Enbridge has resumed normal operation of the west leg of the dual pipelines that make up the Mackinac Straits crossing portion of its Line 5 after discovering damage to an anchor support last week on the east leg.
After discovering the damage during a routine inspection on June 18, Enbridge initially shut down both legs as a precaution, reopening the west leg after further inspections found no issues with the pipeline itself. At press time this week, the east leg remains in shut down status as further assessment is being done as a matter of precaution.
As of Monday, June 22, Enbridge had completed an engineering analysis of the forces applied to the anchor support and an evaluation of the entire east pipeline for any potential damage. Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) inspections of the remainder of the east leg confirmed no damage to the remaining screw anchors and the pipeline itself.
To assure transparency and efficiency, Enbridge provided assessments on both the east and west pipeline legs to U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the state of Michigan. Enbridge has stated it will not resume operation on the east leg without further discussion with the state of Michigan and approval from PHMSA.Read more
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Great Lakes Michigan Jobs Statement on Need for Line 5 Tunnel
Lansing, Mich – The Great Lakes Michigan Jobs coalition today urged state regulators and public officials to move forward immediately with plans to build the Great Lakes Tunnel deep under the lakebed in the Straits of Mackinac.
The Great Lakes Tunnel project will move a section of the already safe Line 5 pipeline currently located along the lakebed, and will make it even safer by burying it deep under the lakebed in a state-of-the-art concrete tunnel.
“The best next step for Line 5 is to build the Great Lakes Tunnel,” said Geno Alessandrini, Business Manager of the Michigan Laborers union, and a spokesperson for Great Lakes Michigan Jobs. “The Great Lakes Tunnel protects the Lakes, it protects fish and wildlife, and it protects tens of thousands of Michigan workers’ jobs. The Great Lakes Tunnel just makes sense, and we encourage the state to move forward with permitting right away.”
Said Jim Holcomb, Executive Vice President of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and a member of Great Lakes Michigan Jobs: “Construction of a safe, modern, state-of-the-art Tunnel deep below the lakebed will protect the Great Lakes as well as the workers and job creators counting on Line 5. The pipeline is safe, but the Tunnel will make it even safer. It’s time for state government to end the delays, embrace the Tunnel, and protect the Great Lakes and Michigan jobs.”
Leading Michigan voices from labor, business and industry have formed the Great Lakes Michigan Jobs coalition. They are speaking out together, encouraging state and federal agencies currently reviewing permit applications – and all Michiganders – to embrace the Tunnel project, and the lakes and jobs it protects.
The coalition is made up of diverse organizations, including:
- Lake Superior Community Partnership
- Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council
- Michigan Chamber of Commerce
- Michigan Chemistry Council
- Michigan Laborers Union
- Michigan Manufacturers Association
- Michigan Oil and Gas Association
- Michigan Petroleum Association
- Michigan Propane Gas Association
- Midland Business Alliance
- National Federation of Independent Business Michigan
- Operating Engineers 324
- Small Business Association of Michigan
- American Petroleum Institute
The Line 5 pipeline safely delivers the fuel that homeowners and worksites count on to keep Michigan’s economy moving. The Tunnel project was approved in 2018 by a bipartisan majority in the state legislature.
To learn more about the coalition, the Great Lakes Tunnel project or to join the coalition, visit GreatLakesMichiganJobs.com.
On June 24th, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-131, which extends a previous executive order temporarily allowing e-signatures on official documents and remote notarizations to avoid unnecessary in-person contact during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Order 2020-131 expires on July 31, 2020.
“As we continue to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and make every effort to prevent a second wave, it’s crucial that we take all measures to avoid unnecessary in-person contact while ensuring documents can be signed or notarized,” Governor Whitmer said. “Encouraging the use of e-signatures and alternative means of notarization will protect more people during this ongoing public health crisis.”
Under Executive Order 2020-131, requirements for in-person notarizations are temporarily suspended and transactions that require a notary to be completed via two-way, real-time audiovisual technology are allowed. The order also extends the validity of notary commissions until July 31, 2020. It also permits the use of electronic signatures in all cases, except in rare circumstances when a physical signature is required.
