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Public Trust Education

Protecting the Great Lakes through Education and Public Policy

Great Lakes Basin Map

Great Lakes Basin

At the heart of our mission, FLOW is dedicated to educating and empowering citizens and leaders to know and use their rights under the public trust doctrine -- with the government as trustee of our shared resources and citizens as beneficiaries -- to solve systemic threats facing our Great Lakes today.

FLOW’s team of legal and policy experts actively works to advance and apply the public trust to key Great Lakes issues through research, policy development, articles, reports, and direct engagement.

We work with, and strive to educate and influence, state regulators, regional decision makers, local governments, and citizen activists in Michigan and across all of the Great Lakes states and provinces, raising key legal issues about the human right to water and the public trust duty to protect it.


Understanding the History of the Public Trust Doctrine

Dating back to Roman times, the public trust is an ancient legal principle with modern relevance that empowers citizens and governments to protect our waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes as a commons, owned and shared by the public for the use and enjoyment of all for drinking, fishing, swimming, navigation, and recreation.

With greater knowledge of these existing legal duties and responsibilities, the public can better hold government accountable to protect our Great Lakes from catastrophic oil spills, toxic algal blooms, water diversions, pollution, aquaculture waste, and more. This organizing legal principle is so powerful because of its potential to unify existing water protection laws and interested stakeholders around common stewardship responsibilities.

byzantine-empire-public-land.-trusts

The Public Trust dates back to the Byzantine Empire

 

The Waterfront and Lake Belong to the People

The story of the public trust in the United States is particularly interesting because the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case took place right here on the shores of our Great Lakes. Over a hundred years ago, the Illinois legislature granted the Illinois Central Railroad one square mile of the downtown Chicago waterfront and Lake Michigan bottomlands for their exclusive and private use.

Realizing the significance of granting away a portion of the state’s most important public resource, the following legislature brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the deed. The Supreme Court ruled that a state may not privatize the public lands and waters that it holds in trust for the use and enjoyment of its citizens. Since this 1892 decision, courts nationwide have recognized public trust interests related to swimming, recreation, navigable tributaries, ecological values, and drinking waters.

Today, the public trust exists in all Great Lakes jurisdictions, providing 40 million citizens a legal right to defend these common waters and their protected uses from harm for current and future generations. Citizens can also enforce this duty when government refuses to act or takes action resulting in potential or actual harms that exceed the boundaries set by the public trust.

Building Blue Communities

http://canadians.org/bluecommunitiesFLOW shares the vision advanced by the Council of Canadians to encourage municipalities and other entities around the world to become “Blue Communities,” as evidenced by recognizing water as a human right; promoting publicly financed, owned, and operated water and wastewater services; and banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events.

We believe that communities that prioritize and protect their freshwater resources and related infrastructure will be best positioned to help their citizens meet their needs and prosper.

Learn more.

Help us protect the Great Lakes

Join the Movement

Water Levels

Water is at the heart of the Great Lakes’ economy, energy and water needs, social fabric, quality of life, and environment. Extreme low water levels have captured the attention of the public with historic record low levels hitting in January of 2013. Drawing on our policy recommendations to the International Joint Commission, FLOW is developing a public/media campaign to raise awareness among citizens and decision-makers about how public trust solutions can address low water levels.

Reports and Handouts

Press Releases

Related

Local Fracking Ordinances

Strengthening Local Control Over the Water and Public Health Impacts of Fracking

FLOW is partnering with select counties and townships in Michigan to develop local zoning or police power ordinances to protect their communities and their water from the industrial land-use impacts of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a water-intensive oil and gas extraction method. These impacts include potential surface and groundwater contamination, spills, air emissions, road traffic, chemical-laden water disposal, chemical exposure, and other related environmental risks.

fracking site

Fracking impacts include potential surface and groundwater contamination, spills, air emissions, road traffic, chemical-laden water disposal, chemical exposure, and other related environmental risks.

