Peters Helps Advance Bipartisan Bill Reauthorizing Coast Guard, Requiring an Update to Northern Michigan’s Oil Spill Contingency Plan

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) applauded Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approval of bipartisan legislation reauthorizing funding for the U.S. Coast Guard for the next two fiscal years. The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2019 would provide resources to help the Coast Guard retain and invest in its’ workforce, expand access to affordable child care for Coast Guard members and their families and ensure that the men and women of the Coast Guard continue receiving their salaries in the event of a lapse in funding due to a federal government shutdown.

The bipartisan legislation also includes a provision Peters authored directing 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.

“From carrying out important scientific experiments to executing dangerous rescue missions, the men and women of the Coast Guard work hard every day in service to our nation,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “I am pleased that this bill ensuring that members of the Coast Guard and their families receive the pay and benefits they deserve has advanced, and I look forward to continue working in a bipartisan manner to enact this legislation, including my provision to help protect our Great Lakes.”

Peters’ provision would direct the Coast Guard to revise their oil spill response plans to identify needed resources to address to a worst case oil spill from an onshore pipeline in adverse weather conditions, specifically including ice cover and wave height. Supporters of his provision include the National Wildlife Federation, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Peters has long championed efforts in Congress to protect the Great Lakes. Earlier this month, bipartisan legislation Peters helped introduce to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes for the first time in two decades advanced in the Senate. These new maps would provide more accurate assessments of coastal resources that are at risk of severe damage or a natural disaster. Additionally, Peters authored a provision that was signed into law this past December to establish a U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes to examine the impacts of oil spills in freshwater environments and help develop effective responses.