On June 18th, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-129, which extends a previous Executive Order allowing public bodies to conduct public meetings remotely during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Order 2020-129 expires on July 31, 2020.
“As we continue our efforts to flatten the curve and prevent a second wave of COVID-19, it’s important for public bodies to be able to continue holding meetings and the public to participate in those meetings,” Governor Whitmer said. “By allowing for remote meetings, public bodies and residents can continue practicing safe social distancing while also ensuring meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public.”
Under Executive Order 2020-129, public bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act, including boards, commissions, committees, subcommittees, authorities, councils and nonprofit boards, can use telephone- or video-conferencing methods to continue meeting and conducting business during the COVID-19 public health crisis, so long as they follow certain procedures to ensure meaningful access and participation by members of the public body and the general public.
Public bodies must meet the following criteria when holding a public meeting remotely:
- Ensure two-way communication for members and the public to hear and address each other when speaking.
- Provide adequate notice to the public of the meeting.
- Post a public meeting notice on their website.
- Permit participants to record or broadcast the public meeting.
- Allow participants to address the public body during a public comment period.
The order also temporarily authorizes public bodies, departments and agencies to use technology to enable remote participation in public comment and hearings, and temporarily excuses school boards from monthly meeting requirements.
Michigan Court of Appeals Rules the Law Creating the MSCA to Oversee the Great Lakes Tunnel Project is Constitutional
On Thursday, June 11, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the law creating the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority to oversee the planned utility tunnel under the Mackinac Straits was constitutional.
Attorney General Dana Nessel had argued that the law, Public 359 of 2018, was unconstitutional because the title of law doesn't match the body of the law. In October of 2019, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled against the AG’s argument and on June 11th, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
In the court’s opinion, Judge Thomas Cameron writes "We conclude that the title of 2018 PA 359 does not address objects so diverse that they have no necessary connection,"
"The Act's stated purpose involved 'connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan,' and both a utility tunnel and a bridge are structures capable of connecting Michigan's peninsulas," the court held. "Thus, a utility tunnel and a bridge are not unconnected objects."
Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the court's decision "once again confirms" that Enbridge's prior agreements with the state "are valid and enforceable."
Additionally, a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Enbridge’s Great Lakes spill plans that had been challenged by the National Wildlife Federation. Enbridge has submitted two spill response plans in the last 5 years, both of which have been approved the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Governor Whitmer has appointed Sean Egan to serve as Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety. In addition to this role, Egan also serves as Deputy Director for Labor at the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) where he oversees MIOSHA, Workers’ Disability Compensation Agency, the Bureau of Employment Relations and the Wage and Hour Division.
The appointment follows efforts to ensure Michigan workers are protected as the state slowly and safely begins to open different sectors of the economy. Last month, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-91 requiring businesses to adhere to strict safety guidelines to protect workers, patrons and their communities from infection. Gov. Whitmer also signed Executive Directive 2020-6 to appoint a Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO).
Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Orders Advancing Northern Michigan into Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan
Northern Michigan, Upper Peninsula Regions Move to Phase 5 on June 10; Personal Care Services Including Salons, Barbershops Reopen Statewide on June 15
Starting on June 10, Regions 6 and 8 — which include much of northern Michigan and all of the Upper Peninsula — will advance to Phase 5 of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. Phase 5 allows the reopening of salons, movie theaters, and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
On June 15, personal services including hair, massages, and nails will reopen statewide. Though the remaining regions, 1 through 5 and 7, will remain in Phase 4 under today’s executive orders, the governor has said she expects the entire state will advance to Phase 5 in the coming weeks.
“Today marks another milestone in the safe reopening of Michigan’s economy,” Governor Whitmer said. “As we continue to slowly reopen different parts of our state, it’s critical that we listen to the experts and follow the medical science to avoid a second wave of infections. The good news is that we are headed in the right direction, and if the current trajectory continues, I anticipate we'll be able to announce more sectors reopening in the coming weeks. We owe it to our front line workers to keep doing our part.”
