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Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Wisconsin utility shutoffs postponed, Lake Erie wind farm, Minnesota mine legal win

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Wisconsin utility shutoffs postponed, Lake Erie wind farm, Minnesota mine legal win
September 18, 2020 Ian Wendrow

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

In this edition: Wisconsin Public Service Commission extends utility shutoff moratorium, ruling that could undo Lake Erie wind farm project stands, and PolyMet copper-nickel mine gets critical legal win in Minnesota.

Click on the headline to read the full story:

Michigan:

In the Coast Guard report, released July 15, the investigating officer recommended the suspension and revocation of the mariner credentials of a crew member on board the Erie Trader barge and Clyde S. Vanenkevort tug. The officer also recommended that a letter of warning be issued to another crew member. 

“However, upon further review of the facts of the case, relevant federal regulation and Coast Guard policy, the Coast Guard decided to not pursue further action,” said Cmdr. Michael Hjerstedt, chief of prevention for Sector Sault Ste. Marie.

An extensive state review of Canadian energy giant Enbridge’s compliance with easement requirements for its Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac is wrapping up soon, according to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer said the Department of Natural Resources, which holds the easement title, is finishing its review during remarks to the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, which held a virtual gala on Thursday, Sept. 10.

The DNR review has been pending since last summer.

Minnesota:

A Minnesota district judge ruled in favor of PolyMet Mining over a dispute between the mining firm, a coalition of environmental activist groups and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa regarding a planned copper-nickel mine and tailings dam near Hoyt Lakes. At the heart of the dispute is a charge that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) pressured EPA regulators to not publish their comments on a draft water permit until after the public comment period ended, which environmentalists and the Fond du Lac Band characterized as “procedural irregularities.” Judge John H. Guthmann agreed with the environmentalists’ characterization of the MPCA’s behavior but dismissed the charge that such actions constituted an illegal act. The MPCA’s actions are also under review by the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General and the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, while PolyMet faces several other court proceedings and challenges to its submitted permits.

Senate Republicans ousted Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley on Friday, the second agency head in two months to get the boot in an intensifying power struggle between GOP leaders and Gov. Tim Walz during a series of pandemic-triggered special sessions.

Kelley, appointed by Walz in 2019, was rejected on a narrow 33-31 vote after taking heat from Republicans for his agency’s role in legal challenges to Line 3, Enbridge Energy’s project to replace a deteriorating pipeline in northern Minnesota.

Ohio:

Icebreaker Wind, an offshore wind farm energy project that would be built off the coast of Colombus, Ohio, suffered a major setback after the Ohio Power Siting Board announced it would not revisit a May decision that supporters of the project say places financially untenable restrictions. The Board’s original decision stipulated that the wind farm’s turbines must remain idle at night between March 1 and November 1, in order to reduce the project’s risk to migrating birds and bats. Proponents of Icebreaker Wind have been lobbying the agency for months to reconsider the decision and approve the project without any conditions. The Board defended its stance as a means of ensuring that Icebreaker Wind does not pose a significant danger to local wildlife.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into FirstEnergy Corp. in a separate probe of the company tied to the $60 million bribery scandal involving House Bill 6, records show.

The examination became public in a lawsuit the company and a consulting firm filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland against a former employee of the firm who accessed financial information about the Akron-based utility.

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin’s moratorium on utility shutoffs for those behind on payments was due to expire on October 1, and has now been postponed until November 1 following a vote by the state’s Public Services Commission. More than 20 organizations had lobbied the Commission to extend the moratorium due to the excessive financial burdens placed on residents by the COVID-19 pandemic. By August, over 50,000 Wisconsinites faced the prospect of having their electricity or water utilities cut off.


Catch up on other Great Lakes energy headlines here:

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Ohio nuclear bailout bill repeal, COVID-19 energy crises in Michigan

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Energy-efficient fertilizer in Minnesota, Ohio bailout law repeal, Wisconsin utility rate freeze

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Back Forty mine setback, Illinois and Ohio utility shutoffs

The Right to Mine: Michigan grants Canadian mining company permits while Wisconsin Menominee tribe fights those permits in court

In a time of COVID-19, millions of Americans are plagued by water debt


Featured image: This June 2020 photo, shot from a television screen provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy shows damage to anchor support EP-17-1 on the east leg of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline within the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy via AP)

1 Comment

  1. DB 3 months ago

    Go ahead … keep doing “legal” manipulations to screw over the energy companies and (as someone who has lived in MI all my life and in the Keewenaw for four years) we will end up “saving the world” or on the road to “freezing in the dark”, unemployed “on welfare” (but welfare from where) …

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