- Associated Press - Monday, April 25, 2016

Times Herald (Port Huron). April 22, 2016

Approval of pipelines must meet state demands.

Even the state of Michigan is irritated that the U.S. State Department was about to sanction the use of century-old pipelines to pump crude oil under the St. Clair River without telling anyone.

Taking advantage of the public comment period that was re-opened after widespread outrage over the process and widespread worries about using oil pipelines laid in 1918, the state’s Office of the Great Lakes weighed in on the permit application of Plains LPG Services of Texas.

The company and the State Department say the permit process is a routine matter of cleaning up some paper work left over from Plains LPG purchasing the pipelines.

And although Plains LPG has since said that it would never use the oldest of the six pipelines to transport crude or anything else, it is clear that neither the company nor the government agency know what is in those documents or in those pipelines.

Jon W. Allen, director of the Office of the Great Lakes, wants to know both.

“The state continues to have significant important unanswered questions about the integrity of the current set of pipelines (and/or liners) and their operations that cross the St. Clair River, especially as Plains is seeking to establish the potential to carry crude oil in all six of these lines at some time in the indeterminate future through this Presidential Permit.”

The state makes several prudent and reasonable demands that must be met before Plains LPG moves anything through those pipes:

.The 1918 pipelines must be inspected inside and out.

.The entire history of the pipelines must be documented back to 1918. Liners were installed in the pipeline at some time but nobody knows when or, more importantly, why.

.Plains must use current technology to ensure safe use and future safety of the pipes regardless of their age.

.The company must develop and submit a comprehensive spill response plan for each pipeline.

.Finally, and we think this is the one Plains LPG and every corporation moving dangerous materials across and under the Great Lakes should be doing, the company should weigh the risks against the benefits of using these antiquated pipelines and ask itself if there isn’t a smarter way to move these materials.___

The Detroit News. April 22, 2016

State should prep for costly Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan would significantly harm Michigan’s economy beyond spiking electricity bills. The behemoth energy regulations could hurt personal incomes and slow the economy generally.

That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. But there have been only a few bright spots in the economy since the Great Recession, and America’s energy economy and automaking have been among them.

That’s been important especially for Michigan, which relies so heavily on a manufacturing core that needs an affordable, reliable energy supply.

The McKinsey Global Institute found a robust energy sector could be one of the few game-changing opportunities for the country’s economic renewal and growth. Encouraging shale gas and oil production could add as much as $690 billion a year to GDP and create up to 1.7 million jobs across the economy by 2020.

But Michigan must prepare for the power rules, especially since an evenly divided Supreme Court will likely uphold them.

A report released this week by the Niskanen Center in Washington, D.C., and conducted by Anderson Economic Group of Lansing, analyzed potential scenarios the state could enact to comply with the federal plan.

If no current energy policies in the state change, the report found Michigan would be out of compliance with the CPP from the beginning. That differs from the Michigan Agency for Energy’s projections, which found the state would be compliant until about 2025.

If the latter is true, total personal income would increase to $469 billion in 2020 and $605 billion by 2030, according to the report. But the state can’t count on that.

One option for the state to comply with the plan is a cap-and-trade system in which the state government allocates allowances to power plants for carbon emissions. It’s what the EPA is pushing for, and the power plan is stacked to encourage states toward this system.

But the Niskanen report found it would increase costs on electric utilities and energy providers by about $2.2 billion annually, which would be passed onto consumers through higher prices.

Another possibility is to implement a carbon tax the state would collect.

This is the better solution, and really the only way to influence or control the behavior and energy consumption of the mass market.

But a carbon tax, too, would have a slowing affect on the state’s economy.

Both measures significantly affect Michigan’s personal income. Cap-and-trade would push it 12 percent below what it could be without the regulations, according to the report, and the carbon tax would push it 10 percent lower by 2030.

These scenarios might seem far off or unlikely, but President Obama has set into motion a new kind of energy economy that businesses must plan around and work with, and it has serious costs for them and Michigan residents.

The state should be prepared.___

Detroit Free Press. April 21, 2016

Indictments don’t absolve Snyder in Flint water crisis.

For Gov. Rick Snyder, the first criminal charges filed in the Flint water crisis are an apparent vindication of his long-standing defense: that career bureaucrats, not Snyder or his top lieutenants, poisoned Flint.

