Archive for October, 2012

Enbridge Oil Pipeline is a Sunken Hazard in the Great Lakes

October 22, 2012

I got a surprise last week after we released our report on the Enbridge oil pipeline that runs along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac:  a national business news story that seemed to imply that Enbridge’s investors seem to be as concerned about the pipeline as we are. NASDAQ put out an article entitled, Safety of Enbridge Mackinac Pipeline Questioned By NWF; Stock Down 1%. And Bloomberg Business came out with “Great Lakes At Risk Of Major Oil Spill, Report Warns”.

After thinking it through, such a business reaction makes sense. The NWF report, Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac, an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes, documents a potentially disastrous plan for the Great Lakes: the expansion of a 20 million gallon a day oil pipeline on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The report, written by Beth Wallace and Jeff Alexander, reveals a ticking time bomb that threatens the jewels of Michigan and the Great Lakes – the straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Island.

The new report describes a 60-year old pipeline carrying 20 million gallons a day of toxic oil at high temperature and pressure under the Straits of Mackinac. This pipeline is operated by Enbridge, the same company that was responsible for the massive oil spill into the Kalamazoo River two years ago. And now Enbridge is proposing to increase the pumping capacity by 50,000 barrels a day – that’s 2.1 million gallons.

Until now, this pipeline and its proposed expansion have stayed under the radar of the public…and apparently, Enbridge’s investors.

But now they’re seemingly paying attention. As the report details, a major rupture in this pipeline (Line 5) could result in a BP-oil-sized catastrophe in the Great Lakes. That’s a lot of liability. And the company’s record does not inspire confidence that Line 5 is secure or that Enbridge could minimize the damage if it did spring a leak. Enbridge has had 800 pipeline spills and ruptures between 1999 and 2010, including 80 spills in the pipeline system that includes Line 5.

We’ve worked so hard over the past few years to clean up the Great Lakes, and we’ve made enormous progress with Great Lakes restoration funding, the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, and a new binational Great Lakes agreement to protect water quality. That progress would all be thrown away if Enbridge’s Line 5 should rupture.

This is a recipe for disaster. Enbridge cannot be allowed to expand the oil flow in Line 5 – instead, it should replace the line with new pipe to greatly reduce the risk of a leak. That’s a win-win: it’s the right thing to do for the Great Lakes, and it should give Enbridge’s investors some peace of mind.

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Crunch Time for Presidential Candidates in the Great Lakes

October 17, 2012

Unified. Bipartisan. Consensus. Common priority.

You rarely hear those words around a presidential election season, especially when they involve something urgent, sometimes controversial, and potentially costly. And you certainly wouldn’t expect them this October, right in the midst of polarizing hundred-million dollar negative ad campaigns.

But that theme of pulling together regardless of party is exactly the message being broadcast right now throughout the Great Lakes, and especially in the presidential swing states. And we’re hearing it from very credible and powerful sources: editorial boards for major media outlets.

Editorials Demanding Candidates Commit to Great Lakes

Editorial after editorial are calling for the candidates to put aside their differences and pledge to restore the Great Lakes and protect them from threats like Asian carp. Editorial boards in cities across the region are demanding that both presidential candidates commit to maintaining funding for Great Lakes restoration and taking measures to stop Asian carp.

Take a look at the editorials:

The Obama and Romney campaigns are taking notice.

Obama, of course, sent top campaign surrogate Carol Browner to the Healing Our Waters’ 8th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Cleveland last month. Then last week, both campaigns sent their positions on the Great Lakes to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, with Romney saying he was “outraged” at the lack of progress on Asian carp, prompting a similarly outraged response from  Obama Chief of Staff Jacob Lew .

The editorials are coming in so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Just yesterday morning the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran yet another editorial recognizing that both Obama and Romney are now paying attention and calling on them to build a barrier in the Chicago canals to stop the advance of the Asian carp.

Candidates Trying to One-Up Each Other on the Great Lakes

So it’s a mere three weeks before the 2012 presidential election, and the candidates are trying to one-up each other on the Great Lakes .

The problem is, they’re still not yet making the commitments the lakes need. Yes, the Obama Administration has a very strong record on Great Lakes restoration funding and has made a commitment to continue it. Romney’s campaign made a restoration funding commitment, albeit a little vague.

Neither has committed to building the barrier in the Chicago canals needed to stop the advance of Asian carp toward Lake Michigan.

Well, voters want to hear a commitment on Asian carp and time is growing short.  President Obama and Governor Romney, now that we have your attention, we direct you to the wise counsel of former Ohio Governor Bob Taft, who wrote this week in a guest editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer,

The Great Lakes are an “every-American issue.” They are not a partisan issue any more than Glacier National Park was a partisan issue. The Great Lakes are not a regional issue any more than the BP oil spill was a regional issue….

So, we’ll offer candidates an easy way into the hearts of Great Lakes voters for President Obama and Governor Romney. Take the Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Candidate Pledge affirming the precious nature of this great asset and committing to do whatever is necessary to protect and restore it, including an effective defense against the Asian carp.

It’s crunch time. Will you take the pledge President Obama and Governor Romney?

It’s Time to Get Outside

October 3, 2012

Hi, everyone. After a summer blogging break, I’m back with a new challenge: the indoor child.

Yesterday, Michigan’s online news magazine, The Bridge, ran a piece I wrote, Let’s Open the Door for Student Success, about an unrecognized epidemic that’s harming our children, our communities, and our planet. Gone are the days of kids spending their days outside. Now most kids rarely see the outdoors, and instead are plugged into computers and electronic media – an average of 7.5 hours per day per child, not even counting schoolwork, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And kids recognize 1000 corporate brands, but not even 10 things in their own backyard.

This indoor childhood trend hurts kids health (obesity, diabetes) and ability to learn in school. It also depletes the conservation ethic for the next generation – how can kids learn to love what they never experience? And that threatens our communities and all of our futures.

This problem is one we can solve, and it won’t break the bank. Here’s what I wrote in The Bridge:

Part of that new course must be flipping the current balance of indoor-outdoor time during the school day on its head. For too many kids in the Great Lakes State, school is exclusively an indoor experience, and they suffer for it. Research shows that school programs that get kids outside (school gardens and habitats, daily outdoor recess) have proven to better engage students, reduce dropout rates and improve test scores.

Using the schoolyard, community and landscape as the classroom — a learning model called place-based education — is another vital step we must take. Studies (and practical application) show that engagement in learning is heightened through place-based education, as is achievement, natural resource conservation and citizenship.

Reaping the rewards of place-based education requires teachers and administrators who are equipped, trained, supported and comfortable in implementing place-based education best practices. Therefore ongoing professional development in those best practices is essential.

Read the rest of the article.

And for more ideas and information on how to get kids outside, check out our Be Out There campaign!