Judge Limits Scope in MPSC Line 5 Tunnel Permit Consideration

On Tuesday, February 23rd Administrative Law Judge Dennis Mack issued a decision determining the scope of evidence than can be presented before the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) in its consideration of the case on the Line 5 segment replacement within the Great Lake Tunnel.

The judge had previously ruled on the issue in October 2020, but was asked to rule again, taking into consideration the Governor’s November order that revoked and terminated the 1953 easement and stipulated that the existing dual pipelines in the Straits must be shutdown by May of 2021.

In the new ruling, the Judge stuck with his previous decision made last October, excluding from the scope of the MPSC consideration:

  • The public need for Line 5
  • The operation of the current Line 5
  • The safety of the current Line 5
  • Any discussion of greenhouse gas (GHG) or climate change

“The Commission’s jurisdiction under Act 16 is over the proposal to relocate the existing pipelines into the Utility Tunnel, and a component of that jurisdiction is examining the environmental impacts of that conduct, consistent with the judicial and Commission construction of that term, under MEPA [Michigan Environmental Protection Act],” Mack’s ruling reads.

“The issuance of [Whitmer’s Nov. 13 notice] does not expand the MEPA inquiry to include the environmental effects of the operation and safety of Line 5, or those arising from the production, refinement, and consumption of the oil transported on Line 5,” Mack concludes.

The ruling is good news for the Tunnel project and is an important step towards getting Line 5 out of the water and safely underground in a state-of-the-art Tunnel.

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The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced changes to its Paycheck Protection Program aimed at helping sole proprietors and independent contractors.

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced changes to its Paycheck Protection Program aimed at helping sole proprietors and independent contractors.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 9:00 am ET, SBA will establish a 14-day, exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. This will give lenders and community partners more time to work with the smallest businesses to submit their applications, while also ensuring that larger PPP-eligible businesses will still have plenty of time to apply for and receive support before the program expires on March 31, 2021.

SBA will:

  • Allow sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals to receive more financial support by revising the PPP’s funding formula for these categories of applicants.
  • Eliminate an exclusionary restriction on PPP access for small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions, consistent with a bipartisan congressional proposal.
  • Eliminate PPP access restrictions on small business owners who have struggled to make student loan payments by eliminating student loan debt delinquency as a disqualifier to participating in the PPP.
  • Ensure access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for the PPP.

Additional detail will be featured in this week's monthly edition of the Michigan Oil & Gas News.

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Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order to Ensure Adequate Propane Distribution in Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2021 

Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order to Ensure Adequate Propane Distribution in Michigan 

LANSING, Mich. – Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order declaring a state of energy emergency in Michigan to ensure adequate propane distribution over the coming days.

As many states have been experiencing consistent extreme cold temperatures, the demand for energy has increased significantly, which has put a strain on the nation’s energy infrastructure. Michigan has experienced an abnormally high demand for propane from in-state and regional consumers, causing longer lines at propane distribution centers. In an effort to reduce this strain and ensure a consistent flow of energy, the executive order temporarily suspends restrictions on commercial driver hours to allow the immediate delivery of energy to homes and businesses.  

With a cold wave gripping the country, our top priority right now is ensuring that Michigan families and businesses have the home heating fuel we need to stay warm,” said Governor Whitmer. “While I am confident that our state has the energy supply we need to get through these cold winter days, we aren’t taking any chances after what happened in Texas this weekAll of Michigan’s neighboring states, and the majority of states in the nation, are under some form of federal or state energy emergency declaration. With today’s order, Michigan will allow expanded flexibility for drivers to ensure the supply of home heating fuel can be delivered across the state without delay or interruption. 

Executive Order 2021-3 takes effect immediately on Saturday, February 20, and remains in effect through Sunday, February 28. The order exempts motor carriers and drivers transporting propane and heating oil from compliance with maximum weekly driving and on-duty limits. Any provision of a state statute, order, or rule pertaining to the hours-of-service is suspended. This exemption and suspension apply to all highways in Michigan, including the national system of interstate and defense highways. 

Following the polar vortex in 2019, Governor Whitmer directed the Michigan Public Service Commission to conduct a Statewide Energy Assessment. The assessment, which was released in September of 2019, outlined a number of steps the commission and its staff have since taken to ensure that Michigan’s systems for supplying and distributing energy to homes and businesses become more resilient and able to withstand weather extremes, aging infrastructure and other challenges ahead. 

