number of steps to strengthen the oil and gas regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) or fracking.

“As a whole, the DEQ’s proposed new rules to address the risks, impacts, and uncertainties surrounding HVHF in Michigan do not measure up to the values and principles embodied in Michigan’s history, law, and policy,” said FLOW’s president and founder Jim Olson. “They are not strong enough to protect our air, water, natural resources, the public trust, and public health and welfare from the risks HVHF poses.”

FLOW’s written comments elaborate on comments made by Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, at the DEQ’s Gaylord public hearing on July 15, 2014. “Existing oil and gas laws are built around the assumption that the rule of capture applies to all oil and gas production and that fracking is simply a technique to “enhance” the recovery of another fungible oil and gas liquid.” said Liz Kirkwood, “The DEQ cannot and should not bootstrap fracking into conventional oil and gas development regulations.” Key recommendations included:

Notice and Comment Requirements: The application process on drilling permits should be subject to formal notice, comments, and hearing procedures as required under current Michigan law.

Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment: The environmental impact assessment should examine the entire area of potential impact, beyond the drilling pad site, and consider alternatives and cumulative impacts as required by the Oil and Gas

August 1, 2014Act and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

Good Faith Effort Not Enough for Pooling Authorization: The department should prohibit the drilling of wells prior to all properties being leased or a compulsory pooling hearing is conducted; otherwise, the proposed rules are likely to run afoul due process and takings challenges. Fracking should be prohibited on any property that has not voluntarily agreed to be leased.

Chemical Disclosure in Drilling Application: The regulations should require full disclosure of all fracking chemicals as part of the drilling application, not 30 days after the well has been completed.

Baseline Sampling Before, During and After Drilling: Baseline testing should be integral part of the drill permit application and after the drilling has occurred. Given the large water withdrawals associated with fracking and the impacts of surface and ground waters, baseline testing should sample both water levels and flows.

Evaluation of Adverse Impacts: Mitigate adverse impacts to all water bodies, especially headwaters, by requiring a separate high-volume water withdrawal approval with adequate hydrogeological baseline data to be filed along with the drilling permit application.

Interference Requirements: Increase isolation distance between hydraulically fractured wells (> 660 feet) and offset wells in the current regulations.

FLOW urged the DEQ to consider these additional changes, as well as review the pending final Graham Sustainability Institute’s Integrated Assessment, which examines the reality of fracking and the entire regulatory framework. Failure to do so increases risk of waste, health, safety and welfare, harm to the environment, and threatens property owners and citizens who use and enjoy Michigan’s abundant water and natural resources.

FLOW’s submitted comments enhance and support its Local Government Ordinance Program to provide technical assistance to township and counties in Michigan experiencing associated fracking impacts to their local air, water, and land resources.

FLOW also was a signatory to an another public comment submitted by the Anglers of the AuSable, Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LVC), Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Moms Clean Air Force, and more than 20 other environmental and conservation organizations.

View the full comments here: DEQ Comments 

FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes.



George Weeks: League of Conservation Voters acts on two fronts

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By George Weeks

July 13, 2014

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which in recent years has shown growing clout in politics, last week exercised it on two fronts, especially in northern Michigan, where it made two of its only three endorsements in legislative primaries.

The LCV’s annual environmental scorecard gave state legislators a 2013-14 grade of “incomplete,” declaring that so far they have “stalled, roadblocked and rolled back” progress on air, land and water issues.

But LCV said, “A few leaders stand out as advocates” on those issues, including Reps. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, whose 107th district includes Chippewa, Mackinac and Emmet counties, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, in the one-county (Grand Traverse) 104th district.

Foster was praised for sponsoring legislation “that would safeguard our lakes, rivers, and streams from over-extraction and contamination.” Schmidt was praised for introducing legislation that would remove the arbitrary cap on the amount of public land the state can own.

Four downstate lawmakers also were headlined as “Advocates.”

Two lawmakers were classified as “Adversaries,” including Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, criticized for introducing legislation that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from managing public land to promote biodiversity. The other is a downstate lawmaker.

In politics, it’s one thing for interest groups to issue scorecards and press releases. Good PR, especially with like-minded voters. But one reason that the Michigan LCV is a significant player in state politics is that it makes endorsements backed up by contributions -$270,000 in the last election cycle.

On Friday, the league announced its endorsement of Foster over Republican primary challenger Lee Chatfield of Levering, and of term-limited representative Schmidt in the GOP primary for the 37th Senate district that spans both peninsulas. He’s in a lively primary with 105th district Rep. Greg MacMcMaster, who is giving up his solid Republican district to seek the Senate seat that will be vacated by Howard Walker.

“We are in serious need of strong conservation leaders in the state Legislature who will turn protections for Michigan’s land, air and water into political priorities,” said Michigan LCV Deputy Director Jack Schmitt. He called Foster and Schmidt “proven leaders on our priority issues.”In a teleconference where Schmitt announced the endorsement, a downstate reporter noted that Schmidt and MacMaster had almost identical overall records on the House floor on issues consistent with LCV positions.

Beyond the fact of Schmidt’s legislation that’s hailed by the league and opposed by MacMaster, Schmitt said MacMaster advocates “we gut Michigan’s Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund.”

MacMaster Friday defended his positions and said there needs to be more analysis of the implications of “more land purchases by the state.”

Pipeline Warnings

LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak joined leaders of 18 Michigan environmental organizations in sending an 18-page letter to Gov. Rick Snyder urging him to “swiftly address” issues regarding 61-year old underwater Enbridge oil pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac.

A University of Michigan research scientist has said rupture of the lines would be “the worst possible place for a spill on the Great Lakes.

Traverse City attorney Jim Olson, president and founder of For Love of Water (FLOW), said the groups want Snyder “to take lead as chief trustee of our Great Lakes and require Enbridge to submit an application for complete review” of its lines.

The letter said: “These twin 61-year-old pipelines located in the heart of the Great Lakes are one of the greatest threats to our water, our economy, and our Pure Michigan way of life.”

The letter, whose signatories include the high-profile Michigan Environmental Council, said, “The Straits of Mackinac are held by the State in trust for its citizens. The powerful underwater currents and extreme weather conditions at the Straits make them ecologically sensitive and would make cleanup or recovery from a pipeline spill especially difficult.”

The National Wildlife Federation estimates such a spill could release up to 1.5 million gallons of oil in just eight minutes. The 2010 Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek near Marshall released about 800,000 gallons of crude from an underground pipeline — and only now is the cleanup nearing completion.

Snyder would be wise to mobilize his administration in positive response to the letter.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalim Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.