“We are still on an encouraging trajectory across the state, and while there are regional differences, we are seeing continued general rates of decline in cases and deaths,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “While we must continue to monitor the data, because of these positive trends we are able to move forward, on a regional basis, with the next phases of the MI Safe Start Plan. Although the risk levels are going down, it does not mean it has gone away. Please remain vigilant, wear your mask, practice social distancing, and remain patient as we continue to fight COVID-19 together.”
Under Phase 5, indoor social gatherings and organized events of up to 50 people are permissible. Outdoor social gatherings and organized events are also allowed if people maintain six feet of distance from one another and the gathering consists of no more than 250 people. In addition, outdoor performance and sporting venues will be open with a larger capacity limit of 500, which will allow for some outdoor graduation ceremonies.
In addition, Governor Whitmer has issued an updated rule laying out new workplace safeguards for gyms, in-home services, hair salons, and entertainment venues. Following these safeguards will ensure that workers and patrons alike remain protected as the state moves to reopen.
Governor Extends Executive Order Allowing Administrative Hearings by Phone, Video Conference Through June 30th
Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed Executive Order 2020-113, which continues to allow certain state administrative hearings to be held by video conference or phone in place of in-person hearings. The order also temporarily allows e-signatures in place of written signatures on related documents. This order is effective immediately and remains in effect through June 30, 2020.
Click here to view Executive Order 2020-113.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District has announced the extension of the comment period for proposed pipeline tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac between Mackinaw City and Saint Ignace, Michigan. The comment period has been extended an additional 40 days and will now close on July 14th, 2020. Click here for the public notice.
Comments can be filed with Kerrie E. Kuhne Chief, Permit Evaluation Western Branch Regulatory Office Corps of Engineers, Detroit District by email at Katie.L.Otanez@usace.army.mil. The USACE asks that those submitting comments include a name and mailing address and refer to file number LRE-2010-00463-56-A19.
It’s encouraging to see that the tunnel project remains on schedule and that Enbridge anticipates construction to be underway as early as the end of 2021. While the tunnel is constructed, the safe and continued operation of the existing Line 5 pipeline, is essential to Michigan's oil and gas industry and the small, local businesses who depend on consistent access to the pipeline to ship their product.
Gov. Whitmer Rescinds Safer at Home Order, Retailers, Restaurants Permitted to Open Soon with Capacity Limits
The governor’s order will allow retailers to reopen on June 4 and restaurants to reopen on June 8, both subject to capacity limits. Day camps for children will likewise be permitted to open on June 8. Effective immediately, groups of 100 or less will be allowed gather outdoors with social distancing. Office work that is not capable of being performed remotely can resume. And in-home services, including housecleaning services, can resume operations.
“The data has shown that we are ready to carefully move our state into the next phase of the MI Safe Start Plan, but we owe it to our brave frontline heroes to get this right,” said Governor Whitmer. “While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to be smart and practice social distancing, and encourage those who meet the criteria to get tested for COVID-19. If we all do our part, our goal is to announce a shift to phase five for the entire state prior to the fourth of July. Stay smart, stay safe, and let’s all do our part.”
Michiganders must continue to wear facial coverings when in enclosed public spaces and should continue to take all reasonable precautions to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the community. And they should continue to work from home to the maximum extent possible.
“The governor and I, along with a team of experts, have determined that our state is ready to move into the next phase of the MI Safe Start Plan. Hospitalization numbers are down, our frontline workers have PPE to last them several weeks, and the number of positive cases and deaths are declining,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “We will continue to monitor the data and work closely with local health departments to ensure Michiganders practice safe social distancing. On behalf of our health care professionals and first responders on the front lines, we must all be smart and be safe.”
Subject to local regulation, gyms and fitness centers may conduct outdoor classes, practices, training sessions, or games, provided that coaches, spectators, and participants maintain six feet of distance from one another during these activities. Outdoor pools can also reopen, with restricted capacity.