Fracking uses up to 21 million gallons of water, mixed with chemicals and sand, per well to release oil and gas trapped from deep underground rock formations. Once contaminated by these chemicals, the water used is permanently removed from the water cycle and injected into deep wells.

To advance our fracking ordinance program, FLOW’s team of legal and policy experts conducts research, develops policy and local ordinances, participates in public meetings, talks with community members, publishes articles, and makes public presentations.

The Need for Fracking Regulation in the Great Lakes Basin

In 2010, the Encana Company’s State Pioneer Well in Missaukee County became the first horizontal fracking well in Michigan. Recognizing the exemption of deep shale horizontal natural gas drilling from key federal and state laws and regulations, FLOW saw an urgent need to develop legal strategies for local governments in Michigan to safeguard their communities from the unprecedented and cumulative impacts of fracking. 

Fracking oil well in michigan

Fracking sites can spoil up to 21 million gallons of clean water removing it from the water table permanently.

In 2012, FLOW pioneered our model local government fracking ordinance program. Since then, FLOW’s team of lawyers and policy specialists  has given dozens of presentations and has worked in seven communities around Michigan to empower leaders and citizens in developing a menu of local zoning and police power ordinance recommendations to protect quality of life and natural resources.

Our local fracking ordinance program continues to fill a vital need in the State of Michigan as FLOW works with a coalition of organizations dedicated to educating citizens and officials about state and local legal strategies to regulate ancillary oil and gas activities in Michigan. 

Reports and Handouts

 Existing Protective Ordinances in Michigan

 Press Releases

 

See knowfracking.com

Help us Protect the Great Lakes:

Join the Movement

FLOW Featured on UpNorth TV’s Volunteer Northwest Michigan Program in July

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 27, 2013

Flow Featured on UpNorth TV’s Volunteer Northwest Michigan Program in July

Volunteer NW MITRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW, the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, will be featured on UpNorth TV, channel 2, throughout the month of July, every Sunday and Wednesday evening from 8pm-9pm, and every Friday morning from 9am-10am. Hosted by United Way of Northwest Michigan, the Volunteer Northwest Michigan show highlights FLOW’s innovative programs to ensure the waters of the Great Lakes are protected now and for future generations. UpNorth TV’s feature on FLOW will also be available online.

Steven Wade, United Way’s Executive Director of Northwest Michigan, interviews FLOW’s Chair and President, Jim Olson, Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, and Communications Designer, Allison Voglesong, about how locals can volunteer with FLOW and take part in protecting our beloved Great Lakes.

FLOW has several upcoming volunteer opportunities. On July 5th, FLOW will participate in DTE Energy’s Green Day during Cherry Festival. Volunteers will assist members of the FLOW staff educate the community about threats to the Great Lakes with a fun and interactive game. Additionally, volunteer positions are available for Blissfest on July 12, 13, and 14; Friday Night Live on August 9; and our Annual Celebration on August 17. Sign up here to volunteer.

Additionally, this TV segment discusses FLOW’s programs, including the public trust education program, water levels program, local government “fracking” ordinance program, and water-energy-food-climate change nexus program. Additionally, Jim Olson, environmental attorney, who has been practicing environmental and water law for more than 40 years, gives an in depth history of water law in Michigan and tells the story of how FLOW evolved from a coalition to a policy and education center.

FLOW’s approach to policy and education for preserving and protecting the Great Lakes centers on the ancient principle of the public trust. The public trust is a key principle that enables citizens and governments to protect our waters as a commons, owned and shared by the public for the use and enjoyment of all. The public trust doctrine is the legal foundation for protecting and maintaining resources such as beaches, navigable waterways and harbors, wetlands and wildlife, tributary streams, and groundwater. Additionally, it protects public uses including navigation, commerce, fishing, boating, swimming, other recreational purposes, and drinking water.

Fishers, boaters, swimmers, beach-goers, and other water-lovers of all ages should tune in to UpNorth TV in July to learn more about how they can work with FLOW to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected for our favorite activities now and for future generations.

The segment will air on Charter Cable’s analog channel, 97, and digital channels, 2 and 992, throughout Northwestern Lower Michigan from Manistee to Cheboygan.

