On December 27, 2017, Merit Energy of Dallas, Texas, notified the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality an oil pipeline in Manistee County leaked approximately fifty barrels of oil into a wetland. Media sources are just now learning about the spill a month after the MDEQ received notification.

According to the MDEQ, Merit Energy reported the oil spill as soon as it was discovered. Clean up began on January 8, 2018. The pipeline runs under a wetland in Manistee County, so the oil was able to leak up to the surface.

The MDEQ assured home owners in the area drinking water and wells are not affected by the oil spill, and they will be monitoring water quality in the area once Merit Energy completes their clean up.
Merit Energy discovered the oil spill after they noticed the volume of oil moving through the pipeline had decreased.

According to a report from 9 And 10 news, The MDEQ says that spills like this are common and Merit followed protocol. Restoration and clean up of the wetlands in Manistee County will take months to complete.

Admitting that oil spills from leaking pipelines are common in Michigan is a chilling reminder of the massive oil leak in the Kalamazoo River that took place in 2011. Over a million barrels of oil from a ruptured pipeline spilled into the river, and clean up is ongoing. That pipeline is maintained by Enbridge, the company that also maintains Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac. It was only recently after years of the public demanding an independent study of the condition of the 65 year-old pipeline that Enbridge admitted sections of the pipeline were damaged. The overwhelming majority of Michiganians want the pipeline removed from the straits completely. Most recently, Governor Rick Snyder rejected his own board’s recommendation to shut down the pipeline until it can be replaced.

That the MDEQ can state oil spills in Michigan’s waters are the new normal we must accept is outrageous. Wetlands are a vital part of our ecosystem that produces oxygen. The loss of species of plants and animals in the region is still unknown, as well as any impact on local water supplies people rely on. It’s time for the MDEQ and oil companies doing business in our state to stop these disasters before they happen, or not be allowed in Michigan at all.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 6 – 0 on December 20, 2017 an unconstitutional law that stripped three percent of teacher pay from Michigan’s public school teachers must be returned. The unconstitutional law imposed by the Republican-controlled State Legislature and Republican Governor Rick Snyder stole over $550 million from teachers’ paychecks in another move to fund Republican tax cuts for corporations in the state.

MEA and AFT sued the state, which put the teachers’ money into an escrow account. The court case lasted for eight years, as Republican Attorney General Bill Scheutte appealed decisions made by lower courts that Public Act 75 was unconstitutional and the money illegally taken from teachers must be returned.

“I cannot imagine a better pre-holiday gift to Michigan’s school employees than getting their hard-earned money returned to them,” said MEA President Paula Herbart. “This is the culmination of years of work by both AFT Michigan and MEA on behalf of our members. This reinforces why being a member of a union matters – working collectively, we won this case that no individual could have fought for themselves.”

How Michigan’s public school teachers will receive their illegally taken pay still needs to be worked out, but today marks the end of 8 years of Republican theft of hard working teachers in order to fund corporate tax cuts.

Score one for the good guys.

Volunteers from the citizen group Voters Not Politicians arrived in Lansing, Michigan on Monday, December 18, 2017 to deliver over 400,000 signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections to put an end to gerrymandering in the state. The group needed 315,654 signatures to qualify for the November 2018 mid-term ballot. The hard-working organization of 3,500 volunteers completed the job two months ahead of schedule.

Originally, the group submitted petition language in the late spring of 2017, with the plan to begin collecting signatures by the end of June to mid-July at the latest. Approval was delayed by several weeks with no clear explanation why. The petitions were finally approved in mid-August, and volunteers began canvassing at sporting events, farmers’ markets, craft shows, harvest festivals, and highway rest stops in all of Michigan’s 83 counties.

“This campaign wouldn’t have been possible without each and every volunteer who lent their time and talents to the campaign,” said Jamie Lyons-Eddy, statewide field director for Voters Not Politicians. “From circulators to folks organizing education events across Michigan, this has truly been a campaign for the people by the people. We look forward to continue to grow our volunteer base as we secure our place on the ballot and head into the campaign season.”

Despite the late start, enough signatures were collected; which allowed the petitions to be submitted two months early. As word spread about the petition and the effort to make elections fair and every vote count, people contacted VNP asking where they could sign.