To view the full executive order, click the link below:  

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Whitmer Announces Appointment to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority

On February 10, 2020, Governor Whitmer announced the appointment of Paul F. Novak to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority.

Paul F. Novak, of Detroit, is the managing attorney of the Detroit office of the national law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, PC. He previously worked as a partner at Milberg, LLP in Detroit, senior counsel at Clark Hill PLC in Lansing, and chief legal counsel for the City of Lansing. Mr. Novak also served as an assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan for 15 years. Mr. Novak holds a Bachelor of Arts in Socioeconomic Policy Problems and Master of Arts in Economics, both from Michigan State University, and a Juris Doctor degree from Emory University School of Law. Mr. Novak is appointed to represent Democrats for a term commencing February 10, 2021 and expiring December 12, 2024. He succeeds James R. Richardson who has resigned. 

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) oversees the construction and operation of a tunnel in the bedrock beneath the waters of the Straits of Mackinac. The tunnel will house a replacement segment for the Line 5 petroleum pipelines that currently sit on the bottom of the Straits and will accommodate other utilities to improve infrastructure connections between the peninsulas. MSCA will own the tunnel after its construction and provide independent oversight throughout its life. 

This appointment is subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. 

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Governor Whitmer Makes Appointments to Council on Climate Solutions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 3, 2021 

Contact: [email protected]  

Governor Whitmer Makes Appointments to Council on Climate Solutions  

LANSING, Mich. — Today, Governor Whitmer announced appointments to the new Council on Climate Solutions.  

"Since taking office, I have been focused on addressing the issues that are facing Michiganders. In the case of climate change, the science is clear. Climate change is directly impacting our public health, our environment, our economy, and our families,” said Governor Whitmer. "Back in September, I announced the MI Healthy Climate Plan, a comprehensive plan that will protect Michiganders' public health and the environment and help develop new clean energy jobs by putting Michigan on a path towards becoming fully carbon-neutral by 2050. I fully believe that these appointees will help us fully implement the MI Healthy Climate Plan and will be laser-focused when it comes to combating the direct threat of climate change."   

In September 2020, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-182 creating the Council on Climate Solutions. The Council acts in an advisory capacity to Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to formulate and oversee the implementation of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, which will serve as the action plan for this state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition toward economywide carbon neutrality. 

The Council will include EGLE Director Liesl Clark who will serve as Chair, the directors of the Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Labor and Economic Opportunity, Natural Resources, Transportation, and Health and Human Services, the chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission, the State Treasurer, and the CEO of MEDC, or their designees from within their respective departments and agencies.  

“In Michigan, we know that climate solutions are mobility solutions and mobility solutions are climate solutions. As the state that put the world on wheels, what we do on climate matters,” said Liesl Eichler Clark, Director of EGLE. “Future generations of Michiganders are counting on us to get this right. Governor Whitmer has included appointees to the Council on Climate Solutions that bring unique backgrounds and voices on these issues from across the board. Everyone should have a seat at the table as we work to combat climate change while protecting public health and supporting clean energy jobs.”    

Click Read More to see who the Governor has appointed. 

 

Read more
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"Climate Justice Brain Trust" panel members set to guide the MI Healthy Climate Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE From EGLE:

Climate justice leaders will develop equity-based framework to guide MI Healthy Climate Plan

A panel of climate and environmental justice experts was named today to develop a justice and equity-based framework for the development and implementation of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, which calls for a transition to a carbon-neutral Michigan by 2050 that includes communities disproportionately affected by climate change.

The five-member Climate Justice Brain Trust will help guide the Office of Climate and Energy’s work in identifying barriers that impede environmental justice communities from realizing the benefits of the energy sector’s transition to cleaner energy sources. It will provide guidance on appropriate climate adaptation, mitigation and clean energy investments from a climate justice perspective.

“The impacts of climate change are being felt all across Michigan and we need to be aggressive in planning for a future that will look a lot different than today,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, which includes the Office of Climate and Energy. “That’s why the work of the Climate Justice Brain Trust is so important. By developing guidance that centers on equity, the Brain Trust will help incorporate all Michiganders, including communities in transition, in the path forward.”

