Remember the 2019 Arcelor-Mittal chemical spill into the Burns Waterway that killed over 3,000 fish, closed beaches, and shut down the Ogden Dunes water treatment plant temporarily?
Although the lawsuit was filed in December, the steel mill has had at least 13 self-reports of toxic dischargers this summer. For instance, in the period from June 1 to 5, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management reported that the toxicity limit was exceeded by 2050%! Ammonia has been the main culprit this summer, but other chemicals are monitored too.
Recently, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal has been purchased by an American company, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., which is a Cleveland-based iron ore and steel company.
Leagues in NW Indiana are keeping on top of this, monitoring the progress of the lawsuit, and attending public hearings, so stay tuned!
Line 5 Update
The following is an update on Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline at the point where it transports Canadian oil through the Straits of Mackinac to Sarnia, Ontario. The current pipeline is 65 years old and has had significant problems including recent anchor strikes causing damage to the pipeline. Enbridge is proposing to build a tunnel under the Straits to house the pipeline and has applied to EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) for a permit to build this tunnel.
EGLE requested that Enbridge include alternatives to the proposed tunnel but Enbridge only provided alternatives that keep Line 5 in place. They did not explore other routes through other existing pipelines and did not offer anything like a real alternative.
The proposed tunnel would be bored 60 feet beneath the lake bed into gravel and sometimes sand (not into bedrock as Enbridge touts) with tunnel openings on the north and south sides of the Straits. The construction period in the permit application covers three months of vegetation clearing followed by six months of excavation, including blasting, two years of tunnel construction, eight months of pipeline installation and then six months of backfill and construction of ground facilities. Construction would take place 7 days a week, 24 hours a day with lots of trucks, disturbance, dust and public resource demands over a long period of time.
Impact zones from construction of a tunnel would cover 41 total acres (that’s 31 football fields!), 16 acres on the north shore of Lake Michigan and 25 acres on the south shore. Construction on the north shore would come within 50 feet or less of Lake Michigan.
Enbridge is not proposing any mitigation for filing in wetlands in emergent and forested areas, describing “a majority of wetlands are of low quality”. They are, however, offering to relocate 5,800 plants on the federally threatened list (Dwarf Lake Iris and Houghton Goldenrod) and they boast that they will remove invasive Phragmites.
Rock and mud from boring would be conveyed back to the north Emmet County construction zone and processed for discharge into Lake Michigan. Enbridge acknowledges that the project would not meet EGLE water quality and coastal zone standards.
Enbridge already has a less than stellar record of oil spills in Michigan and elsewhere and the proposed impacts to Great Lakes' water quality during the process of proposed tunnel construction are severe. Enbridge proposes to keep oil flowing through the current aging Line 5 as they build a tunnel, ever increasing the risk of a major oil spill into our waters. Additionally, if constructed, climate impacts of an oil pipeline for the next 99 years would be devastating given the damaging effects that the continued burning of fossil fuels has on our climate. Enbridge’s proposed tunnel would be of benefit to Enbridge but there is little to no benefit for the rest of us and, worse, it poses significant risks to our waters. The bottom line is that oil does not belong in our Great Lakes.
The League of Women Voters Lake Michigan Region is a coalition partner with Oil and Water Don’t Mix
, opposing this pipeline.
The Army Corps has proposed a $778. million dollar barrier in Illinois to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan. This barrier would include electric, bubble and acoustic deterrents with a flushing lock. It would still allow barge traffic. Michigan has reaffirmed their commitment to pay $8 million dollars of Illinois’ $10 million dollar portion of pre-construction engineering work. Illinois still hasn’t supported the project. It needs a non-federal partner before construction begins. In July, the House approved an increased federal share to 80%. It is pending in the Senate. President Trump’s proposed budget does not include funds.
Michigan Ballot Proposal
Michigan uses oil, gas and mineral lease royalty payments from state land to fund land conservation through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. This conservation protects our drinking water sources, natural outdoor spaces and wildlife habitats. This law, created in 1984, has provided $1.2 billion in grants. The fund was designed to cap out at $500 million. We need to increase the cap to keep the fund going. No taxes are involved.