# # #
FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only 501(c)(3) nonprofit public trust policy and education center. Our mission is to deeply educate communities and leaders about the public trust as a solution for sharing and preserving our common waters.

UPDATE: Township Fracking Regulation Ordinance Program

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 14, 2013

Fracking Ordinance Development Program Continues in Cannon Township

Gun Plain Charter Township Program Launches

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW, the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, will be traveling down state to both Cannon Township and Gun Plain Charter Township on June 19 to facilitate a three-part workshop on legal strategies to address the impacts of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” FLOW will assist these townships, in Kent and Allegan Counties respectively, to develop protective ordinances to regulate activities and harms related to fracking. Additionally, on June 24, FLOW, in partnership with Dr. Chris Grobbel, will present a similar introductory program in Yankee Springs Township, Barry County; the event is open to the greater community and officials.

In the morning of June 19, FLOW will return to Cannon Township to lead the second of this three-part workshop series. FLOW will facilitate the discussion and decision-making process to help Cannon Township leaders identify the ancillary fracking activities that are most important for their community to regulate. Township authorities and participating citizens will work to identify existing ordinances and craft new ordinances that are protective of land, air, and water impacts associated with fracking. Read the MLive article about the first meeting in Cannon here.

In the evening of June 19, FLOW will launch the first of three workshops in Gun Plain Charter Township. In this workshop, FLOW will provide an educational overview about the process of fracking, potential risks, and what communities can actually do to protect against fracking. FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood explains that the legal strategies in development through this program “include zoning and police power ordinances, moratoriums, bans, and Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”), among others.”

FLOW was invited by the grassroots group Concerned Citizens of Barry County to give an educational introductory presentation about fracking to citizens and local leaders. Since the beginning of the year, FLOW has given more than half a dozen of these presentations to groups and communities throughout the state of Michigan. As more meeting and presentations emerge, FLOW is spreading information and legal strategies in an effort to protect the Great Lakes Basin’s communities from the potential water, air, and land-use impacts of horizontal fracking.

Horizontal fracking for oil and natural gas is exempt from many regulatory laws at both the federal and state levels, including the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Great Lakes Compact and Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Act. These townships are setting a precedent by being the first in the state of Michigan to develop fracking regulation ordinances in consultation with FLOW. Despite zoning prohibitions to regulate drilling, construction production, and operation of oil and gas wells, townships still do maintain legal authority to regulate ancillary activities, including roads, truck traffic, pipelines, flow lines, gathering lines, location of wells, disclosure of chemical use, air pollution and more. Moreover, townships can rely on other sources of authority such as police power ordinances.

 

# # #

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.

Fracking creating major water consumption issues near Kalkaska

Click here to view the press release as a PDF

Fracking creating major water consumption issues near Kalkaska

Unable to get 8.4 million gallons of water at site, Encana forced to buy water from Kalkaska, Mancelona city systems

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2013
Kalkaska, Michigan

Concerns about the impact to local groundwater by massive water use- on a scale never before seen in Michigan fracking operations- are coming to a head, as Encana Oil and Gas’s plan to use 8.4 million gallons of water to fracture a single well has been stymied by a lack of water on site.

Instead, the company is trucking water – nearly 1 million gallons of it in just one week – from the City of Kalkaska’s water system to meet its needs. This one fracking operation today is using more water than the Village of Kalkaska is using for all its needs over the same time period.

The Westerman 1-29 HD1 gas/oil well, located on Wood Road in Rapid River Township, Kalkaska County, originally permitted to Chevron Michigan, LLC is now being operated by Encana Oil & Gas (USA), Inc.

Westerman Well, Kalkaska, MI

 The permit issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality authorized one water well on the site. The estimated water required for the gas/oil well was 8.4 million gallons. (That compares to about 10,000 gallons used to complete or “stimulate” wells in the traditional way – a massive increase in consumptive water use by the fracking industry compared to the past.)

The Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) estimated that 900 gallons per minute could be removed safely from the site and would cause no adverse resource impact. As it turns out, there isn’t enough water available on the site to provide 900 gallons per minute, let alone be safely removed.

An additional eight water wells were drilled on the site but apparently they did not produce either. Starting on May 31, 2013 water began being removed from the Kalkaska municipal water system to frack the gas/oil well.

The municipal withdrawal did not come close to supplying the water necessary to complete the Westerman well, so on Saturday, another water well was drilled off the site in the surrounding field.

westerman story photo 3

That water well also failed to produce sufficient water and trucks running around the clock continued to haul over 900,000 gallons of water from the Kalkaska municipal system over the weekend. At last report on June 4, 2013 the water was still being trucked to the well site from the municipal water supply.

Local resident and leading contributor of respectmyplanet.org, Paul Brady, states “If the citizens of Michigan knew corporations were destroying hundreds of millions of gallons of Michigan water – water that is supposedly protected by government for use by all of us – they would be opposing this new kind of completion technique. These deep shale unconventional wells are using massive amounts of water without adequate testing and solid data on aquifer capacity.”

Brady noted that the new fracking methods permanently remove water from Michigan’s watersheds. It is polluted with chemicals, shoved deep into the ground, and never returned to the water cycle. Encana has stated in shareholder presentations that up to 500 wells are planned for Michigan. Five new wells were permitted in Excelsior Township last week that estimate using 152,000,000 gallons of water. Eight more permit applications are pending.

The water use for these types of wells in Michigan is unprecedented: there is no gas or oil play in the entire USA that is using this much water per well.

The Michigan DEQ has taken some steps recently to try and deal with the astounding amounts of water destroyed by modern fracturing. But as of today, the primary tools that they are using to determine adverse impact to our water are inadequate to even judge how much water is available in any given location (as demonstrated by the Rapid River well situation), never mind how much can be safely removed. Michigan has no groundwater maps of this area; state officials don’t know how much water withdrawal our aquifers in Kalkaska County can support.

There is a way to find this out: do a pump aquifer yield test. State officials should require this testing whenever withdrawals of this magnitude are proposed for any reason, not just oil and gas exploration.

“This is not about the gas and oil industry”, says Brady. “We wholeheartedly support the Michigan oil and gas worker: they are our neighbors, family and friends here in Kalkaska. We are confident local oil and gas workers value the water as much as we do.”

Elected officials often remind us that water is by far our most precious resource. They need to step in and ensure that such massive quantities are not misused in this manner, and that unsustainable well drilling is not allowed.

This in an ongoing story and there will be additional installments forwarded as developments occur.

###

Submitted by FARWatershed.com and respectmyplanet.org. All photos credited to respectmyplanet.org

Contact: Jacque Rose, FARWatershed@gmail.com517-410-8959

Canoeing the Crystal River, Midsummer

by Anne-Marie Oomen

The river is a liquid canal to a pure thing,
painless as sleep
and silent except for distant laughter
over tan and shallow water.

The sun holds open the sky
for geese and green-feathered woodcocks
who, for now, also drift,
staring, audience to river currents

that turn underwater grasses
all in the same direction,
signaling some mutual spirit,
a place to feed, a way to go.

The canoe becomes a sliver of silver shell,
lined with iridescence of dreams,
from which I am born, watching grasses,
watching geese, and going slow.

Artist: Anne-Marie Oomen
Medium: Poetry
Copyright: © Anne-Marie Oomen

[himage][/himage]

See the artist response to Canoeing the Crystal River, Midsummer>>>

Thousands demand Lone Pine drop its NAFTA lawsuit against Québec’s fracking moratorium

Coalition for petition against LPR to drop NAFTA lawsuit vs. Quebec

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate publication

Thousands demand Lone Pine drop its NAFTA lawsuit against Québec’s fracking moratorium

(Ottawa, May 31, 2013) – Two weeks after the launch of a public petition, organizers have received over 3,000 signatures demanding that energy company Lone Pine Resources drop its $250 million NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) lawsuit against Canada for Québec’s moratorium on fracking.