The volunteer members of the panel are:

  • Theresa Landrum of Detroit is a community activist with the 48217 Community Monitoring Group.
  • Bryan Lewis of Detroit is the executive director of EcoWorks.
  • Justin Onwenu of Detroit is the health communities and environmental justice organizer at the Sierra Club.
  • John Petosky of Northport is an associate attorney at Environmental Law & Policy Center and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
  • Tony Reames of Farmington Hills is an assistant professor of Environmental Justice at the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.

“The concepts of equity and justice are critical to how we as a state move forward to address climate change,” said Regina Strong, the state’s Environmental Justice Public Advocate. “By setting a framework for what an equitable carbon neutral future should look like in Michigan, the experts on the Brain Trust ensure a diversity of voices and experiences as we develop the MI Healthy Climate Plan.”

The Climate Justice Brain Trust will identify:

  • Challenges, barriers and needs of climate justice communities.
  • Vision and guidance to achieve an equitable and just carbon-neutral Michigan.
  • Key policy areas to address climate justice issues.

“We look forward to incorporating the expertise of the Climate Justice Brain Trust into the MI Healthy Climate Plan to ensure that climate solutions are equitable for all Michiganders,” said Dr. Brandy Brown, Climate and Energy Advisor.

The Climate Justice Brain Trust and the Office of Climate and Energy will work jointly with the Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate to identify ways to integrate environmental justice efforts into ongoing climate work.

The Climate Justice Brain Trust will serve as an advisory resource on issues of climate justice for the members of the Michigan Council on Climate Solutions. The Council will advise EGLE in identifying and recommending opportunities for the development and effective implementation of emissions-reduction strategies as part of the MI Healthy Climate Plan.

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EGLE approves permits for proposed Mackinac Straits tunnel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Jan. 29, 2021
EGLE Media Office, [email protected], 517-284-9278


EGLE approves permits for proposed Mackinac Straits tunnel

Tunnel plans meet regulatory, statutory requirements; review affirms DNR conclusion that existing pipeline poses unacceptable risk to Great Lakes

 

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced today that it has approved Enbridge Energy’s application for certain permits required to build a utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

If constructed, the tunnel would house a proposed replacement for the 68-year-old Line 5 dual petroleum products pipelines currently lying on lakebed. EGLE’s review of the permit applications concluded that the proposed construction of a tunnel beneath the lakebed can be done in compliance with the state environmental laws that EGLE administers.

EGLE acknowledged public concerns about the existing oil pipeline and affirmed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ conclusion that the current pipeline violates the Public Trust Doctrine and poses an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes.

The permit approvals follow a nine-month review period and cover Enbridge’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Wastewater Permit (NPDES), bottomlands, and wetlands permit applications. EGLE’s permit review confirmed that the proposed tunneling project would have minimal impact on water quality in the Great Lakes and would not affect protected public uses of Michigan’s water resources.

“EGLE is obligated to review permit applications with the goal of protecting the environment and public health, but within the confines of Michigan law,” said Teresa Seidel, director of EGLE’s Water Resources Division. “During our review of this proposed project, our top priority has been protecting the Straits of Mackinac and the surrounding wetlands, aquatic life, and other natural and cultural resources from adverse environmental impacts.”

EGLE’s review determined that the proposed project would result in minimal impact to wetlands, estimating wetlands affected to be 0.13 acres – an area roughly one-tenth the size of a football field. Enbridge will be required to protect 1.3 acres of existing Great Lakes coastal wetlands and purchase wetlands credits from a state wetlands mitigation bank to address this impact.

Prior to making its permitting decision, EGLE held four public information sessions, four public hearings and four tribal consultations. EGLE’s decision making also included input from the State Historic Preservation Office and a report from an independent civil engineering firm specializing in complex tunneling projects. EGLE also reviewed more than 2,600 comments from the public on the permit applications and devoted more than 2,000 staff-hours to its consideration.

“Although this proposed tunnel project has illuminated numerous related policy issues, the basis for our decision is required to be limited to compliance with the relevant environmental statutes created by our legislature,” said EGLE director Liesl Clark. “Our review showed construction of the proposed tunnel could comply with state environmental laws. We have issued permits designed to ensure that if a tunnel is constructed, it will be in strict compliance with relevant statutes and adhere to stringent protections against impacts to the Great Lakes.”

