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Peters, Stabenow Introduce Measures to Protect Michigan’s Environment

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow introduced two amendments to protect Michigan’s environment and provide more information on potential risks surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline. These two measures would amend legislation currently before the Senate authorizing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, to call for a study on the potential health and environmental risks of petroleum coke as a result of refining oil transported through the Keystone XL Pipeline and enhance oversight over aging pipelines around the Great Lakes, such as those underneath the Straits of Mackinac. 

“Between the health and environmental risks that were posed by pet coke stored along the Detroit River, and the oil spill near Kalamazoo, Michiganders know the consequences of poorly-stored pet coke and pipeline leaks all too well,” Senator Peters said. “These amendments will give us the information needed to better understand the risks posed by the Keystone XL Pipeline. With these studies and oversight improvements, my hope is that we can take action to ensure that the damages to Michigan’s environment do not happen again across the country.”

“In Michigan, we had a pipeline break and dump a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. In Montana right now, a pipeline broke and dumped tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, making water unsafe to drink,” said Senator Stabenow. “Since Canadian oil companies don’t pay into the trust fund used to clean up oil spills, it’s even more important that we make sure the pipelines owned by Canadian companies, like the Keystone Pipeline and the pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac, are safe and that American taxpayers will not be forced to bail them out if a pipeline breaks.”

The first amendment would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a study on the potential environmental impact of and best practices for transportation, storage, and handling of pet coke and other by-products from refining oil transported through Keystone XL. In 2013, pet coke stored along the Detroit River in Detroit blew into nearby neighborhoods and businesses, posing health risks and threatening the Great Lakes watershed. This amendment is important because the oil intended to be transported through the Keystone XL pipeline is from tar sands, which has significantly higher carbon content than conventional crude oil and produces different byproducts, including pet coke. Peters previously introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for a study on the risks of pet coke.

The second amendment requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to certify that they have the resources necessary to conduct proper oversight of pipelines in the Great Lakes before approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. It also would require PHMSA to develop recommendations for special conditions to apply to pipelines in the Great Lakes, similar to the 59 special conditions developed for Keystone. This measure will ensure the agency responsible for overseeing petroleum pipelines has the resources required to do the job.