And it’s true that the three men charged, the first significant outcome of an investigation launched by state Attorney General Bill Schuette, fit the bill. The City of Flint’s Michael Glasgow and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch are accused of crimes ranging from misconduct in office to water treatment violations to tampering with evidence, charges that reflect the trio’s hands-on roles in Flint’s 2014 drinking water switch and subsequent failure to properly treat its water.Snyder has accepted responsibility for Flint. But he continues to dodge blame, which he’d prefer to see land at the feet of those career bureaucrats.

What happened in Flint is complicated, a series of disastrous decisions made and OK’d by numerous government officials, set against the backdrop of decades of urban disinvestment and regional racism.

But here’s the thing: All of those decisions, made on Snyder’s watch, are on the governor’s account. Like any CEO, the governor is responsible for the culture of organization he helms, for the leadership he displays and - should - require from those below him. And so Wednesday’s charges offer no absolution for the governor.

All three men are mid-level managers, the folks who sign off on treatment plans or water sample collections, and for blame to stop at their feet would be a tragic misread of this public health catastrophe.

None of which diminishes the severity of the charges against Glasgow, Prysby and Busch. State employees Prysby and Busch are accused of altering lead water test results, as is Flint’s Glasgow. Prysby and Busch are also charged with failing to properly enforce water treatment statutes. These are serious crimes.

Under the oversight of state-appointed emergency managers, Flint severed ties with Detroit’s water system in 2013, opting to join a new regional water authority. While that system was under construction, Flint’s then-emergency manager determined that the city would draw its drinking water from the Flint River, treating it at the city’s plant. MDEQ officials told Flint it didn’t need to add corrosion control - chemicals that prevent lead leached from aging service lines and welds from entering the water - to the water it pumped from the Flint River.

In the days before the switch, Glasgow warned that the treatment plant wasn’t ready, telling the Flint Journal last month that he had “marching orders” from higher-ups. Busch cautioned that difficulty of treating the Flint River water could result in carcinogen exposure for residents - something that happened promptly after the switch, when treatment workers overdosed the water with a disinfectant.

Whether Glasgow, Prysby and Busch are guilty is for the courts to decide. Whether Snyder - or ranking members of his administration - will face such charges remains to be seen.

There’s also an ongoing federal investigation; Schuette says there’s more to come. The attorney general is not free from political ambition - he is expected to run for the governor’s seat in 2018 - and it’s all but impossible to see political calculation in this investigation. But the team selected by Schuette include capable investigators, like former FBI agent Andy Arena.

What’s undisputed is that, regardless of what criminal responsibility any investigation assigns, Snyder helms the state. All credit for success, and blame for failure, stops at his desk.

The governor told reporters Wednesday that he’s looking not for vindication, but for the truth. For accountability.

It’s a quest Snyder could complete with ease, were he sufficiently self-aware.___

Midland Daily News. April 24, 2016

Media needs to improve credibility with public.

How much trust do you have in the media to report news fairly and accurately?

According to recent poll results, a small minority have a favorable response to that question, and more than 40 percent said they have zero confidence.

In that study, sponsored by the Media Insight Project, just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media, while 41 percent have no confidence at all. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they have some confidence in those running the news business.

The study also noted that 85 percent said it was extremely or very important that the press be accurate and get the facts right. Two percent said that accuracy isn’t important.

The poll surveyed 2,014 adults and was conducted Feb. 18 to March 21 by the Media Insight Project, a partnership of The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute.

The media, as clearly indicated by these poll results, have a lot of work to do in order to earn public trust.

“It is discouraging to see so little trust in the media by the public, but at the same time it also is understandable,” Midland Daily News Editor Jack Telfer said of the poll results. “We certainly have to do a better job, especially at the national level where it seems like every story is reported from an analytical perspective, rather than just presenting the facts and letting the public decide the merits of the issue. I hope at the local level, here in Midland County and the surrounding areas, that the trust factor is higher, in part because all of us at the Daily News live and work in this region, and therefore know the communities we are covering and the importance of accuracy to our readers.”

At the national level, the study’s findings are getting noticed by newspaper editors.

“The most important thing that news organizations can do is be accurate, and while we know that is a high value, this study reinforces that,” Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, said in an Associated Press article.

Sullivan added that having reader trust is both good journalism and good business. “For news organizations that want to be taken seriously, there is real opportunity here and real help,” she said.

Why so little trust in the media? Here’s what the study discovered in questions to those polled: Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said that they trust the news less because they found stories that were one-sided or biased, while 65 percent said they lost trust in the news because of incorrect facts.

In sum, news reporting outlets have their work cut out in order to improve public trust. The top two areas to work on have been noted: 1. Accuracy; 2. Fairness.___

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