To keep the public informed, EGLE has partnered with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority on the state’s Line 5 in Michigan website. Information on this project, permit documents and other supporting materials are available there.

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"The state of our state is resilient." Governor gives 2021 State of the State address

Governor Whitmer gave her third State of the State address on Wednesday, January 27. The speech was delivered online for the first time in Michigan history, par for the course in 2020/2021. The Governor used her 30 minute speech to reflect on the obstacles and achievements of 2020, while calling for unity and bi-partisanship as we move forward. The address lacked major new announcements, perhaps because many of the administration's initiatives and actions have been detailed throughout the year during the weekly Covid press conferences. 

While the Governor discussed vaccines, roads, jobs, and education, the topic of energy got only a brief mention, 

On energy, the Governor said,

"Over the next year, we will announce initiatives and projects big and small – from tech, mobility and manufacturing growth, to clean energy and road construction. This will protect, grow, and create more good paying jobs".

MOGA will continue to monitor and prepare for this promised "clean energy" initiative, ensuring that oil and gas continue to be a large part of the state's energy portfolio for decades to come.

Click Here to view the full State of the State address

Governor Whitmer 2021 State of the State Remarks as Prepared for Delivery  PDF icon

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Biden Administration Takes Aim at Oil and Gas

On the campaign trail, President Biden called for the U.S. to phase out its dependence on fossil fuels. His first week in office has certainly set a similar tone, with several climate related Executive Orders. Today, the president issued a new Executive Order, which according to the administration, is set to "empower" American workers and businesses to “lead a clean energy revolution” that would achieve a carbon pollution-free sector by 2035, while putting the U.S. on an “irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050.” The order, clearly establishes climate considerations as an “essential element” of U.S. foreign policy and national security. 

Highlights related to our industry include:

The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030.

The order does not restrict energy activities on lands that the United States holds in trust for Tribes. The Secretary of the Interior will continue to consult with Tribes regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources, in conformance with the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities.

The order also directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure. 

Additionally, the order tasks a new Interagency Working Group to advance projects that reduce emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases from existing and abandoned infrastructure and that prevent environmental damage that harms communities and poses a risk to public health and safety – such as projects to reduce methane emissions, oil and brine leaks, and other environmental harms from tens of thousands of former mining and well sites.

In response, IPAA issued the following statement, 

 IPAA: “Don’t Be Fooled. This is a Ban on Production”

‘Build Back Better’ was simply campaign rhetoric 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the Biden Administration’s executive order directing the Department of Interior to halt new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and waters, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) released the following statement: 

Dan Naatz, IPAA SVP of Government Relations and Political Affairs: “In his first week in office, President Biden has already shown that his campaign theme to “Build Back Better” was simply campaign rhetoric. In the latest blow to American oil and natural gas producers, the Biden Administration announced it is placing an indefinite halt on new oil and natural gas leases on federal lands and waters. However, do not be fooled, this is a ban. Federal lands and waters together accounted for 22% of total U.S. oil production and 12% of U.S. natural gas production in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. The Biden Administration’s plan to obliterate the jobs of American oil and gas explorers and producers has been on clear display with cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the initial announcement of a 60-day freeze on federal leasing and permitting, and now this.   

“On Monday, President Biden issued an executive order “Strengthening Buy American Provisions, Ensuring Future of America is Made in America by All of America’s Workers.” This latest order, made in the name of protecting the environment, does the opposite – it will only shift jobs and energy production to Saudi Arabia and Russia, which have far less-stringent environmental controls than America. 

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Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan Dealt Another Loss in Court

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s (CBFM) complaint seeking to certify its petition to ban fracking in Michigan.

Beginning in 2015, the CBFM collected signatures to put a ban on hydraulic fracturing on the ballot. The group, however, failed to gather the required number of signatures within the 180-day window required by law. The group has been fighting the limit in court since 2016.

Last week, the Court of Appeals rejected the group’s request to strike down the statute.

The CBFM has said it will now appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, where Democratic-nominated justices have the majority for the first time since 2010.

Click here to read the Court's opinion

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