VNP volunteers successfully completed the first major milestone of the campaign to get the amendment added to the state constitution. Beginning with the New Year, volunteers will be needed to canvas and educate Michigan residents about gerrymandering, what it does to the state’s electoral map, and why it disenfranchises so many Michigan voters. If you’re interested in volunteering to help VNP continue its work, you can sign up here. If you can donate to keep the campaign funded, click the link to go to VNP’s donation page.

The constitutional amendment will create an independent board of citizens that represents all voters in Michigan. They will redraw the election districts based on fair and equitable distribution of voters, ensuring that every vote cast counts. The current system in Michigan guarantees a majority of districts will always be won by one party, regardless of how the majority of voters cast ballots.

You can still get involved and help VNP succeed in putting this important and necessary referendum on the 2018 midterm ballot. Volunteer and donate today to put an end to gerrymandering in Michigan.

In April of 2017 the Osceola Township Planning Commission denied Nestlé Waters North America a permit to build a new pumping station in order to double the amount of water they extract from the ground to sell as Ice Mountain Spring Water. The Zoning Appeals Board agreed with the planning commission, and now Nestlé, despite still not having approval from the state to double output, will drag the township before a judge on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.

The push to increase output began in the fall of 2016 when Nestlé applied for a permit with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Public comment prompted a pseudo-hearing at Ferris State University on April 12, 2017. Six days later, the Osceola Township Planning Commission refused the permit to expand the pumping station at Spring Hill Camp.

While Nestlé and the planning commission are in court on Wednesday, a silent vigil will be held in Reed City in front of the courthouse at 301 Upton Street from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. There will be a press conference at 1:15 PM. The hearing begins at 2:00 PM.

Clearly Nestlé’s plans are not in compliance with the zoning requirements of the township. There is no error in decision, as Nestlé alleges, but a careful consideration of what is best for the township, and the people who live there. Nestlé pays a paltry $200.00 a year for the privilege of pumping millions of gallons out of the ground at the expense of the environment and quality of life for the people of the region. Nestlé profits selling Northern Michigan’s water while only 150 miles away Flint, Michigan, has gone without drinkable water for three years thanks to the enduring legacy of the Michigan Republican Party, the MDEQ, and Rick Snyder.

If you can attend the vigil, please do and show your support for the Osceola Township Planning Commission making the right decision for this Northern Michigan community.

On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, special elections will be held in Michigan. Only a few regions are electing candidates to fill open seats, but almost all parts of the state have millage elections for schools, 911, libraries, and other municipal services that must be approved by voters to continue. This year, it’s very important that all progressive voters head to the polls and vote.

In District 109, voters will be electing a new State House Representative to finish the term of John Kivela. Sara Cambensy of Marquette has the experience and energy to represent the people of the 109th District in Lansing. She will put her constituents’ concerns before special interests and ensure that Michiganians in the district will not be forgotten.

Check out your ballot with the Secretary of State office online to see what important issues are being decided on November 7. Millage elections aren’t as exciting as electing a new president, but emergency services, school districts being able to repair buildings, and the other services counties provide and we take for granted get their funding from the tax payers. Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

On November 2, 2017, the Wexford County Board of Commissioners voted 8 to 1 to draft a resolution opposing a permit for a deep injection wastewater well scheduled to be located in the Manton area. A tentative permit has been granted to Wexford Water Technologies LLC by the EPA, but the public has until November 22, 2017 to comment.

Wexford County sold the landfill to American Waste in 2010 to save money when it was discovered trichloroethylene had contaminated the ground water under the landfill. At the time, the county decided to sell the landfill to avoid paying the cost of closing the landfill down and cleaning up the contaminated water. Wexford County didn’t have $13 million dollars to cover the bill.

Local residents are not convinced the proposed injection site – 3,166 to 3,799 feet down into the Traverse Limestone formation – will provide enough of a barrier between the groundwater above and the well below to prevent the contaminated water from leaking into nearby aquifers. One well does exist in the zone, but it is plugged and abandoned. The EPA also ensures that the pressure for the proposed well, 1,038 pounds per square inch, is low enough to prevent the surrounding rock from fracturing.

