14 January 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

The first significant snowfall of the new year in Michigan triggered massive highway pileups that killed at least three people, injured about two dozen and closed multiple freeways.

An estimated 193 vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction crash in which one person died and 22 were hurt on Interstate 94 between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek late Friday morning. One of the vehicles was a truck whose load of fireworks ignited, shutting down the freeway in both directions for hours.

"Right in front of me the trucks started to go crazy. You couldn't see a single thing at the time of all the accidents. I was able to pull off and just watch semi after semi and semi and semi hit each other and cars hit each other. I mean people were going full speed ahead," Micah Stanislowski, who was involved in the crash, told WWMT (channel 3) in Battle Creek. A Michigan car accident attorney represents clients seriously injured in automobile accidents.

Meanwhile, one person died and another was critically injured in a crash involving 12 jackknifed semitrailers and 15 cars on southbound U.S. 23 near Willis Road, south of Ann Arbor, Michigan State Police said. And on Interstate 75 in Birch Run Township, near Flint, a man hauling scrap with a trailer was killed after his pickup left the freeway and struck a tree. U.S. 23 was reopened around 10 p.m. Friday.

Michigan State Police Lt. Rick Pazder said the I-94 chain reaction crash occurred about 10:07 a.m. Friday between mile markers 88 and 92.

Police said Jean Larocque, a 57-year-old male trucker who worked for a Quebec company, died. Among the 22 injured were two firefighters hurt when the fireworks ignited. One suffered ruptured eardrums and the other an injured back, police said.

Four of the injured were taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, where they were listed in good condition; six were transported to Bronson Battle Creek Hospital with minor injuries; and six were taken to Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, where their conditions were unknown. A Michigan personal injury lawyer represents individuals injured due to the negligence of others.

Non-injured drivers ensnared in the pileup were taken via bus to a local Galesburg school.

HAZMAT officials initially requested a three-mile evacuation radius at mile marker 90 on I-94, near the border of Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties. One of the semis involved in the accident contained 44,000 pounds of hazardous material. By 3 p.m Friday, officials said all material in question had burned off.

Pazder said it was too early in the investigation to determine the cause of the crash, but noted there was snowy weather and the roadway was icy. A Michigan auto accident lawyer is following this story closely.

"It's a terrible, terrible event," he said, adding 11 fire departments, nine medic companies and three police forces responded to the crash. "A lot of work goes into clearing up something like this."

According to the National Weather Service's Kalamazoo station, the weather at the time included heavy snow with visibility of a quarter mile. The temperature was 8 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 3 degrees.

"As I approached I realized that all the cars were stopped in front of me," said Heather Jackson. "I seen some in the ditch and I seen cars behind me coming at me at regular speed and I knew if I didn't go into the ditch I was going to be hit."

Erica Frederick of Kalamazoo said she was eastbound on I-94 to take her dog to a veterinarian in Battle Creek when traffic came to a standstill.

"Traffic was moving at about 45 mph, and it was snowing heavily," she said. "I came around a curve, and traffic was stopped. I went from 45 to zero and ended up at a dead stop for at least an hour."

Frederick saw a big, black cloud of smoke over the freeway. "Then the radio said there had been a pileup and that one of the semis was full of fireworks and they were going off at the scene. People started getting out of their cars and walked toward the fire, which was maybe one-fourth mile away. I stayed in my car."

Then the first responders started to show up. "I saw EMS vehicles arriving the whole time I was stopped," Frederick said. "Then they brought in a bus, and I could see survivors being helped onto the bus. They had blankets wrapped around them."

Liz Skrzypek of Canton Township and her husband, Jeff, were headed to Chicago on I-94 west Friday afternoon when they took a detour onto the business route to avoid the crash scene. "On the way, we saw a lot of cars off the road, several on the median and on the side of the road in ditches," she said.

Fifteen cars were involved in the U.S. 23 crash early Friday afternoon just north of Milan, Michigan Police Sgt. Michael Sura said.

Sura said the crash remains under investigation, but "there were whiteout conditions."

Around 1 p.m., "there was a solid sheet of ice with drifts," said Scott Hall of Milan, who works at the BP gas station on Willis. "With the blowing of the snow... you can't see."

A second crash in Washtenaw County tangled traffic on U.S. 23 from Willow Road to the Monroe County line.

The fallout from a day of treacherous conditions was reminiscent of other weather-related pileups in recent years in Metro Detroit and the Midwest.

On Jan. 23, 2014, three people died, and more than 20 were injured in a massive, 46-vehicle crash near Michigan City, Ind., about 30 miles outside of Chicago. The smash-up involved two box trucks and 18 semis and occurred during whiteout conditions. Among the three victims were Thomas Wolma, 67, and his wife, Marilyn, 65, of Grand Rapids. The third victim was Jerry Dalrymple, 65, of Chicago, who died along with his dog.

A 30 car-and-truck chain reaction on Jan. 13, 2013, on I-75 in Detroit killed three people, including a 7-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, and sent 13 others to the hospital.

Besides the crashes Friday, the weather led to school closures across the state.

Kalamazoo College closed on Friday along with hundreds of elementary, middle and high schools. Some districts that shut for the day included Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Saginaw and Traverse City. Some Kalamazoo-area schools were closed for the third consecutive day. Grand Valley State University and Grand Rapids Community College also closed.

