When the Threat is Environmental
What’s the scorecard on the Michigan Operational Integration Center’s ability to combine information from different sources when the threat is not terrorism but environmental disaster?
In August, 2010, the Kalamazoo River was covered with more than 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude when the Enbridge oil pipeline ruptured. In the aftermath of that spill, first responders around the state complained that they were unaware of the hazardous liquid pipelines in their communities. MOIC spokeswoman Lisabeth indicated that during this emergency, MIOC shared information about the spill with the private sector.
The Center refused to name its private sector partners, citing Michigan’s FOIA law exemption for “disclosure of the identity of a confidential source, or if the record is compiled by a law enforcement agency in the course of a criminal investigation, disclose confidential information furnished only by a confidential source.” Nonetheless, it’s not too hard to imagine who some of the private partners might be, given the list supplied by MIOC, and there is reason to believe that the center’s private partners include Dow Chemical, which is headquartered in Midland. Dow has contaminated the state’s largest watershed with dioxin from operations at its Midland complex. In 2008, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned that the company has failed to cooperate with environmental officials, used political connections in state government to avoid cleanup responsibilities, and misrepresented the contamination to the public. The company recently settled with regulators over years long violations of the Clean Air Act.
Another likely partner is DTE Energy’s Monroe coal plant. This plant, the largest individual source of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in the state, was sued by the U.S. EPA last year for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to install required pollution control equipment. EPA said the plants operations would lead to premature death, heart attacks and lung problems.
A number of questions remain to be answered:
What safety related information is the MOIC sharing with the state of Michigan? Is MIOC giving special treatment to corporate citizens that do not have a record of making public safety their top priority?
How can MIOC know that the private sector partners that receive sensitive information will use it responsibly?
How reciprocal is the relationship between MIOC and the private partners? What is the character of this partnership and why is it important that the identity of these partners remain secret?