Says his legacy does not drive decisions
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told Great Lakes Now last week he wants to “aggressively pursue solutions” on what to do about the aged Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that traverses the Straits of Mackinac.
Snyder was asked by Great Lakes Now if he would he make a decision on Line 5 before leaving office in January of 2019.
The pipeline has received intense scrutiny from environmental activists and others since 2013 and the pressure to decommission or replace it has not subsided.
In 2010 an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan dumping a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. It is the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The spill elevated concern about Line 5 and Enbridge’s operation of it.
The Straits of Mackinac are the “worst possible place” for an oil spill according to a University of Michigan researcher in a study commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.
Mackinac Island and the bridge that connects lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula are iconic symbols critical to Michigan’s identity and tourism industry. A pipeline spill could devastate both.
In the interview, Snyder said the state is working on both long and short-term solutions for the pipeline. Short term actions include dealing with the protective coating problem and adding additional support anchors.
Longer-term, Snyder acknowledged the importance of the studies that will continue well into 2018.
He said if the studies are trying to answer questions already being addressed, he doesn’t feel bound to wait for their completion if solutions are at hand.
Line 5 is “too important just to say I’m going to wait for the study to be done,” Snyder said.
Legacy not a priority
Asked if shutting down Line 5 would be good for his environmental legacy Snyder said, “my legacy should not be the driving decision-maker. It’s doing what is right for the citizens of Michigan.”
Snyder said “if you make the right decisions it will be reflected in people having a positive opinion.”
He said Michigan has been relying on studies and fact-based information on Line 5 and he’s going to “continue on that path.”
In a statement in August, Snyder expressed concern about Line 5 saying he had “directed our departments to accelerate an aggressive review of Enbridge operations and maintenance procedures throughout the state.”
Enbridge has said in a statement that there has been no impact on the integrity of the pipeline or its safe operation.
Great Lakes Now talked to Snyder by phone between events at a summit meeting of Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers in Detroit. Snyder revived the dormant group in 2013 following an eight-year absence from engaging on regional policy issues.
“Lackluster effort” on algae?
The conference’s main focus was on economic, transportation and infrastructure opportunities but there was an environmental panel that discussed nutrient runoff that fuels algae blooms.
In 2015 the governors and premiers agreed to the aspirational goal of reducing nutrient runoff to Lake Erie by 20 per cent by 2020.
Snyder said Michigan has worked with the agriculture community toward reaching the goal, but said he can’t control what the other states do. He indicated he’s open to working with them.
Ontario’s Minister for the Environment, Gary Wheeler, said the province is working on an action plan for Lake Erie “which will be finalized no later than February of 2018.” Wheeler did not comment on Ohio’s actions.
Great Lakes Now asked Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor if the administration of Gov. John Kasich had lost the trust of Toledo citizens when it comes to drinking water quality due to its inaction on combatting nutrient runoff.
In 2014 Toledo was without drinking water for three days because it was contaminated with toxic algae.
Taylor’s staff did not respond to Great Lakes Now’s requests to comment. Taylor represented Kasich at the summit.
Environmental groups supported the 2015 plan but have now become frustrated by the lack of progress. In a statement they referred to a “lackluster effort” by Ohio, Michigan and Ontario to “meet their bold goal.”
At the Friday press conference, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne commented on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations between the U.S. Canada and Mexico.
Wynne fears President Trump’s hard line stance could negatively impact trade between Ontario and Michigan.
Snyder said governors and premiers are in a unique position related to NAFTA since they work collaboratively to facilitate trade on the ground out of the fray of international politics.