DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) – a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee which oversees the federal agency responsible for pipeline safety – today released the following statement on the State of Michigan revoking Enbridge’s easement to operate Line 5 underneath the Straits of Mackinac:
“There’s no question an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would have catastrophic and long-term consequences to the economic and environmental health of Michigan and the Great Lakes. Unfortunately here in Michigan, we already know from the Enbridge pipeline leak in the Kalamazoo River just how devastating and costly spills are to our state.
“Given the structural integrity and age concerns around Line 5 – particularly in recent years – and Enbridge’s failures and inability to be transparent with Michiganders, it’s clear that Line 5 poses too serious of a threat and must be removed in the coming months.
“In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be working with PHMSA and the State of Michigan to swiftly evaluate alternatives to Line 5 while continuing to hold Enbridge accountable. We must do everything possible to protect our Great Lakes and support the businesses that rely on them – and I’ll continue working to protect them for future generations.”
Peters has led numerous efforts to improve oversight of pipeline operations in the Great Lakes. In 2018, 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.
Peters also led the successful effort to temporarily suspend Line 5 operations during severe weather in 2018 after an anchor strike damaged Line 5, but damage assessments had not been completed at the time of the severe weather.
Peters also 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. 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 led bipartisan legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes that passed the Senate Commerce Committee last year. 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.