The petition sponsors—the Council of Canadians, the Réseau québécois sur l’Intégration continentale (RQIC), Sierra Club US, FLOW (For Love of Water), Eau Secours! and AmiEs de la Terre—sent three letters to Lone Pine today, each signed by 1,000 people, and will continue to collect signatures until the company agrees to drop the suit.

“People across Canada and the United States are outraged that a company would claim it has a ‘right’ to frack under trade deals like NAFTA, and that we might have to pay Lone Pine Resources not to drill in the St. Lawrence,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “There should be no ‘right’ to frack, or to dig a mine, or lay a pipeline. Investment treaties cannot be allowed to override community decisions.”

“Governments must have the flexibility to say ‘no’ to fracking and other environmentally destructive practices without trade rules getting in the way,” said Ilana Solomon, Trade Representative with the Sierra Club. “The fact that a U.S. oil and gas corporation has threatened to bring a trade case against the government of Canada over a law intended to protect the health and well-being of its citizens shows just how backward our trade rules have become.”

In 2011, the Quebec government placed a moratorium on all new drilling permits until a strategic environmental evaluation was completed. When the current Quebec government was elected last year, it extended the moratorium to all exploration and development of shale gas in the province. Last fall, Lone Pine indicated that it planned to challenge Quebec’s fracking moratorium. Instead of going to court, the Calgary-based company is using its incorporation in Delaware to access the investment protection chapter of NAFTA, which is only available to U.S. and Mexican companies, to challenge the Quebec moratorium in front of a paid, largely unaccountable investment tribunal. The company says the Québec moratorium is “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and that it deprives Lone Pine of its right to profit from fracking for natural gas in Québec’s Saint Lawrence Valley.

“Lone Pine must drop its scandalous lawsuit against this legitimate policy of the Quebec government, who has just been listening to its people,” says Pierre-Yves Serinet, coordinator of the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC). “These provisions of such free trade agreements are direct attacks on the sovereign right of the Quebec government to govern for the welfare of its population. It’s astonishing that the negotiations between Canada and the European Union (CETA) follow the same blueprint. Time has come to end the excessive powers to multinationals,” added the spokesperson for RQIC.

“No trade tribunal should allow a company to sue a State that tries to protect water, which is a common good at the core of the survival and the health of the peoples and the ecosystems. Eau Secours! presses the Quebec government to also change its antiquated law on mining, to improve its water law and its sustainable development regulations to clearly reaffirm this willingness of protection,” declared Martine Châtelain, president of the coalition for a responsible management of water Eau secours!.

“Water in North America is part of a single system, starting with hydrologic cycle, and subject to generational public trust responsibility,” says Jim Olson, Chair and President of FLOW. “A moratorium that exercises this responsibility can hardly be challenged as a regulation: public trust and water have inherent limits.”

The NAFTA dispute and letter-writing campaign is happening as the Parti Québécois introduces legislation that would ban fracking in the St. Lawrence Lowlands for up to five years. The organizations involved in the letter-writing campaign are encouraged by the decision but support a complete Quebec-wide moratorium on fracking for oil and gas.

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MORE INFORMATION

Emma Lui, Water Campaigner, Council of Canadians,

613-298-8792elui@canadians.org

Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs | www.canadians.org/fracking

FLOW Local Ordinance Program Brings Fracking Protection to Two Michigan Townships

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 23, 2013

FLOW Local Ordinance Program Brings Fracking Protection to Two Michigan Townships

Michigan Communities Seek Regulation of Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Two Michigan Townships—Cannon Township and Gun Plain Charter Township—signed up with FLOW to develop regulatory ordinances on horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center.  These townships, in Kent County and Allegan County respectively, are taking the lead in protecting their community from the industrial land-use impacts and potential risks of fracking.

