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2005 Senate Bill 522: Eliminate local government’s power to block pipelines

Public Act 103 of 2005

  1. Introduced by Sen. Michelle McManus (R) on May 19, 2005, to remove the authority of a city, village, or township to block utility lines and structures, including pipelines, within the right-of-way of a limited access highway and intersecting streets, if the project is approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. The bill was introduced after the state Supreme Court found that the plain language of the current statute does not prohibit local governments from blocking such projects. That case involved the City of Lansing blocking a gasoline pipeline along Interstate 96. The court “invited” the legislature to revise this statute.
    • Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on May 19, 2005.
      • Reported in the Senate on June 8, 2005, with the recommendation that the bill pass.
    • Amendment offered by Sen. Virg Bernero (D) on June 8, 2005, to tie-bar the bill to Senate Bills 562 and 563, which would allow local governments to collect "impact fees" from petroleum pipeline owners, and require that the Public Service Commission hold public hearings before allowing pipelines. The amendment failed by voice vote in the Senate on June 8, 2005.
    • Substitute offered by Sen. Virg Bernero (D) on June 8, 2005, to replace the previous version of the bill with one that would establish a "binding arbitration" system empowered to issue authoritative rulings when local governments seek to block utility infrastructure projects. The substitute failed by voice vote in the Senate on June 8, 2005.
  2. Passed 29 to 9 in the Senate on June 8, 2005.
    Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

  3. Received in the House on June 8, 2005.
    • Referred to the House Energy and Technology Committee on June 8, 2005.
      • Reported in the House on June 22, 2005, with the recommendation that an amendment requiring a pipeline company to reimburse the Department of Transportation for any expenses it incurs be adopted and that the bill then pass.
    • Amendment offered in the House on June 28, 2005, to require the pipeline company or other utility to repay any reasonable costs incurred by the state related to the project that are not covered by the permit fee. The amendment passed by voice vote in the House on June 28, 2005.
  4. Passed 60 to 46 in the House on June 28, 2005, to remove the authority of a city, village, or township to block utility lines and structures, including pipelines, within the right-of-way of a limited access highway and intersecting streets, if the project is approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. The bill was introduced after the state Supreme Court found that the plain language of the current statute does not prohibit local governments from blocking such projects. That case involved the City of Lansing blocking a gasoline pipeline along Interstate 96. The court “invited” the legislature to revise this statute.
    Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

  5. Received in the Senate on June 30, 2005.
  6. Passed 31 to 6 in the Senate on June 30, 2005, to concur with the House-passed version of the bill.
    Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

  7. Signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm on July 21, 2005.

Comments

Rep. Waters' "no vote journal explanation"  by Admin003 on June 29, 2005 
Rep. Waters, having reserved the right to explain her protest against the passage of the bill, made the following statement:

"Mr. Speaker and members of the House:

I voted NO on SB 522 because the bill violates Article 7, Section 29 of the Michigan Constitution, which states:

'No person, partnership, association or corporation, public or private, operating a public utility shall have the right to the use of the highways, streets, alleys or other public places of any county, township, city or village for wires, poles, pipes, tracks, conduits or other utility facilities, without the consent of the duly constituted authority of the county, township, city or village. . . .'

Senate Bill 522 would allow the Wolverine Pipe Line Company and other utility companies to construct pipelines without the consent of local government (or over the objections of local government) not only in limited access highway rights-of-way, but also 'under any public road, street, or other subsurface that intersects any limited access highway at a different grade.' (In this way, the language of SB 522 differs from HB 6314 of 2004.) The Wolverine Pipe Line Company requested the above additional unconstitutional language because its proposal to build its pipeline across Lansing following I-96 would require 5 city streets to be dug up, and the City of Lansing will not consent to that.

Much more broadly, SB 522 attempts to change statutory language that currently serves an important purpose in the protection of public health and safety. Local units of government have the primary responsibility to protect the public health and public safety of their communities, including in particular their public water supplies. The current statute appropriately serves to balance the responsibility of local units of government regarding local public health and safety, with the regulatory responsibility of the state regarding energy accessibility and rates.

