Petoskey News-Review: Legislation calls for Great Lakes crude shipment ban, studies on alternatives to Line 5

As hundreds prepare to gather for an oil spill response drill in the Mackinac Straits, Michigan's two U.S. senators announced new legislation introduced in hopes of preventing such a spill in the Great Lakes.

In a conference call Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow announced their proposed Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, which if put into effect would examine alternatives to Line 5 — twin oil pipelines running through the Mackinac Straits — and ban the shipping of crude oil by vessel on the Great Lakes, among other measures in protecting the Great Lakes from an oil spill.

“After experiencing one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history just five years ago in Kalamazoo, those of us in Michigan know all too well that a pipeline break can have absolutely devastating consequences for our environment and our economy,” Peters said. “One can only imagine what a disaster it would be for a similar oil spill to occur in the Great Lakes.”

Measures listed in the proposed legislation include:

— Banning the shipment of crude oil on tanker vessels and barges on the Great Lakes

— Mandating federal studies on alternatives to Line 5 running through the Mackinac Straits and other Great Lakes pipeline risks.

— Improving oil spill response plans

— Increasing public information and transparency on pipeline risks

— Expanding the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's criteria for “High Consequence Areas”

Through the mandated federal studies that would occur with the passing of the act, alternatives to the portion of Line 5, owned by Canadian energy company Enbridge Inc., would be considered, leading to the possible future removal of the line in that area and other pipelines crossing Great Lakes.

“That may be the result of these studies and that is why these risk analyses are so important,” Peters said. “As you're analyzing the potential risk associated with the pipeline, we also need to make sure there are alternatives that are being looked at as well, simultaneously.”

Stabenow stressed it was important to consider with an open mind all alternatives to Line 5 and other pipelines moving forward.

“The most important thing is to protect the Great Lakes and that is what we're all about,” Stabenow said. “Whatever the solution is, we've got to look at it openly, honestly, with a critical eye on the risk and make sure the highest priority is protecting the water.”

Crude oil transportation on vessels and barges would be prohibited, as well.

Though the shipment of crude oil on the Great Lakes is something Peters said does not occur right now, he and Stabenow agreed the ban is important prevent it from happening in the future.

By:  Mark Johnson
Source: Petoskey News