- 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.

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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.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama waded into the voter ID debate, accusing Republicans of using restrictions to keep voters from the polls and jeopardizing 50 years of expanded voting access for millions of black Americans and other minorities.

A Dane County judge had already blocked Wisconsin’s law in state court. The state Supreme Court heard arguments in two separate lawsuits in February, although it’s not clear when the justices will issue a ruling. For voter ID to be reinstated, the state’s high court would have to rule that it doesn’t violate the state constitution, and Adelman’s decision would have to be overturned on appeal.

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Republicans, veterans urge Walker to issue pardon

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Veterans and Republican supporters of Gov. Scott Walker are among the dozens of people who have asked that Walker pardon a decorated Iraq War veteran who wants to become a police officer.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday (http://tiny.cc/n0y2ex) that despite the pressure, Walker is not budging on his position against issuing any pardons.

Four dozen people have sent emails and letters to Walker urging him to pardon Eric Pizer, a combat veteran and former corporal in the Marine Corps. Just one writer said Pizer, of Madison, should not be given leniency.

Pizer was convicted of a felony after he broke a man’s nose in a fight in Boscobel just days after he returned from Iraq in 2004. Pizer, then 23, was charged with felony substantial battery and pleaded no contest. He served two years’ probation and paid the victim’s $7,165 in medical bills.

In the 10 years since then, Pizer has earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice with hopes of becoming a police officer. But as a felon, Pizer is prohibited from carrying a gun.

A pardon would not erase the conviction but it would restore Pizer’s right to possess a firearm.

Pizer backer, Jeff Engstrom, attached a photo of himself and his wife attending a Walker campaign event in his request that the governor issue a pardon.

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Wisconsin veterinarian to help fight pig virus

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s state veterinarian has been asked to help in the fight against a virus that has killed millions of pigs in the past year.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea causes severe diarrhea in newborn piglets, who die of dehydration. The virus is believed to have come from China and showed up in the U.S. last May.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is requiring farms to report outbreaks of PED and participate in a program to help control the disease.

Wisconsin state veterinarian, Dr. Paul McGraw, has been asked to help develop that program.

Wisconsin agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel said Tuesday in a statement that McGraw was asked to help in part because he has raised pigs himself. Brancel also says McGraw has been proactive in increasing biosecurity in Wisconsin.

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