Michigan officials sound off on Trump pipeline orders, legal action possible

By: - April 11, 2019 10:59 am

Donald Trump (left) and Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons” | Wikimedia Commons

Michigan political leaders are expressing anger over a pair of executive orders signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump which aim to ease regulations for oil and gas pipeline construction and handcuff state officials from intervening.

It’s unclear whether a contested plan to bury the Line 5 oil pipeline — which runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan — served as an impetus for Trump’s action on Wednesday.

Dana Nessel, March 22, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Late last month, state Attorney General Dana Nessel released an opinion that a law enacted last year was unconstitutional that creates a new authority overseeing a new buried oil pipeline constructed through the Straits. This week, she compared Trump to a “Simpsons” cartoon scoundrel for his actions.

Trump, in statements before signing the orders, singled out an oil pipeline project that was blocked by officials in New York state.

“And also, in New York, they’re paying tremendous amounts of money more for energy to heat their homes because New York State blocked a permit to build the Constitution Pipeline,” Trump said. “It’s a pipeline that goes across. And we actually buy a lot of oil from other countries like Russia because we aren’t being permitted to build a pipeline through New York State. How about that? Not too good.”

Some of Michigan’s top Democratic elected officials have expressed anger with Trump’s actions, particularly with how the orders might violate the Clean Water Act.

“Instead of reinforcing the growing need for environmental protection and clean water, President Trump’s executive order adversely impacts states’ ability to enforce water quality standards,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “This order seriously damages the division of state and federal authorities established in the Clean Water Act.”

Likewise, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) slammed Trump’s executive actions over the possibility that they could cause harm to the Great Lakes.

“The Great Lakes are part of our DNA — and next to our people, they are our most precious resource,” Peters wrote in a series of tweets on Thursday morning. “We also know that an oil spill in the Great Lakes would be catastrophic for our drinking water, environment and economy. I’m concerned the President’s executive order weakens important safety and water quality protections covered by the Clean Water Act.”

Nessel, in a tweet on Thursday morning, compared Trump to C. Montgomery Burns, the wealthy villain from the cartoon comedy “The Simpsons,” who owns a nuclear power plant. She indicated that legal action could be necessary.

“I know I’ve said I would probably have to sue Trump often in order to protect Michigan, but sometimes you just need a day off,” Nessel wrote.

Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney in an emailed statement to the Advance, acknowledged that Nessel’s tweet was partially a joke, but said that Trump’s executive orders, “hits very close to home for Michigan given our serious concerns about Enbridge and Line 5.

“We are evaluating participation in a multi-state lawsuit to enjoin the Trump administration from allowing this executive order to take effect if it is determined that the EO is illegal and detrimental to the interests of the state of Michigan,” she said.

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.