Finally, the bill attempts to force the implementation of an unjust decision made by the Michigan Public Service Commission in 2001-02: a decision that would discriminate against racial minorities and low income persons, in favor of persons who were able to exert greater and more direct influence on that small group of decision-makers. Senate Bill 522 would also pave the way for further instances of environmental discrimination in the future.

This bill and the proposed Wolverine pipeline have come to represent core issues of justice and control among our state's urban communities - of big money and power versus the people. If decisions like these are allowed to be made solely at the highest levels of government, then it is likely that only those with the greatest power and influence on the highest levels of state and federal government will have their voices heard."


Sen. Hardiman's "journal statement"  by Admin003 on June 10, 2005 
Senator Hardiman's statement is as follows:

There has been a lot of discussion on this bill, and much of it has been educational for me since I have not been involved in the committee process, but I have learned a few things. I have learned that the company running the pipeline has worked to try to accommodate the wishes of the city of Lansing, perhaps not to their satisfaction but has worked to accommodate. I do believe that it is important that this bill pass because I think it is a safer alternative. I do wish that this would be confined to petroleum. I think that would be fair and still reserve some local control for our cities and townships. Seeing that the bill is what it is, I will support it.


Sen. Bernero's "no vote journal explanation"  by Admin003 on June 10, 2005 
Senator Bernero's statement, in which Senator Clark-Coleman concurred, is as follows:

I have to say that I am really deeply disappointed. It's my honor to serve with you all, and every once and a while, an issue comes up that you just can't understand how it is that we can do what we do. I disagree with my esteemed colleague from the 30th District when he says that we are not cutting Lansing out. You are, absolutely, cutting Lansing out, but more importantly to all of you, you are cutting your cities out. You are cutting your communities out.

As I have said before, it's Lansing today, but it will be your city or township tomorrow, and to pass this bill without the amendments that were offered, you have stripped away the communities' rights. You have stripped away your communities' rights. You have disenfranchised. You have disempowered. You have taken away power from your local governments. So I just want to be sure that you know what you are doing. Don't' let any body tell you anything any different; that's what you are doing; you are disenfranchising your communities. To the folks who sent you here, the people who elected you, you are saying, "Your voice is out of this. You are not going to be a part of the negotiations." Don't tell me, "You are part of the negotiations" when you are stripping away the power. They don't have any official voice. We tried to preserve some of their official voice with the amendments which this body rejected. So at this point, what the bill does is it moves the local governments out of the way. It says that the big companies, big oil can do what they want. You have cut the little guy out. You cut the little guy--the resident, the constituent, and the local government. That's why the Michigan Municipal League is opposed to it because you have cut them out. You have silenced their voice.

So I want to be sure that you know what you are doing. If that is what you intend to do when you vote "yes" for this, that is what you are doing. You are saying big oil get what they want and the local government concerns don't count. So let's be plain about it; lets' not play games. You are making a decision here, and I don't know how we can do it, but you are giving them carte blanche. I disagree with it vehemently. Yes, I disagree with it for Lansing, but I disagree with it for the state of Michigan. It could be your community next. I think the bill needs work, and I think the bill was ramrodded through.

With all due respect to my esteemed colleague, the chairman of the Transportation Committee, I am grateful for the fact that he made sure that residents were heard in committee. Lansing area residents went and had an opportunity to be heard, and I appreciated that. But still, this bill was on the fast track, and we would be denying reality if we said anything else. This bill was on the fast track, the skids were greased, and it is not ready for prime time. This bill needs work, and that's why I made the motion to re-refer. I've never made any motion to re-refer in all my time as a legislator.

This bill needs work. This bill should go back to committee and we should consider what we are doing. This is a big, big issue for the long-term in the state of Michigan. It affects every community, potentially, in the state, and it's a question of how the average resident ranks--how their concerns are taken up in state government and what we think of their voice.

I ask you think about that as you vote on this bill, and I still say it's not too late, we can send this back to committee, do some work on it, and maybe it's something we can all support.


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