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Peters Opening Remarks at Field Hearing on Line 5 & Great Lakes

Peters: “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”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, today convened a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing in Traverse City on Line 5 and the importance of protecting the Great Lakes for future generations. You can watch Senator Peters’ opening remarks on his Facebook page, and below is the text of his opening remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you to the Dennos Museum for their gracious facilitation of this hearing. I also want to acknowledge the many comments and questions that have been submitted for the hearing record from the community. We’ll keep the hearing record open for several days following the hearing record for anyone who would like to submit comments or questions.

“I had the opportunity to read through many of these last night, and I’m grateful for all of them. I heard from the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, representing very diverse tribes including the Bay Mills Indian Community; Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa Indians and the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Indians. I also have comments from the National Union of Operating Engineers, Michigan Technological University, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, For Love of Water, Michigan Environmental Council, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Great Lakes Business Network and Michigan Pipeline Petroleum Taskforce. I can go on, but I think Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers captured the common thread in his letter to the Committee with this quote, ‘Our economy relies on our clean, fresh water, and if that were to change, life as we know it in Northern Michigan would also change, devastating what makes life here so special.’”

“That’s why we’re here first and foremost - to talk about the Great Lakes.  Here in Michigan, the Great Lakes are a way of life. They are part of our DNA – and next to our people, they are our most precious resource. Not only do the Lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people, but they are an economic engine for our state and our nation - supporting more than 500,000 jobs in Michigan alone. From commercial shipping and agriculture - to fishing, boating and tourism - the Great Lakes are deeply intertwined with our state and our people. We know that an oil spill in the Great Lakes would be catastrophic for our environment AND our economy. 

“As the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee with jurisdiction over federal pipeline safety policy, 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. Questions that I’m often asked by Michigan residents, not just here in Traverse City but in every area of the state.

“Michiganders are both deeply invested and deeply concerned about the continued existence of Line 5, an aging pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac - one of the most vulnerable locations in the entire Great Lakes.

“While pipelines are typically a safe and efficient method of transporting energy resources that we all use, the reality is accidents do happen. 

“As Michigan Tech’s recent risk analysis noted, a Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could reach hundreds of miles of shoreline in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. It could cost the state nearly $2 billion dollars – some estimates much higher –to say nothing of the countless lives and livelihoods around the Great Lakes that would be shattered. Some have called this analysis purely hypothetical, but 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. 

“I don’t want to wait until the next disaster to consider what more we could have done to prevent it. I’ve authored provisions in legislation such as the 2016 PIPES Act, and in past and present Coast Guard authorizations, that are intended to protect the Great Lakes, bolster pipeline safety and response planning, and prevent harm. 

“Mr. Elliott, as PHMSA Administrator, I appreciated working with you last April towards a temporary shutdown of the damaged Line 5 during severe weather. Your willingness to actively engage is very much appreciated with folks from Enbridge.

“This hearing is intended in that same spirit – to invite testimony that will help inform our understanding of safe pipeline operations - to prevent another disaster like the Kalamazoo River spill - and to ensure the Great Lakes are protected for generations to come.  This hearing is an opportunity for Michiganders who want answers to hear directly from each of the witnesses, and so again, I thank you very much for your willingness to be here.”