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Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Energy
Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.


The new law creates a three-member Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority that is required to enter an agreement with the Canadian oil company on the construction and operation of the tunnel before the end of the month.

Snyder signed Senate Bill 1197 just a day after the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature approved the bill—a move seen as a lame-duck rush before Democrats Gretchen Whitmer and Dana Nessel take over as governor and attorney general respectively, as the Detroit Free Press noted.

Both Whitmer and Nessel made campaign promises to shut down Line 5 over fears that the 65-year-old twin pipelines could spill and contaminate the Great Lakes, a source of drinking water for tens of millions of people. Line 5 has spilled 1.1 million gallons of oil along the right of way since 1968.

Dana Nessel for Michigan Attorney General- SHUT DOWN LINE 5! www.youtube.com

Environmentalists say Snyder's move has effectively allowed Line 5, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and liquefied natural gas a day, to run for another decade while the tunnel is being built.

Under the new plan, the existing pipelines will be replaced with a new tunneled pipeline under the bedrock of the Straits of Mackinac. The project will take seven to 10 years to complete and cost as much as $500 million. Enbridge will foot the bill.

"We are deeply disappointed Gov. Snyder approved legislation that will keep oil pumping through the damaged Line 5 Pipeline for another decade or more," Lisa Wozniak, executive director at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said in an online statement.

"On Nov. 6, the people of Michigan made their position clear by electing candidates who pledged to keep oil pipelines out of our Great Lakes and protect our drinking water. We will continue to advocate, communicate and fight to protect our water and oppose oil pipelines in the Great Lakes as the new administration takes office," Wozniak added.

A recent poll by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA poll found 54 percent of Michigan voters want Line 5 shut down.

Snyder also appointed three members to the new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, Geno Alessandrini, Tony England and Michael Zimmer, who will each serve six-year terms.

No more than two members from the same party may serve on the panel. Snyder said both England and Alessandrini are Democrats. Zimmer is a Republican, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We all understand the importance of bringing certainty to removing Line 5 from the waters in the Straits of Mackinac," Snyder said in an online statement. "By working together, they helped garner bipartisan support to ensure we are protecting the Great Lakes while securing better energy infrastructure for Michigan."

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the company looks forward to working with the new authority.

"Replacing the Straits segment of Line 5 in a tunnel deep under the lake bed makes a safe pipeline even safer while ensuring a reliable and affordable energy supply to Michigan and the region," Duffy said in a statement, as quoted by The Detroit News.

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly said that Line 5 has spilled 1.1 million gallons of oil "into the lakes" since 1968. The pipeline has never spilled into the lakes itself, but along the right of way.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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