Posts Tagged ‘Kalamazoo River’

A thank you letter to Congressman Fred Upton

July 14, 2011

Dear Congressman Upton,

When we read your editorial in Investor’s Business Daily blaming paralysis in Congress on conservation and environmental groups, we were surprised and touched. We felt compelled to write you this thank you letter for bestowing on the National Wildlife Federation and our partners all the credit for causing political gridlock in Congress. We didn’t know we had that kind of power! Silly us, we thought we’d been trying to end the gridlock caused by partisan members of Congress in the House and Senate. But now that we know the real story, it’s nice for you to make us feel so valued.

As a sign of our appreciation, we modestly accept your invitation to sit down and talk with you constructively about a pipeline safety bill. As you know, the oil that breached the Enbridge Pipeline and is still contaminating the Kalamazoo River is the same kind of oil that is being proposed to be transported in the Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest, so a pipeline safety bill that addresses such hazardous material is essential. For the first time, we now understand that perhaps you were a bit intimidated by such a powerful “special interest” as conservation and environmental groups, which explains why you’d rather meet with the oil lobby than us. And perhaps that’s why we rarely saw you or your staff at the Kalamazoo River public forums we and local river groups hosted and participated in to help clean up the Enbridge oil spill.

You have offered that you’d like to develop a common-sense, balanced policy on pipeline safety. At the National Wildlife Federation, that’s just the sort of approach we like; after all, on behalf of our 49,000 Michigan members we were instrumental in successfully negotiating with the business community on the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact and in bringing $775 million in Great Lakes restoration dollars to the region. So we’d be willing to release Congress from political gridlock for a few weeks (but no more!) for an effective pipeline safety law.

Thank you again for your keen insight on our influence and power. Would you mind if we shared your perspective with other members of Congress? They may still be under the misapprehension that the oil and coal lobbies are the special interests that run Congress.


Andy Buchsbaum, Regional Executive Director

Danielle Korpalski, Midwest Regional Outreach Coordinator

NWF Great Lakes Office

Ann Arbor


Michigan Oil Spill Hearing

September 14, 2010

It turns out the Beth Wallace, our Great Lakes oil spill response coordinator, and I will have the chance to testify at tomorrow’s hearing (September 15) on the Enbridge pipeline oil spill.

The hearing is before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at 10 a.m. (although we probably won’t be on until later in the morning), and Congressman Mark Schauer is coordinating it. His district, in Marshall, Michigan, was heaviest hit by the spill. Beth and I will post on what happens tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

Asian Carp, Oil Spill and Great Lakes Restoration Highlights

September 9, 2010

I’m back after an August hiatus, and there’s lots happening. Here are a few items:

Asian carp: the breaking news is that the Obama Administration has created a new position, Asian carp director, in the Council of Environmental Quality, and filled it with none other than our own John Goss, the former executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation. I’m very excited about this. I’ve known John for years and he’s passionate about the Great Lakes and very good at getting things done, a combination we really need in that job. He’s got his work cut out for him because the position doesn’t come with new legal authority, just the power to persuade and cajole and coordinate. But that’s what John does best, so I have high hopes. And we look forward to working with him. Check our NWF’s news release on the Asian Carp Tsar announcement.

On the flip side, the Administration (via the Corps) is actively fighting a lawsuit brought by the states to shut the canals. The hearing is going on this week; stay tuned for the outcome.

Kalamazoo River oil spill: The good news is that the leak was stopped within days, the oil seems to be contained and it never reached Lake Michigan. The bad news is that the spill occurred in an area that was flooded due to heavy rain events the days prior. At the spill site, 5 acres of wetlands were heavily saturated in tar oil; around 30 miles of river banks were coated with oil; and surrounding wildlife has been significantly impacted and will continue to be impacted until all oil is completely removed from the river banks.  Issues continue to arise around worker safety and residential rights. The spill happened in Congressman Mark Shauer’s district, and the committee he sits on (House Transportation and Infrastructure) is holding a hearing on it in Washington next week, September 15. NWF’s response coordinator, Beth Wallace, and I have been invited to testify before on the committee. More on that soon.

Great Lakes restoration: The first grants are out! EPA made the grant announcements this week in Green Bay and Toledo. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson personally made the announcements, four grants in Ohio totaling $1.9 million, and seven in Wisconsin at $5.2 million. These are the first wave of what’s expected in the next few weeks to be 270 projects and $160 million in grants from EPA.

Not to be outdone, the Healing Our Waters –Great Lakes Coalition announced our own Great Lakes restoration grants, 13 of them totaling $190,000. These grants are seed money to enable small organizations to go after the larger government grants.

There’s more, of course, but this post is long enough. Next week, I’ll be in Washington doing double duty: visiting Congressional offices as part of a HOW fly-in, and tracking the Kalamazoo River Oil spill hearings. I’ll post when I have more news.

Dammit, It’s Happening Here

July 27, 2010

Oil spill in the Kalamazoo River | Photo from the National Wildlife Federation

We just heard that at least 877,000 gallons of oil has leaked from an oil pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan.  

The oil has moved 16 miles downstream and has already killed fish; the fumes have forced some people to evacuate; wildlife is getting coated with oil; shorelines are getting fouled; and containment efforts have been hampered by the high flows in the river because of all the rain. A federal-state response team has swung into action. 

Meanwhile, the company owning the pipeline, Enbridge, Inc., couldn’t initially be reached for comment, other than to a message saying that it hoped it had not caused any “inconvenience” to the community. Since then the company has issued an apology. 

We just released the statement below. We’ll provide updates as we learn more.  

Pipeline Spews 845,000 Gallons of Oil into Michigan Waters, Threatening Great Lakes 

National Wildlife Federation: ‘Michigan has become another casualty to our country’s addiction to oil and dirty fuels.’ 

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (July 27, 2010)—A major oil spill has dumped a reported 845,000 gallons of oil into a creek that feeds into the Kalamazoo River, sparking a state of emergency in Kalamazoo County and sparking fears will not be able to contain the massive spill before it reaches Lake Michigan. 

Commenting on the oil spill, Danielle Korpalski, Midwest regional outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, said: 

“We never thought it would happen here. When people throughout Michigan responded to the Gulf oil spill with an outpouring of money, concern, and support for those who live on the Gulf, we never thought we would share that awful feeling of watching a massive oil slick flowing through our waters, coating our wildlife, killing fish, and fouling our coastline. We never thought we’d see evacuations in Michigan because of the fumes from an oil spill. And we never thought we’d see almost a million gallons of oil poised to flow into the Great Lakes. 

“But today, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. 

“Michigan has become another casualty to our country’s addiction to oil and dirty fuels. 

“This massive oil spill is a wake-up call that our nation’s energy policies are failing. 

“From the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, people are paying a steep price for a national energy policy that is addicted to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels—and the results can be seen in our backyards, in our communities and in our nation’s cherished waters and wild places. 

“This oil spill is only the latest evidence that the nation needs to move toward cleaner, safer sources of energy. It’s time to head in a new direction—one which holds the opportunity to make the energy technologies of the future while creating jobs, strengthening our national security, and improving our environment.”