Meanwhile, the emergency room at McLaren Oakland hospital in Pontiac was closed to new patients after an external water main break flooded parts of the hospital early Friday, officials said.

The break led to "several feet of flooding in the ER," said Sharyl Smith, vice president of marketing, planning and public relations.

05 January 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Nothing better symbolizes the dangers of cracking the federal regulatory door than the Clean Water Act. Initially passed to limit discharges into "navigable waters," two government agencies are preparing to expand the act's reach once again in a way that would put nearly every drop of water in the United States under federal control. A San Antonio Water Rights Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency want to redefine "waters of the United States" subject to regulation to include nearly every pond, wetland, ditch, drain and dry and pothole in the country. Virtually no body of water, no matter how small, would be out of reach.

This is not what Congress intended when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972. At that time, the scope of the law was intentionally limited to align with Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce. Its power extended only to waterways that could be used as commercial channels of navigation that cross state lines. An Austin Water Rights Lawyer assists water districts, municipalities, industry, and landowners in all aspects of water law.

That was an appropriate delineation of power, and did not intrude in a major way on the rights of the states to manage their own resources.

But the Corps and EPA have steadily stretched the definition well beyond what lawmakers intended, and have done so despite being slapped down by the courts.

In 2001, the Supreme Court in SWANCC vs. Army Corps of Engineers, forbade the agencies from regulating "isolated water bodies," meaning those that were not connected to interstate waterways.

Rather than comply with the court's interpretation, the agencies pushed ahead, deciding that any water that could possibly find its way into a navigable waterway was fair game for regulation, including culverts and agricultural drainage ditches. That placed much of the nation's farms under the Clean Water Act's thumb, and set up Rapanos vs. United States in 2006, involving a Midland area farmer. A Houston Water Rights Lawyer represent clients in issues that arise in water rights litigation, mediation, arbitration, and in trial.

John Rapanos grew corn on fields that were surrounded by century-old drainage ditches and criss-crossed with tiles, a clear indication that the property was never intended to be a wetland. Still, the EPA pounced on him when he filled in a low spot on his farm that held standing water for a few weeks during the wet season.

Rapanos was threatened with prison and nearly bankrupted before prevailing in the Supreme Court, which ruled the agencies could not automatically regulate wetlands just because they have a hydrological downstream connection to navigable waters.

Even that second ruling hasn't deterred the EPA and Corps. In clear defiance of the Court and Congress, they are now preparing rules that would give them potential authority over all tributaries, even the smallest of streams, and almost all standing water.

In the end of year spending bill, Congress inserted exemptions to the regulations for certain farming practices, but stops short of overturning the rules. The new Congress must step in and bring the agencies in compliance with both the law and the court rulings.

The Clean Water Act specifically promises to "recognize, preserve and protect the primary responsibilities of the states" to regulate and protect the water contained within their borders.

Federal agencies charged with carrying out the law are trampling on that promise and must be checked.


Original Story: freep.com

Resolutions are like flowers — pretty when they bloom on New Year's Eve, but often rather stale by the time any real reckoning for them comes around.

But they can also be useful divergences from the norm. A chance to dream, just for a bit, about things we might do better.

In Michigan, and southeast Michigan in particular, the list could be auspicious.

What if statewide, for instance, we committed to actually solving problems based on facts and merit, rather than indulging in hyperbolic ideology?

We're thinking specifically here about last year's legislative meltdown over roads, where the practical solution was obvious (more money for better maintenance along with tighter restrictions for the vehicles that do the most damage) but the agreed-upon abdication pushed all the decision-making to voters in a half-baked proposal. The anti-tax crowd cowed enough legislators to prevent the best, but politically difficult, ideas from winning the day.

It's instructive to compare the Legislature's handling of roads to the state's management of Detroit's financial crisis. After years of disinvestment and avoidance, the state actually stepped up to force tough decisions in its largest city. Billions in debt and liabilities were reorganized or chopped down, and a 60-year slide now seems poised to reverse.

Be it resolved that the Legislature take some cues from the handling of Detroit's financial woes in the way it addresses roads and a host of other issues like education and local government funding. Let's see how long the glow from that resolution lasts.

Locally, the best resolution can be summed up in two words: Don't blink.

Detroit's new financial lease on life is the opportunity of a generation, but there's much that needs doing to take full advantage — and that's not just for Detroiters. We can't afford to have key parties cower from the challenges that are now much more manageable, but still unfinished.

True, city government must deliver services better, primarily focused on blight removal and public safety. But it will still be somewhat cash-strapped, and the need for help from the outside — from quarters that have long sat on the sidelines as the city declined — could not be more acute.

Private interests who have held back investment in the city need to join companies like Quicken Loans, Blue Cross and General Motors, and jump into the revitalization of the city's Central Business District. State government, having helped the bankruptcy along with $200 million for the grand bargain, must commit to build on that investment with money for neighborhood revitalization and the building of real economic opportunity.

And Detroiters themselves must continue to insist that things can, and will, be better — by holding elected officials accountable and making strong choices at the ballot box.

Be it resolved that Detroit's potential turnaround becomes more real in 2015, by building on last year's historic momentum.

New year, new hope. Let's toast to it with fervor, but then get right back to work.