Detroit News. May 8, 2021.
Editorial: Whitmer must avert Line 5 face-off with Canada
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is recklessly placing Michigan at the center of an international trade showdown with her order that the Line 5 petroleum pipeline must cease operations by Wednesday.
The governor revoked Enbridge Inc.‘s 67-year-old right-of-way across the Straits of Mackinac last November, short-circuiting an existing and sensible agreement that would replace the pipeline with one encased in a concrete tunnel deep below the lakebed.
Canada wasn’t pleased, to say the least.
Line 5 is vital to its robust energy economy, transporting 540,000 barrels per day of petroleum products from the rich Alberta oil patch to the United States. Included is much of the propane used as heating fuel in Michigan. It also provides resources to Michigan’s manufacturing base.
Canadians, who love the Great Lakes as much as we do in Michigan, are vigorously opposing Whitmer’s action. The country’s natural resources minister called keeping the pipeline open a “non-negotiable” item, and entreaties have been made to the White House to intervene.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed Line 5 with President Joe Biden in meetings in February.
The Canadians have expressed their intent to pursue legal action to keep Line 5 operating should Whitmer hold to her Wednesday deadline.
Enbridge, a Canadian company, is already challenging the governor in federal court, and says it will not close the pipeline unless ordered to do so by a state or federal judge.
The governor contends Enbridge has violated terms of its easement by not properly maintaining the line, citing structural deficiencies she says could lead to a catastrophic oil spill. Enbridge disputes that claim.
Line 5 under the Straits has never had a leak, although other Enbridge pipelines have, including one in 2010 that sent roughly 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in west Michigan.
The Biden administration has yet to not signal where it stands on Whitmer’s shutdown edict. The president on his first day in office signed an executive order halting construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was also intended to carry crude oil from Canada to the U.S.
But since then, his administration has continued former President Donald Trump’s legal defense of two existing, Enbridge-owned pipelines that also are being targeted for shutdown.
Whitmer is placing the president in a difficult position. The U.S. is the biggest customer of Canadian oil, importing 80% of that nation’s crude output.
The oil industries of the two nations are deeply connected. The Canadians have pledged to work with the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions and move together toward a future less dependent on fossil fuels.
The arbitrary closure of a key piece of energy infrastructure risks damaging that cooperative relationship.
Canada has suggested, should Whitmer enforce her deadline, it could invoke the 1977 Transit Pipelines Treaty, a never-used pact that bars either country from interfering with the cross-border flow of oil.
That would trigger an arbitration process the U.S. would rather avoid with its most important trading partner.
The much better option is for Whitmer to reach a settlement with Enbridge during the current court-ordered mediation that keeps Line 5 open while placing construction of the strait’s tunnel on a fast track.
Former Gov. Rick Snyder bargained that sensible deal with Enbridge, and required the company to pick up the full $500 million tab.
It’s a long-term solution that protects the Great Lakes, the nation’s energy security and good relations with a valued trading partner.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. May 6, 2021.
Editorial: Sturgeon deserve continued assistance
A sturgeon swam into the Boardman River in Traverse City last week. That doesn’t happen every day. The last time the Record-Eagle reported such a sighting was May 2019.
We hope people get a chance to see more of the gentle giant in the Boardman and in other Michigan waters. The big fish is a spectacular example of long-term survival.
Sometimes referred to as a living dinosaur, traces of the sturgeon’s ancestors have been found in fossil records more than 200 million years old. Once common in the Great Lakes, their population declined catastrophically in the 1800s under pressure from overharvesting and human encroachment on habitat.
Sturgeon are more susceptible to overfishing than most fish because individuals don’t begin breeding until they’re about 15 years old — and then they spawn infrequently, just once every two to seven years. Around the world, several sturgeon species have been overharvested to extinction, and 85 percent of the surviving species are threatened or endangered.
A Michigan Department of Natural Resources crew last week caught, tagged and released a sturgeon that weighed 210 pounds and measured 6 feet, 10 inches long. The workers estimated that it was at least a century old. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the largest sturgeon on record weighed 310 pounds, and that one landed in 1952 was said to be 152 years old.
The fish spotted last week in the Boardman was smaller and younger — but still quite a sight. The sturgeon is a part of Michigan’s natural history, one that deserves help to remain a living part of the ecosystem.
It is reassuring that despite more than a century of massive manmade changes to the Great Lakes, sturgeon still swim around our pleasant peninsula. Biologists have been working for decades to help the sturgeon population recover.
