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Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Warren’s ‘Blue New Deal,’ Enbridge lake debris, Ohio anti-protest bill, Canada’s nuclear waste

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Warren’s ‘Blue New Deal,’ Enbridge lake debris, Ohio anti-protest bill, Canada’s nuclear waste
December 12, 2019 Ian Wendrow

Keep up with energy-related developments in the Great Lakes area with Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.

In this edition: Elizabeth Warren unveils ‘Blue New Deal’ program, Enbridge soil and rock sampling left behind debris, Ohio legislature favors bill which limits pipeline protests, Chicago’s only energy utility ComEd under fire for lobbying scandal, Canada looks to store nuclear waste near Lake Huron and owners of bankrupt Lake Erie nuclear plants contributed campaign funds to six of the seven sitting Supreme Court Justices.

On Tuesday, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled her campaign’s “Blue New Deal,” a supplement to the proposed Green New Deal. The plan includes easing the process for offshore renewable energy projects, electrification of ports and harbors and expanding marine protected areas. In the Great Lakes Basin specifically, Warren pledged to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and invest further in the region’s fishing industry.

Enbridge left behind a 40-foot-long piece of three-inch drill rod and another 45-foot piece of equipment in the Straits of Mackinac during its rock and soil sampling back in September. Enbridge did not report the debris to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) for nearly two months, potentially risking a violation of their boring permit under the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act.

Ohio’s state legislature is expected to pass SB 33, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, in early 2020, raising concerns from Ohio environmentalist groups that the bill is simply being used to punish and chill civil protest against the oil and gas industry. The bill would make it a third-degree felony for protesters to trespass on energy company property such as pipelines or refineries.

Exelon’s subsidiary company Commonwealth Edison, one of the largest energy utilities in the state of Illinois and the sole provider of electricity for the city of Chicago, is being called to task by Mayor Lori Lightfoot over the company’s involvement in a lobbying scandal and its role in utility shutoffs. The scandal in Springfield involved improper connections between ComEd,  Illinois House of Representatives Speaker Mike Madigan and other lobbyists. The increased scrutiny puts ComEd in a difficult position as it and Chicago renegotiate a 20-year franchise deal set to expire at the end of 2020.

Canada has narrowed down the proposed site for a deep-geological repository of nuclear waste to two communities, one of which is right by the shore of Lake Huron. This comes not long after a previously proposed storage facility on the Great Lakes, which would have housed low to intermediately radioactive waste, was fiercely opposed by American Great Lakes communities and especially Michigan.

The Ohio Supreme Court is currently hearing a legal complaint regarding House Bill 6, which adds an additional tax to Ohioans’ electric bills in order to bail out two nuclear plants off the coast of Lake Erie that went bankrupt earlier this year. FirstEnergy Solutions, the company that owns the two plants, and its former parent company FirstEnergy Corp., have both contributed campaign funds to six of the seven sitting Supreme Court Justices, one of whom recused himself over potential conflict of interest.

Featured image: Enbridge Inc. contracted the Highland Eagle to complete its rock and soil sampling in the Straits of Mackinac in July 2019. Photo credit: Great Lakes Now.

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