Fracking for oil and natural gas is exempt from many regulatory laws at both the federal and state levels, including the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, the Great Lakes Compact and Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Act. These townships are setting a precedent by being the first in the state of Michigan to develop fracking regulation ordinances in consultation with FLOW. Despite zoning prohibitions to regulate drilling, construction production, and operation of oil and gas wells, townships still do maintain legal authority to regulate ancillary activities, including roads, truck traffic, pipelines, flow lines, gathering lines, location of wells, disclosure of chemical use, air pollution and more. Moreover, townships can rely on other sources of authority such as police power ordinances.

Last week, Cannon Township enacted a fracking moratorium and will not consider any requests for fracking activities for a period of six months, so that the township has an opportunity to study potential impacts. On Wednesday, May 22, FLOW held the first of three educational meetings with Cannon Township officials and community members to facilitate the development of a fracking ordinance there. In this process, FLOW works with the township to determine what areas of concern are most pertinent to the community to regulate. FLOW will facilitate this same fracking ordinance development program in Gun Plain Township, and the first meeting there is scheduled for June 19.

“Whether you are for or against fracking, the important things for communities to know are the impacts we face with this high-impact and water-intensive technology, and be prepared in advance to handle it,” remarks FLOW’s founder and chair, Jim Olson.

Gun Plain Township was one of several townships present at the March 18 Allegan County Supervisors meeting at which FLOW was invited to present an educational overview of legal strategies and tools for local communities to regulate fracking. FLOW has delivered a similar educational overview program a dozen times throughout Michigan in the past three months. This informational presentation is based on FLOW’s November 2012 report, “Horizontal Fracturing for Oil and Natural Gas in Michigan: Legal Strategies and Tools for Communities and Citizens.” FLOW’s report highlights legal strategies and policies designed to assist local governments in safeguarding their communities against the unprecedented and cumulative impacts of fracking.

Horizontal fracking requires injecting a cocktail of up to 21 million gallons of water and over 750 chemicals under high pressure into wells in order to fracture deep shale formations and release oil and natural gas. A review of literature on fracking and its associated risks reveals several concerns: (1) massive water withdrawals; (2) groundwater contamination; (3) surface spills and leaks; (4) wastewater management; (5) land-use impacts; (6) truck traffic and burden on infrastructure; (7) lack of public disclosure.

The Collingwood/Utica deep natural gas shale formation spans across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula; since May 2010, around 752,260 acres of Michigan’s state land has been leased for oil and gas development. Grassroots and citizen organizations throughout the state have expressed their concern about fracking in their communities. While there are no producing fracking wells in either Cannon or Gun Plain Townships, most state lands in both counties and a significant portion of private lands have already been leased for exploration.  In response to concerned citizens, these townships are taking preventative action with FLOW’s assistance. FLOW encourages other concerned citizens and coalitions to alert their township Supervisors and examine the need for similar regulatory ordinances to protect against the industrial impacts of fracking.

For more information:
Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director, FLOW, (231) 944-1568
liz@flowforwater.org | @FlowForWater | www.flowforwater.org

# # #

FLOW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes. Through its law and policy work, FLOW is raising public awareness about the public trust doctrine and its principles as a unifying framework to protect the commons and address the systemic threats to water, public lands, and the environment throughout the Great Lakes.

The Water-Energy Nexus: FLOW at the MI Governor’s Energy Policy Listening Session

As part of Earth Day today, I had the opportunity to submit FLOW’s memorandum to the Michigan Public Service Commission at the Governor’s “listening session” on future energy policy in Michigan. At FLOW we believe that by looking at the entire hydrological cycle as a basis for addressing systemic threats like climate change–the single largest human induced diversion from the Great Lakes–water and energy policy and actions are inseparable. More importantly, if energy policy is elevated to an obligation to protect the integrity of water, something the commons and public trust in water may well require, then our energy policy can better promote jobs and economic stability and growth and protect water and the environment. FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood also spoke at the forum to address the need to connect water to climate change, energy, and wasteful or inefficient and inequitable water consumption practices related to energy and food production, and other consumptive uses. You can read FLOW’s memorandum on the Energy and Water Nexus, along with the rest of our reports, on our policy center page. The text of our comments are below:

