Peters Encouraged by New Pipeline Safety Rules Finalized as a Result of Legislation He Authored

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today welcomed new rules announced by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to enhance pipeline safety that are being implemented as a result of his provisions that were signed into law. The rules – which Peters pressed for and helped enact as part of the PIPES Act in 2016 – include requiring stricter inspection standards for hazardous liquid pipelines like Line 5 and provide for emergency authority for PHMSA to take action to address unsafe pipeline conditions that risk harming public health and safety or the environment. Peters’ provision in the PIPES Act designated the Great Lakes as a high consequence area, which makes pipelines operating in the area subject to higher standers for operating safely.

“The Great Lakes are more than an economic engine and ecological treasure for Michigan – they are part of who we are as Michiganders,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “A pipeline spill in the Great Lakes would be catastrophic for Michigan and the country. While these steps are encouraging and implement provisions I got signed into law, there is more work to do. I am going to continue pressing for further action so that we can protect the Great Lakes for future generations.”

In the announcement, PHMSA cites the 2010 oil spill in Marshall on the Kalamazoo River as a reason for establishing additional pipeline safety protections. You can read more about the emergency order rule by clicking here.

This announcement builds on Peters’ efforts to improve oversight of pipeline operations in the Great Lakes. Last year, Peters held a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing in Traverse City on Line 5 that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. Peters also got signed into law a provision to establish a U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes National Center of Expertise will examine the impacts of oil spills in freshwater environments and help develop effective responses. Current oil spill response technologies are primarily designed for saltwater environments.

Recently, Peters secured a provision in the bipartisan Coast Guard Reauthorization that passed the Senate Commerce Committee that would direct the Coast Guard to update their oil spill pollution response plan for the area around the Straits of Mackinac to account for a potential “worst-case” spill from a pipeline in possible severe weather conditions, such as ice cover and rough seas. Last year, in response to questioning by Peters, Coast Guard officials testified that they did not have the capability to contain and cleanup a large-scale oil spill in northern Michigan if it occurred during severe weather conditions, particularly if the spill were to originate from the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. He has also reintroduced bipartisan legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes that passed the Senate Commerce Committee in July. ESI maps document the potential ecological impacts to natural and human-use resources from possible oil spills, natural disasters, and resource damage assessments. While East, West and Gulf coast maps have been updated more recently, Great Lakes Region ESI maps have not been updated in over two decades.