Michigan Republicans — January 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Bill to shield oil & gas companies from FOIA requests advances in Michigan legislature, now in a more friendly committee


A bill to shield oil and gas companies from having information about details of their pipelines and other infrastructure from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests was introduced as House Bill 4540 last May. It sat in the House Committee on Oversight and Ethics without action until last December. At that point, it was clear that supporters on the the six-member committee – all Republicans – did not have enough votes to vote it out favorably. Republican Martin Howrylak joined Democrats Rose Mary Robinson, Minority Vice-Chair and Kristy Pagan in opposing the bill which would effectively prevent Michigan citizens from knowing anything about oil and gas pipelines, even if they were running under their own property.

Rep. Pagan offered an amendment to tie-bar HB 4540 to four other pipeline safety bills: HB 4511, HB 4512, HB 4513, and HB 4514. However, it failed on a 3-3 vote with Howrylak joining with the two Democrats again.

In order to bypass this “problem” of not being able to pass the bill out of Committee to the full House for a vote, Republican Committee Chair Ed McBroom went shopping and found a friendly committee – the House Committee on Natural Resources – where the bill could get passed on to the full House. (Rep. McBroom is on this committee, as well, btw.) So, on December 10th, 2015, the Oversight and Ethics Committee voted to pass the bill on to the Natural Resources Committee. At the time, Rep. Howrylak, who had offered up amendments of his own to improve it that were shot down by the other Republicans, made it publicly known that he did not support the legislation. However, he voted with his Republican colleagues to move it to the more favorable committee because, well, you know…

Today the Natural Resources Committee took testimony during a hearing. It’s a strange place for a bill to amend Michigan’s FOIA law to end up but that’s what happens when you’re a Republican Committee Chair in a Republican-led House and you need to appease your benefactors, in this case the oil and gas lobby.

Though all of us want to be safe from the scourge of terrorism, the answer isn’t to shield oil and gas corporations from public scrutiny. This bill reeks of being a wet kiss to companies like Enbridge Oil, an energy company that had the most destructive oil spill in our state’s history and that runs the infamous “Line 5” pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac which threatens the Great Lakes in shudder-inducing ways should it fail.

Contact the members of the House Natural Resources Committee to let them know of your opposition to HB 4540:

  • Andrea LaFontaine (R) Committee Chair, 32nd District – 517-373-8931, AndreaLaFontaine@house.mi.gov
  • Bruce Rendon (R) Majority Vice-Chair, 103rd District – 517-373-3817, BruceRendon@house.mi.gov
  • Anthony Forlini (R) 24th District – 517-373-0113, AnthonyForlini@house.mi.gov
  • Ken Goike (R) 33rd District – 517-373-0820, KenGoike@house.mi.gov
  • Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R) 86th District – 517-373-0846, LisaLyons@house.mi.gov
  • Ed McBroom (R) 108th District – 517-373-0156, EdMcBroom@house.mi.gov
  • John Kivela (D) Minority Vice-Chair, 109th District – 517-373-0498, JohnKivela@house.mi.gov
  • Charles Smiley (D) 50th District – 517-373-3906, CharlesSmiley@house.mi.gov
  • Julie Plawecki (D) 11th District – 517-373-0849, JuliePlawecki@house.mi.gov

[CC image credit: Bigwillyoliver | Wikimedia Commons]