2017-07-06 / Views

Water problems may aim at AG Schuette

By Tim Skubick

The know-it-all pundits are quick to suggest that “the economy, stupid” plays a major role in statewide elections.

After all most voters want jobs.

But they need something even more essential — water.

As the 2018 race for governor rolls merrily-along in its early stages, water is an issue everywhere.

The Flint water crisis.

The safety of an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Flooding in Midland.

Poor folks who are losing their water because they can’t pay their bills.

Not to mention how all this lousy summer rain is dampening the profits in the tourist industry.

And each water challenge provides an opportunity for the electorate to judge how the candidates are handling problems along with an opportunity for candidates to sink or swim in the water.

It’s a good thing that Gov. Rick Snyder is not running again, because many believe he is underwater in his administration’s top to bottom mishandling of the Flint water crisis. The question is. “Will his side-kick and likely governor candidate Brian Calley suffer collateral political damage for his role in all this?”

It is not a stretch for the Democratic nominee for governor to link Mr. Calley to the “sins” of the Snyder administration, even though he spent days in Flint trying to mop up the lead-in-the-water mess.

But perhaps at greater risk of a water-stained candidacy is Attorney General Bill Schuette.

At first he said there was no need for a Flint investigation as he lauded high praise on his old pal Dan Wyant, who was at the controls at the Department of Environmental when all this started to unravel.

But within a month, with some egg smeared all over his face, Mr. Schuette saw Mr. Wyant resign. Then lo-andb-ehold, he declared there was the need for what has turned out to be a multi-million dollar criminal investigation into alleged wrong doing by state and local government worker bees and those higher up in the hive.

With the story likely to play out right through the November 2018 election, the political fate of Mr. Schuette may be riding on what happens next. Don’t kid yourself, the Democrats will plaster Mr. Schuette if this probe turns out to be a bust and a waste of taxpayer dollars, as they will describe it.

But Flint is not the only water headache for the A.G.

That 63-year-old, 20-inch pipeline carrying 23 million gallons of soft crude oil and propane gas within the shadow of Big Mac may be a ticking time-bomb. And here, too, Mr. Schuette may be vulnerable to Democratic attacks.

As the safety of Pipeline 5 reached a fever pitch in the environmental lobby around April of 2014, Mr. Schuette and Mr. Wyant sent a letter to the Enbridge company requesting its documentation to prove their contention that the line was safe. It gave them both a chance to show how “green” they were by proclaiming that this was serious business and the state needed to “pursue a proactive approach..to minimize the risk” of an oil spill in that waterway. The rhetoric had the right tone, but was missing one element: Neither called for a shutdown of the line, which is what the “greens’ demanded and have continued to demand for three years.

Mr. Schuette did say that the line would eventually have to be capped, but gave no timetable for doing that. The “greens” didn’t like that either.

In recent weeks, after it was discovered that a researcher from Enbridge was helping to write a state- ordered report on the safety of the line. Mr. Schuette called out the conflict of interest and ordered the report halted.

But then days later he came forth with a report and the headline in his news release trumped that he felt the line should be shutdown, which is what he said three years ago, but this time he suggested a timetable be established.

He gave no specifics on when that might be. Again the “greens” were not impressed even though the announcement for the general public gave the impression that Mr. Schuette was on duty trying to lead on this issue.

As with Flint, the final chapter on the pipeline has not been written and the D’s are poised to pounce on Mr. Schuette for his handling of that, too. Needless to say, if the line blows between now and November 2018, the title Governor might never be attached to the front of Mr. Schuette’s name.

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