It’s still unknown at this time the connection between Wexford Water Technologies LLC and American Waste. Wexford County would also be responsible for clean up if any other contamination is discovered with the old landfill, and not American Waste. Once the resolution is written and approved, it will be sent to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA.

To leave public comment, contact Andrew Greenhagen of the EPA by email at greenhagen.andrew@epa.gov by telephone at (312) 353-7648, or mail letters of concern to U.S. EPA, Water Division, UIC Branch (WU-16J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590. There is at this time no plan to hold a public hearing, but people have until November 22, 2017 to comment on the proposed wastewater injection well.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently under the control of a man who justifies sweeping policy changes with bible stories. The EPA favors private business over public health, and according to Scott Pruitt, it pleases God to do so. Please take the time to voice your concerns about this permit and what it will allow this private company to do in Wexford County.

Alright everyone, play some relaxing meditative music, maybe light a few candles to set the mood. Find a comfy chair to relax in and close your eyes as you begin to visualize what it’s like to be a billionaire who bought her way into a cabinet seat in the United States Federal Government.

You’re sitting in your office in Washington D.C. because you’re no longer just a really rich, sheltered, privileged, religious fundamentalist woman who can afford to buy things like right to work, hijacking Detroit Public Schools, and lifting for-profit charter school caps; you run an entire government department – the Department of Education – and now you can do the damage God commands you inflict on an entire nation’s public school system. Something to do with pig bones, pagans, and those evil government-run schools.

You find out from your people who actually run your department there is an issue that needs to be addressed, and education is one part of that issue. Something about education is important because the issue involves competing with other countries. Of course, you have no idea what the issue is and how you’re supposed to fix it, so what do you do? Likely, one of those staff people who actually do all the work might suggest you contact the government agency who knows all about the issue and request a briefing.

The government agency’s representatives arrive to provide this briefing you requested. They’re smart, knowledgeable, and already aware of something they know but you don’t: They have gained lots of experience briefing complete morons over the past nine months, because they also have to brief that fat guy with the spray tan and gravity-defying comb over currently squatting in the White House between golfing vacations at luxury resorts he owns and the American taxpayers get to pay for.

Introductions are made, everyone gets settled into the conference room, and the agency staffers begin their briefing of how education is a vital component of the work their agency does, and what is needed from the Department of Education to make the United States internationally competitive with the issue at hand. You sit and stare at the staffers as they talk.

And stare.

And stare.

And stare.

The people doing the talking will never tell you this to your face, but they’re very quickly evaluating you and your ability to actually fix any of the problem they’re briefing you about. They’ve seen that glassy, deer in the headlights look before: At the White House. The fat guy with the spray tan and ridiculous gravity-defying comb over gives them the same look whenever they have to brief him too – except there’s one noticeable difference. He tries to hide his lack of intelligence by opening his mouth and speaking, and all that ever accomplishes is solidifying the first assessment of how much of an idiot he really is, and he wouldn’t understand what he’s being told even if they provided a pop-up picture book to illustrate.

You on the other hand, you’re sitting there without so much as an occasional “uhuh” or “okay” tossed into the conversation to hide how much of a moron you are. The briefing has nothing to do with you understanding a problem at all, it’s devolved into a humiliating assessment of your lack of intelligence and causing you so much shame, the only way to try and save your shattering pride is remain mute.

You’ve convinced yourself that your silence will save you, but you’re wrong. The agency staff going through the motions of pretending they’re explaining something to you already know their words are floating high above your head and will never connect. The only difference between briefing you and briefing the fat idiot squatting in the White House is you’re self-aware just enough to know you’re a complete moron, and the briefing is getting pretty weird and annoying for the agency staff. You probably aren’t aware of the fact that if staff from this agency are briefing you on something, it’s because there is an actual problem that you need to fix, and they’ve already figured out you don’t have the intelligence to even understand there is a problem.

The agency staffers end their briefing and leave your office. On the way back to their office, they’re shaking off the weird, annoying, wtf, she’s so dumb moment they endured with you. The complexity of the problem is beyond you, but you shake it off because God wanted you to spend all that money to get the fat idiot into the White House, and controlling the Department of Education is your heavenly reward.

And now, as we drift away from that vision, we open our eyes and refocus on the room we’re currently occupying in the here and now.

Congratulations, you just experienced a day in the life of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.