In the News: Peters Presses for Answers on Line 5 at Field Hearing in Traverse City
U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, convened a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing in Traverse City yesterday to discuss federal oil spill prevention efforts, preparedness and response capability in the event of an oil pipeline break in the Straits of Mackinac. Line 5, the 65-year-old pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac, has been the subject of multiple safety concerns, including damage from anchor strikes.
“It was a day of revelations as U.S. Sen. Gary Peters conducted a field hearing about safety measures and emergency response plans to a possible oil spill from Enbridge's Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. Federal officials and energy transportation industry representatives gathered Monday at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City to answer Peters' questions, particularly about an April 1 anchor strike on the pipeline and officials' reaction to the incident. The senator said the hearing showed there are gaps in industry transparency and the ability for federal authorities to rapidly respond to potential oil spills in the straits.
“Peters suggested some areas with pipelines are more environmentally sensitive than others — particularly the Straits of Mackinac — and should require special safety circumstances and emergency preparedness. ‘You will not find a more sensitive area anywhere in the United States,’ he said.
“Peters questioned hearing panelist and Enbridge Energy Vice President of Operations David Bryson on what he says was pushback to temporarily shutting down Line 5 during a high-wave event about two weeks after the twin pipelines were dented in three places and ‘gouged’ it in a fourth by an anchor strike on April 1. ‘When they are not even willing to be proactive in shutting down a pipeline temporarily when there's a severe storm hitting at the time we have a damaged pipeline and no way to clean up, it speaks volumes,’ Peters said.”
“He [Peters] grilled federal agency representatives during a crowded Traverse City hearing, saying the underwater portion of Line 5 ‘could have been a ticking time bomb’ after it was struck by a suspected ship anchor April 1. ‘I don't want to wait until the next disaster to consider what more we could have done to prevent it,’ Peters said.”
“An Enbridge vice president says the company will release more information on damage to Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. A ship anchor struck the pipeline in April. David Bryson, the vice president of operations at Enbridge, committed to releasing the information at a meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters in Traverse City Monday morning.
Michael Shriberg, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, said Enbridge’s cooperation is a long time coming. ‘It shouldn’t take a hearing with a sitting U.S. Senator to get to the bottom of this,’ Shriberg said. ‘What I would like to see is that being a standard practice.’”
“It was standing room only inside the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, where Senator Peters held a field hearing on oil spill prevention Monday morning. The center of discussion, Enbridge's 65-year-old pipeline, running through the Straits of Mackinac.
“‘After the most expensive pipeline break in history on land on the Kalamazoo River, Michiganders know better than anyone else what happens when a pipeline fails,’ said Sen. Peters.”
“Senator Peters says that an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be an economic and environmental catastrophe, even saying it would be the absolute worst place for an oil spill to happen. ‘I called this hearing to take a closer look at the federal and industry response to the April vessel strike in the Straits of Mackinac to get some answers to some potentially tough questions that I’m often asked by Michigan residents, not just here in Traverse City, but in every area of the state,’ said Peters.”
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