To meet the challenges of the global climate crisis, we need bold ideas and to speak truth to power. That’s the idea behind Climate/Justice, a Planet Detroit opinion column written by Detroit-based environmental justice activist Michelle Martinez. Martinez writes not only as an activist but as a mother and fourth-generation Detroiter.
Follow all of Martinez’ columns here.
I live in Detroit. And no, Detroit is not in the 11th Congressional District. But I am talking to you, who may live in the newly drawn 11th District or anyone who might have some extra cash to donate to Levin.
Because we ALL need Andy Levin in the 11th District seat to make progress on climate.
To illustrate, I pulled a map from Ballotpedia– on the left is the old 11th District, and on the right is the newly drawn Congressional District. The area circled in purple is that which may be affected by climate. So yeah, everybody.
In case you missed the May 24 debate between Andy Levin and Rep. Haley Stevens because of the horrific gun violence in Uvalde, TX, I thought I would catch you up.
Which, by the way, I first heard Andy Levin speak at a DAYUM event in Detroit, when he visited to listen to youth about gun violence.
Unfortunately, local coverage from Detroit Free Press nor the Oakland Post skipped over the exchange on climate and Enbridge Line 5. So here it is, both the clip and the transcript:
The moderator asks if the candidates support the construction of a tunnel to extend the life of Enbridge-owned oil pipeline Line 5, which lies on the bottom of the Traverse Bay and threatens the Great Lakes.
Andy Levin: I don’t think we can leave it open leave of, you know, a tunnel, a six year old pipeline on the floor of the straits Mac and all four years. That’s the problem.
Moderator Chad Livengood: Congresswoman Stevens, do you support the construction of a tunnel to replace it?
Haley Stevens: Well, I’m the vice-chair of the House Science Committee, and we have not yet had a science committee hearing about this, but I certainly follow the cues of our Governor and I think if we can reach a negotiated agreement with our friends in Canada, we can put a lot of people back to work by at least getting to some safety measures. Look, many of us are making assumptions in this audience. But many of us want the same thing. Right? We all want the same thing. We want our Great Lakes to remain safe. We want our water to remain fresh and clear and not experience an auto or oil spill. We also want to transition; right we’re here in auto capital in Oakland County. This is a great opportunity for us, certainly to continue to lead the way but we got to follow the governor, Chad. You know, if we get to a place where we’re doing the tunnel, we can do the tunnel certainly though the Great Lakes remain our priority.
So let’s start with Haley Stevens’ opening statement, “I am the vice-chair of the House Science Committee, and we have not yet had a Science Committee hearing on this.”
Canadian-owned Enbridge Line 5 has leaked 29 times, spilling 1.13 million gallons of oil into the environment. The pipeline has also repeatedly violated safety standards, according to the State of Michigan’s court filings against Enbridge in 2020. And you don’t bother to have a Science Committee to hear about it? Why? I mean, it’s great that you got the appointment, but you yourself admit you haven’t used it.
Stevens then goes on to roll out the old crusty jobs line. “We can put a lot of people back to work by having some safety measures,” she said.
Well, the lawyers at the nonprofit advocacy group For the Love of Water put out a fact sheet about the impact of Line 5 on the economy. As it turns out, many more people depend on the Great Lakes for their jobs; 1.5 million U.S. jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes – an amount adding to $6.2 billion in wages. Those jobs would be at risk in the event of a catastrophic oil spill. Compare that to the 250 jobs offered by Enbridge.
In my opinion, the jobs lie is the worst of Enbridge’s mistruths out there because it seeks to take advantage of working families’ goodwill and dreams for the future, especially those struggling to make it through this terrible period of inflation, by playing on the threat of poverty, eviction, starvation.
But worst of all, instead of taking her own stance, Stevens passes the buck to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who took action to protect the Great Lakes by revoking Enbridge’s easement to allow it to operate and filed a federal lawsuit stating Enbridge’s actions violate the public trust to protect our waters. The easement revocation ultimately failed, and Whitmer ultimately dropped that federal action to support a separate lawsuit filed by Attorney General Dana Nessel that is still pending in state court.
Then Stevens says, “we want to transition” and “we’re here in auto capital.”
The transition we need is a “Just Transition.” Climate justice advocates like the Climate Justice Alliance and others helped build the definition of Just Transition — a “vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.”
And it was actually Congressman Andy Levin, recently endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wrote the American Energy Worker Opportunity Act, which builds security for workers impacted by changes in the energy industry. We need this kind of vision in DC working for Michigan, with the nuts and bolts to actualize it – not just words.
Climate scientists have shown that Enbridge’s Line 5, if it continued to operate, would release 27 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to the IPCC, we now know that we have only 3 years to avert the worst impacts of climate change, and this $500 million tunnel would extend the life of Line 5 anywhere from 20-99 years.
Line 5 threatens indigenous tribal lands and treaties, drinking water, Michigan’s fisheries, the tourism industry, and our most sacred and precious global resource — The Great Lakes.
Yeah, you can safely assume I care. If you care too — vote, give, and volunteer for Levin.
Martinez will be donating all proceeds from this column to Black to the Land Coalition, and she urges readers to donate to the organization via CashApp at $blacktotheland.