- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A bill introduced in the Michigan legislature seeks to keep information secret about oil and gas pipelines, high-powered electrical lines and other key energy infrastructure.

The bill from Republican state Rep. Kurt Heise of Plymouth would exempt from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act any information about existing and proposed energy infrastructure that “could be useful to a person in planning an attack,” the Detroit Free Press reported (https://on.freep.com/1bD03LQ )

Heise said the aim is to keep such information out of the hands of potential terrorists.

“We do not want people who may have ill intent to be able to locate the exact location of underground utilities, the pumps and surface machinery that may exist with those underground utilities, so they are protected from harm,” Heise said.

Critics of the bill said it would also protect oil and gas corporations, such as Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge, from public disclosures about safety and other records.

“It looks like a sweetheart bill for Enbridge,” said David Holtz, chairman of the nonprofit Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, calling it “a blanket exemption to FOIA that goes beyond federal law.”

“It would cover the condition of pipelines, the rate and outcome of inspections, the condition of welds, just about everything,” Holtz said.

In southwestern Michigan, a 2010 spill from an Enbridge pipeline running from Griffith, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario, spewed more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek. The cost of the cleanup has been pegged at more than $1 billion.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum said the company supports Heise’s bill.

“We are among a number of energy entities that own and operate critical energy infrastructure in Michigan that are joining state police and regulators in supporting the bill, which would keep sensitive information out of the hands of bad actors who may seek to harm Michigan and its citizens,” he said in an email to the Free Press.

The bill comes as state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant review pipeline safety statewide, including of Enbridge’s pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac.

“More information is needed about this pipeline, not less,” said Nic Clark, Michigan director of the environmental nonprofit Clean Water Action. “We need more sunshine laws and more opportunities for people to get their hands on information we ought to know.”

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Online:

House Bill 4540: https://1.usa.gov/1EhuAXr

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com


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