The Black Lake and Upper Black River watershed near Onaway is the only place in Michigan sturgeon can legally be speared by the public. The one-day event ends each winter when six fish have been taken, though a seventh fish may legally be speared in the moments before officials announce the sixth fish. The 2021 sturgeon season lasted just over two hours on February 6. Only seven of the registered 570 spearfishers were successful. Tribal nations are allowed each year to spear seven additional sturgeon.
The rest of the year, volunteers guard against poachers in Black Lake and Black River, particularly during the spring spawning season. More information about the volunteer program is available at www.sturgeonfortomorrow.org, email@example.com or (989) 763-7568.
Estimates suggest the adult sturgeon population in Black Lake may have nearly doubled over the course of the last several decades. That’s progress, but the number of sturgeon in the Great Lakes region remains only a fraction of the what it was 200 years ago. Officials plan to survey Black Lake’s juvenile sturgeon population in 2023 to compare to data collected in 2013.
Sturgeon populations are affected by many factors. Multiple adult sturgeon carcasses washed up on shore in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in summer 2020. The deteriorated condition of the carcasses prevented determination of cause of the death, but biologists suspected avian botulism, which is becoming more common as average water temperatures rise.
With all the invasive species — alewife, salmon, sea lamprey, round goby, zebra mussel, New Zealand mud snail and more — living in the Great Lakes, it is reassuring to see native species like the sturgeon hanging on.
The Great Lakes never will return to the natural state it was in before canals, dams, locks, sewage treatment systems and concentrated human populations appeared on their shores. There are just too many people using the lakes in too many ways, too many invasive species, too many irreversible changes.
But we hope that efforts to protect and nurture the slow-growing sturgeon will have continued success. Perhaps our children someday will be able to gaze in wonder at huge sturgeon swimming in the Boardman — more often than once every two years.
(Marquette) Mining Journal. May 8, 2021.
Editorial: NMU ahead of curve on key issue of carbon neutrality
Northern Michigan University has taken a transformational step toward a more sustainable future by proposing in a draft strategic plan to move the university toward carbon neutrality.
We were thrilled to hear this, as we used this space just over a month ago to encourage NMU President Fritz Erickson and the NMU Board of Trustees to seriously consider a carbon neutrality plan for the university.
The idea, proposed by Ryan Stock, a professor in NMU’s School of Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, was outlined in a letter to Erickson and the NMU Board of Trustees urging the administration to make NMU net-carbon neutral by either 2030 or 2050.
Stock circulated the letter and obtained 1,069 signatures from NMU department heads, professor, directors, students, alumni and others. Additionally, 25 institutions endorsed the letter, which garnered six letters of support.
That letter was presented to Erickson and the board on Feb. 6, Stock said. On April 5, Erickson circulated a draft strategic plan titled “Investing in Innovation,” which in part dealt with carbon neutrality.
During a recent campus forum, Erickson addressed the proposed updates to the university’s strategic plan, which outlines several priority initiatives, including moving NMU toward carbon neutrality.
“I’ve received a request from students, and supported by faculty members and groups on campus, that the university make a statement that we will be carbon neutral by at least 2050,” Erickson said. “Personally I’m very supportive of that, but I don’t want to make that statement unless we have a plan with a framework for achieving it.
“I’ve seen too many people make a big pledge for years down the line, knowing they won’t be around to see it through. We need to put in the hard work of creating a framework with true action plans that will get us there.”
The basic outlines in that plan, according to Stock, include to get lower levels of carbon emission factors on campus, converting the vehicle fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles, increasing the use of solar energy on campus and collaborative sustainability that involves micro-credential and certification programs.
“We were through the moon,” Stock said.
As we’ve stated before, the plan has our full support here at the Journal, as we recognize the urgency of fighting climate change and the tremendous value of NMU’s influence on the community, state, region and nation.
Furthermore, we are in full agreement Erickson’s comments regarding the necessity of a solid framework for the plan, as working out specifics of how this plan will be implemented — as well as the direct fiscal and climate impacts — is essential foundational work that will be key to the success of the plan. Furthermore, these details will show the public — and other large institutions — that such an undertaking is feasible, possible and will offer a significant return on investment.
We commend all involved for their hard work and urge the university administration to prioritize the planning and feasibility groundwork while engaging with stakeholders and the community, as NMU is a regional leader that has the power to make a profound difference on a global scale.
As we’ve noted before, if this plan is successfully adopted and implemented, it could be remembered for generations to come as a critical action that helped sustain life, livelihood, health, and the environment in our area and beyond.