Click here to read FLOW President Jim Olson’s comments as a PDF
 
Click here to read FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood’s comments as a PDF
 

Statement by James M. Olson, Chair, FLOW
A Water and Energy “Nexus” Policy For Michigan

The “energy listening” sessions ordered by Governor Snyder to help Michigan fashion an energy policy are welcomed. However, at a time of a climate change crisis fired by coal and other greenhouse gases with severe and worsening impacts and costs, including increasing extreme low water levels, there is a disconnect between energy and Michigan’s most valuable common treasure – water and the great lakes. No energy policy in Michigan should omit the protection of the integrity of our water – both quality and quantity- as one of if not its central core principles.

There is a rapidly increasing demand for water world wide and strong probability that global demand will outstrip supply in just 30 years. If anything drives the point home for a 21st century policy that centers on a “nexus” between water and energy, it is the staggering cost to life, property and communities from storms like those experienced in the northeastern United States this past year. Add to this the lowest water reported water levels in the Great Lakes, and devastating future climate change entails for all of us and our children in this century, and it becomes quite evident that water and energy are inseparable. It is imperative that water is declared the core of our energy policy. If we honor and respect the integrity of water and our Great Lakes, we will find and follow a sound energy policy.

Because of the need to address water and energy together (as a “nexus),” Michigan must move forward with a multi-disciplined framework that requires application of “integrated resource planning” principles for evaluating energy policy and options. The same should be true for water policy. This would require a goal and planning effort that seeks the least costly energy services and goods with a full evaluation of all costs to water, the ecosystem, and our communities. Without “full cost” and integrated resource planning, Michigan’s energy policy and use will lead the state into an impoverishing downward spiral — economically, environmentally, and culturally. “Pure Michigan” and a sound sustainable economy and jobs mean pure air and pure water both in quality and quantity.

Therefore, it is my opinion, and I urge the governor, his advisors and staff, and the legislature to consider and adopt an energy policy that conforms to the integrity of water, the gravity of climate change, and a dynamic open mindedness that applies full cost evaluation and integrated resource policy. If we fail to do this, Michigan will fall into decline while other parts of North America and the world begin to prosper.

Three points:

  1. Michigan sits in the middle of the most valuable water/ecosystem in the world. It is held in public trust so that it is protected from impairment and loss. The Great Lakes Compact and Water Quality Agreement of 2012 underscore this principle and enact a policy that these waters are held in trust and should not be diverted or loss by consumptive uses, and this requires a response to keep greenhouse gases in check.
  2. In one week, thermal electric power plants use (a net loss to great lakes) as much water as the Chicago Diversion. Energy costs are rising, water levels are falling, water is more essential than coal-fired or other fossil fueled power, including the extraction of equally water intensive fuels like fracturing deep shale for natural gas – deep shale fracturing will displace or remove approximately 21 million gallons in 21 days for just one gas well. Multiply this times the 1,000 wells we will see if this is not carefully considered and regulated, and it will result in a permanent loss of 21 billion gallons of water from fragile headwater areas.
  3. The only sound and secure goal for Michigan is to move quickly toward a renewable and efficient energy world. This will diversify, increase, and lower cost of energy supplies, reduce costly infrastructure, reduce toxic air and water impacts, and temper the effects of climate change, including our plummeting water levels. Equally important, it will set Michigan on a course to lead the nation and help the next generation create positive profitable investments, cheaper more appropriate power, new industries and jobs – batteries, solar, wind, and conservation. Michigan must enact a “greenhouse trust fund” for any so-called “bridge fuels” like natural gas so that the justification of such a water-intensive environmentally risky method of extraction will be assured by a conversion to a renewable energy economy.

Michigan and Michiganders are nothing without water. Any approach to energy without integrity of water as its core principle and without an immediate shift to renewable energy and efficiency will put Michigan in an economic and environmentally disastrous downward spiral. We owe to ourselves and children and grand children to put water and Community first. It is a matter of water and public trust. It is a matter of survival.
 
