06.18.16

Huron Daily Tribune: Pipeline safety bill awaits president's signature

UPPER THUMB — The “Safe Pipes” Act, which will protect against oil spills in the Great Lakes, awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.

It passed both the U.S. House and Senate unanimously, and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said this week that he is pleased with the show of bipartisanship.

“Legislators around the country view the Great Lakes as an asset, not only for the Midwest, but as a strategic asset for the nation,” Peters said.

Peters and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow in September announced the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, which would ban crude oil transport and stiffen safety thresholds for pipelines.

The “Safe Pipes” Act would:

• Designate the Great Lakes an “unusually sensitive area,” making pipelines in the Great Lakes subject to higher safety standards.

• Require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to consider response plans that address cleanup of an oil spill affecting waters or shorelines partially or entirely covered by ice (the bill would increase funding to PHMSA by 2 percent annually over four years to conduct oversight).

• Require the Government Accountability Office to report and review risks in regard to age, condition, material and construction of a pipeline.

Of concern in the Great Lakes is Canadian Energy firm Enbridge’s “Line 5,” which runs 645 miles from Wisconsin across the Upper Penninsula, down the Straits of Mackinac into northern Michigan and cuts across the Thumb to Sarnia, Ontario.

“Line 5” carries an average of 14,000 barrels of light crude per day, as well as natural gas. The firm says it was built in 1953, and in more than 60 years of operation, there have been no leaks.

The senators said last year that they were concerned about the aging pipeline and spill potential.

A 2014 University of Michigan study, commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation, found the straits to be the “worst possible place” for a Great Lakes oil spill. Water flow there transports volumes up to 80,000 cubic meters per second — more than 10 times the water flow over Niagara Falls, the study states.

This could carry contaminants 65 miles south to Rogers City within 10 days of a spill, Peters told the Tribune in September.

Whether a spill reaches Saginaw Bay and the Thumb coastline, more than 100 miles farther south, would depend on how quickly Enbridge can shut down the leak, Stabenow told the Tribune in December. She said she was told the company can shut it down automatically.

In 2010, a pipeline ruptured near Marshall, spilling 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and amassing a $1.2 billion cleanup — the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.


By:  brenda battel
Source: Huron Daily Tribune