Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. July 20, 2022.

Editorial: Give Line 5 tunnel project the green light

After a regulatory commission punted on a decision to approve the Line 5 tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac earlier this month, a scheduling conference Thursday could shed some light on the future of affordable energy in Michigan.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, is determining approval of a project to put the current Line 5 pipeline inside a concrete tunnel deep below the lakebed.

They should give it a green light. The tunnel would assure reliable supplies of petroleum products, protect the lakes, and it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a nickel.

In fact, with inflation raging and energy prices surging, the project is more than ever a common sense undertaking to be welcomed and expedited rather than stalled.

The scheduling conference comes amid news this week that European nations that rely on the Russian natural gas pipeline Nord Stream are staring down the possibility of a shortage of heating fuel this winter if the Kremlin decides to end supply in retaliation for Ukraine war sanctions.

The looming crisis there should serve as a warning in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel insist on shutting down the pipeline before the tunnel is finished.

Nessel’s lawsuit is now tangled up in federal court and in negotiations with Canada, which argues shutting down Line 5 violates a 1977 treaty with the U.S. The line carries petroleum from the Canadian oil fields to refineries throughout the Midwest.

Enbridge Inc., which operates the pipeline, is also waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the tunnel project, a notoriously slow process.

While bureaucrats dither and Democrats continue to pander to their progressive base on shutting Line 5, most Michigan residents are dealing with outrageously high fuel costs that show no sign of abetting.

Earlier this year, an industry group pegged the cost to Michigan consumers of closing Line 5 at $1.8 billion to $2.2 billion in fuel and related products.

Losing an efficient means of transporting 23 million gallons of petroleum products a day would set the Great Lakes region scrambling to either find replacements for that energy or alternatives for shipping it.

Across the Atlantic, the European Commission is crafting a rationing plan to cope with a cut-off of the Nord Stream pipeline, and is stockpiling as much fuel as it can.

That’s not a place where Michigan ever wants to find itself.

Enbridge should be given the green light to build the tunnel, and all the help it needs to get it done in a hurry.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. July 24, 2022.

Editorial: State victimizes the victims

Everyone now serving in the Michigan Legislature should receive a special award.

Virtually all of them have the dubious honor of achieving a level of incompetence that is breathtaking to behold.

The proof of this incompetence is their failure to correct an egregious error in the much-vaunted no-fault auto insurance reform bill that was enacted more than a year ago.

We’ve been writing about this issue since 2019, when the reforms were first developed.

In one poignant account, published March 18, Record-Eagle staff writer Patti Burgess reported on the plight of Brittney Ruckle.

At the age of 9, Ruckle suffered catastrophic brain injuries in a car crash. She now requires care 24/7. She is one of an estimated 18,000 people in Michigan who suffered catastrophic injuries in car crashes in Michigan and her family paid into a system that promised to provide the care she would need for the rest of her life.

When these reforms were approved last year, how difficult would it have been for the Legislature to grandfather in catastrophically injured people who had paid into the system and had a right to expect that coverage would continue?

How difficult would it be to take that action now?

Inexplicably, this legislation ended up being hastily approved in July 2021 in a manner that raises questions — not only about whether lawmakers actually wrote these bills (we’re betting insurance industry lobbyists had a lot to do with the language), but also whether legislators even bothered to read what they were voting on.

That’s where the incompetence comes in.

We can’t excuse any of them. Whether they’re guilty of an act of commission or omission, all should be held accountable now for their failure to correct the problem.

A Michigan Radio news account about an effort at a legislative committee level to try to fix a small part of the reform bill told of committee members walking out, effectively preventing that proposal from coming before the full House since no action could be taken in committee without a quorum.

This level of dysfunction boggles the mind.

So those victims who suffered catastrophic injuries end up being victimized by their own state. They are no longer receiving the care necessary for them to sustain an acceptable quality of life. Many have ended up in facilities where they receive minimal care. Some have died.

Here’s another dirty little factoid that may directly affect some of us someday: The businesses that had provided this specialized care cannot afford to provide it anymore. Their fees were cut by 45%. So we know that those who had received this care no longer do. But, for those among us who ever need this level of care for catastrophic injuries, we likely won’t be able to obtain it.

What can be done? Frankly, we’ve given up on the state Legislature. We’re looking to the courts to save the day.

Indications thus far are favorable: In April, a Washtenaw County judge ruled in favor of the survivor of a catastrophic crash, a man who requires 24/7 care after a 2011 accident left him paralyzed and on a ventilator. The judge called the law unconstitutional and ordered the insurance provider to pay the market rate for the man’s at-home medical care.

Unfortunately, a decision at the county level does not have the power to affect change statewide. But an appellate court ruling could have that impact. One lawsuit, the Ellen Andary case, is now pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were heard in June; a decision isn’t expected for several months.

That’s the problem with this particular remedy. Since corrective action must come from the courts, it will take a long time to fix this.

In the meantime, we wouldn’t bet on it, but perhaps lightning will strike, enough lawmakers will see that light and figure out a way to do the right thing,

Action to restore this catastrophic care is imperative.

People’s lives are at stake.

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Iron Mountain Daily News. July 22, 2022.

Editorial: DNR: Take heed of elevated fire danger amid dry conditions

Even with recent rain in some parts of the state, much of Michigan is very dry. That means fire safety should be a high priority for anyone working or playing outdoors, the state Department of Natural Resources warns.

“We are beginning to see seasonal drought conditions across much of the state. Intermittent rainfall in some areas hasn’t been enough to lessen those conditions,” said Paul Rogers, fire prevention specialist for the Michigan DNR. “We urge residents and visitors to use caution when burning.”

Add the possibility of storms Saturday through Sunday morning into the mix and the risk of fires rises even further.

So residents and visitors alike are advised to check Michigan.gov/BurnPermit before lighting any fire to make sure weather conditions allow for safe burning.

Even where allowed, the public should use extreme caution when burning, the DNR advises — nine out of 10 wildfires are sparked by human activity, with yard waste burning being the top cause of wildfires in Michigan.

Fire danger goes up when weather is hot and dry and increases further when it’s windy. Windborne embers can travel far and fast, turning a small fire into a large one, according to the DNR. Lightning strikes are a factor as well if storms are predicted.

The DNR offers these safety tips when burning outdoors:

— Keep campfires or bonfires contained in a pit or ring and make sure to put them out thoroughly before leaving for the night. Douse the fire with water, stir the ashes and douse again.

— Never leave any fire — including hot coals — unattended.

— Always keep a hose or other water source nearby when burning. A shovel is handy as well for smothering the fire with dirt or sand.

— Prevent sparks, such as keeping trailer chains from dragging and not parking hot equipment on dry grass.

— Do not shoot fireworks into the woods, dry grass or shrubs.

— It’s illegal to burn plastic, hazardous materials, foam or other household trash, as they can release dangerous chemicals into the air.

— A burn barrel with a screen on top can be used when burning paper, leaves and natural materials to help reduce burning fragments being carried away.

For more fire safety tips, go to Michigan.gov/FireManagement.

In 2022, DNR wildland firefighters already have fought more than 170 fires in Michigan covering in excess of 3,200 acres.

Help avoid adding to that total by being careful and safe with fires outdoors.

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