 

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood’s Comments on the Water-Energy Nexus

My name is Liz Kirkwood and I’m the Executive Director of FLOW (“For Love Of Water”), which is a water policy and educational institute dedicated to understanding the threats and solutions to water in the Great Lakes by focusing on the nexus between water, energy, food, and climate change.

I want to thank Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John D. Quackenbush and Michigan Energy Office Director Steve Bakkal for the opportunity to speech and address overall question 1: What information do energy policy makers need to consider in order to make good energy decisions?

Michigan faces a watershed moment and opportunity to chart a new cleaner energy course that is good for jobs, good for the environment, good for energy affordability, and good for the water.

To chart this new course, we first must recognize that our energy choices profoundly affect our water and cause serious climate change impacts.

Water and energy are inextricably linked. Water is used and lost in energy-resource extraction, refining and processing, transportation, and electric-power generation. And yet, because water is such a cheap commodity, it is rarely calculated and balanced in our energy decisions. Let’s change this so that the water-energy nexus become an integral part of charting Michigan’s energy future plans.

By 2035, the amount of water consumed for current energy production is projected to double. During this same time, there will be increasing water scarcity from pollution, waste, drought and human-induced climate change and impacts.

Given the clear interrelationship between energy, food, and water, we can no longer “silo” these sectors; rather we must improve decision-making with greater integration and collaboration between water resource management and energy production.

This calls for a new vision that recognizes the nexus between water, energy, food, and climate change. To make this shift, we must view water in a different light where water becomes the starting point for everything we do. Without water the health of our people, economy and ecosystem are diminished.

The recent U.S. natural gas industry shale boom has reignited attention on the water-energy-climate change nexus. The big issue with hydraulic fracking is the water, both in terms of sheer quantity (e.g., 300 million gallons to frack 13 wells in Kalkaska County) and safe disposal of chemical-laden and often toxic waste water that will never return to our hydrologic cycle. Before Michigan embraces natural gas as a “bridge” fuel, we must conduct a generic analysis of cumulative impacts on water, environment, and health that properly weighs the unprecedented risks that fracking poses to our precious water resources.

Additionally, Michigan’s coal-fired power plants are the state’s largest single source of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, which are detrimentally contributing to climate change by increasing lake evaporation and causing our extreme low water levels in Lake Michigan-Huron.

In fact, we hit record low water levels in January of this year – 26 inches below average – according to data collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1918. The water levels issue is at the heart of the Great Lakes’ and Michigan’s economy, energy and water needs, social fabric, quality of life, and environment. In March of this year, our Governor signed legislation providing $21 million in taxpayer emergency funds to dredge state harbors that are in danger of becoming impassable because of low water levels.

We cannot sit idle anymore; rather we must adapt our current fossil-fuel economy to one with low-carbon and low-water footprint. Water in effect must become the center of everything we do, such that shifting to renewables becomes the obvious energy choice and addresses the root causes of receding water levels so that we do not jeopardize our current and future way of life.

Michigan is already witnessing renewable energy sources like wind becoming more cost effective and affordable to our businesses and citizens than polluting traditional sources like coal and oil. Wind is at 4.5 cents/KWH as opposed to traditional blended energy sources at 7.6 cents/KWH. The benefits of renewable energy are clear: affordable, clean, stable rates, Michigan job generator, minimal water use, and protective of human health and the environment.

In addition, Michigan should promote energy efficiency and energy conservation in all sectors because it is the cheapest, cleanest, and most quickly deployed source of energy.

To chart this new course, Michigan must embrace its innovative manufacturing traditions and promote renewable energy sources to reduce pressure on water resources and limit adverse climate change impacts. We think Michigan can and should become a leader in renewable energy, and at a minimum compete with the neighboring states that currently generate 20%+ of renewable power with excellent reliability.

We urge the State of Michigan to think wisely about its future energy choices, pay for water consumed, and ensure that the long-term energy decisions are good for our water too. Once we chart this path, then we can proudly say we are living up to our motto: “Pure Michigan.”