Legislators Call for Straits Pipeline Shutdown

Representatives also propose greater state oversight for pipelines
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

LANSING — State Reps. Tom Cochran (D-Mason), Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Bill Sowerby (D-Clinton Township) joined members of the Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition at a press conference today calling for the termination of the easement that allows Line 5 to operate on the public bottomlands. Rep. Rabhi introduced House Resolution 51, which urges Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to close the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac because of mounting concerns about the pipelines’ structural integrity. The representatives also announced that they would be introducing legislation to provide more state oversight of oil and gas pipelines.

“Line 5 fails to meet the structural safety requirements in the easement agreement, as I emphasized in my resolution,” Rep. Rabhi said. “The Straits pipelines represent an imminent threat to the integrity of the Great Lakes, which are essential to our state’s environment, economy, and identity.”

Rep. Rabhi also addressed meeting the needs of Michigan residents. “Ensuring that the U.P. has access to natural gas moving forward is critically important. My colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that the future energy needs of our state are met and that good, union jobs are retained and created in the process.”

In addition to HR 51, the four bills in the pipeline safety package would require pipeline operators to get a permit from the state, place pipelines under Part 5 of the Water Resources Protection Rules, require regular state inspections of pipelines under the Great Lakes, require emergency response plans and drills, require immediate notification of leaks, increase civil fines for leaks and failure to report leaks, and create a pipeline impact fee paid to the General Fund and the local county to fund implementation of the Emergency Management Act and the Fire Prevention Code.

“This legislation emphasizes the importance of pipeline safety to Michigan residents,” said Rep. Cochran “Our state and local governments are best equipped to protect our state from spills if they have the resources and policy tools to do so before disaster strikes.”

“In Michigan, where the nation’s largest inland oil spill occurred in 2010, it is unacceptable that we would continue to put our health and the safety of our natural resources in jeopardy,” Rep. Pagan said. “Twenty percent of the world’s supply of surface freshwater comes from the Great Lakes. They provide vast value to our state and they are deeply seated in our state’s culture, wildlife, and economy. It is so important that we do everything we can to preserve these precious resources for future generations.”

“We can’t afford to continue operating under the same rules that brought us the Kalamazoo River oil spill, which cost over a billion dollars to remediate,” Rep. Sowerby said. “Pipelines pass through vulnerable communities, and this legislation will help protect them.” 

 “Line 5 is long past its expiration date. It is no longer a question of if the pipelines will fail, but when, and how catastrophically,” said Liz Kirkwood of For the Love of Water. “The governor and attorney general have a duty to shut Line 5 down to safeguard human health and the Great Lakes ecosystems.”

Sean McBrearty of Clean Water Action also joined in the call to shut down Line 5 on behalf of Oil and Water Don’t Mix, saying, “The bottomlands of the Great Lakes belong to everyone, and they must be managed in the public interest.”

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