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Detroit News: Senate panel OKs higher safety standards for pipelines

Washington — The Senate Commerce Committee approved Wednesday legislation to improve pipeline safety and oversight that included designating the Great Lakes as a sensitive area, which would make pipelines in the lakes subject to higher safety standards.

The legislation included other provisions introduced separately by Michigan Sens. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing in September that would require federal reviews of pipeline age and integrity. They also would direct pipeline operators and federal regulators to consider updating response plans for spills affecting waters or shorelines covered by ice – another concern in the Great Lakes region.

The lawmakers have noted the U.S. Coast Guard says the region is not prepared for a major discharge spill under solid ice, and its response would be challenged by ice-choked waters.

“It’s taken five years and nearly $1 billion to clean up the last oil spill from a pipeline break in Michigan,” said Peters, a member of the Senate Commerce panel.

“A similar spill in the Great Lakes would be devastating to our economy, environment and drinking water supply.”