2017-11-30 / Columns

Michigan Long-timers Dingell and Conyers

After nearly 60 years, concluding in 2015 as the longest-serving member of Congress in history, Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn) had a highly positive reputation on energy, commerce, and so many other issues. He was a widely praised credit to Michigan.

Now in headlines is Representative John Conyers (D-Detroit), 88, currently the longest–serving sitting member of Congress and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee until Sunday, when he wisely stepped down from that post.

Currently at play, the House Ethics Committee is looking into whether Conyers may have sexually harassed staffers. It’s one of the most prominent matters on the national current agenda of public officials with examples of alleged sexual misconduct in political life.

“In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” said Conyers. “My office resolved the allegations - with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.

“That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment.”

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), who succeeded her husband in Congress, and has said she was sexually harassed when she was a political staffer, said Saturday on MSNBC dealing with the current issue “is a tough discussion we’ve got to have” nationally. It’s well underway and Michigan politicians are much in focus.

Politics of Pipelines

Politics of pipelines increasingly has been becoming a national issue. Nowhere more so than involving South Dakota and Nebraska, where the long-controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which among its issues involves tribal lands, recently leaked thousands of gallons of oil.

Last week, the Nebraska Public Service Commission, in a 3-2 vote, approved Keystone XL’s route 1,700 miles from Alberta in Canada though Nebraska to Steele City. The action removed the last major regulatory hurdle, but others could loom.

Also last week, in Michigan, there were developments in the simmering controversy over the Canadian oil transport firm’s Enbridge Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

Among them, wisely, Governor Rick Snyder is applying pressure:

“I am no longer satisfied with the operational activities and public information activities that have become status quo for Enbridge. It is vitally important that Enbridge immediately become much more transparent about the condition of Line 5 and their activities to ensure protection of the Great Lakes.”

Just what is Line 5?

As well summarized by the Detroit Free Press: “Line 5 is an oil transmission line through the Upper Peninsula that splits into twin, underwater pipelines through the 4.5-mile Straits of Mackinac before reconnecting into one line and continuing through the Lower Peninsula.”

The pipeline annually transports up to 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids.

Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) has been outspoken on the issue, and most recently said:

“A recent study by the University of Michigan found that the Straits of Mackinac are the absolute worst possible place for an oil spill in the entire Great Lakes system. Without question, there is no way this pipeline would be built today, but it’s there, so we need the toughest protections and strictest accountability possible.”

He said that’s the objective of proposals he has made in Washington legislatively and regulatory for both the federal and state levels.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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