- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014
APNewsBreak: Officials seek assurances on pipeline

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge Inc. and obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac - the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan - pose a unique safety risk.

“Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects,” their letter said. “And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes.”

Larry Springer, a spokesman for Enbridge, a Canadian company based in Calgary, Alberta, said Wednesday night he had not seen the letter. The company has said previously the pipelines are safe and inspected regularly.

Schuette and Wyant joined a rising tide of criticism about the Straits of Mackinac pipelines that began after the rupture of another Enbridge line in 2010 that spilled more than 843,000 gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River and a tributary creek in southwestern Michigan. The cleanup is mostly complete, although Enbridge is still working to remove oil from the river bottom.

The letter added bipartisan flavor to the official expressions of concern. Schuette is a Republican and Wyant is an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. In December, three Democratic U.S. senators - Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Richard Durbin of Illinois - sent a letter to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration about the Mackinac lines in northern Michigan.

A community meeting in March hosted by Mackinac County’s planning commissioner drew a standing-room-only crowd. Last summer, hundreds of activists attended a protest rally.

___

Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin voter ID law

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law Tuesday, declaring that a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman sided with opponents of the law, who argued that low-income and minority voters aren’t as likely to have photo IDs or the documents needed to get them. Adelman said the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. He also said the law appeared too flawed to fix with legislative amendments.

Adelman’s decision invalidates Wisconsin’s law and means voter ID likely won’t be in place for the fall elections, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces re-election. While Walker committed last month to calling a special legislative session if the law were struck down in court, his spokeswoman wouldn’t commit to that Tuesday.

“We believe the voter ID law is constitutional and will ultimately be upheld,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email. “We’re reviewing the decision for any potential action.”

The ruling could set a precedent for similar legal challenges in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere. There are 31 states with laws in effect requiring voters to show some form of identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states have strict photo ID requirements similar to the one a state judge struck down in Arkansas last week; that decision has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law has been put on hold because of court challenges.

Story Continues →