LANSING — Today, State Representatives Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) and Tom Cochran (D-Mason) are calling for public hearings on a package of bills recently introduced creating stronger safety and transparency measures for oil and gas pipelines throughout Michigan. The bills aim to enhance pipeline safety and increase protection for the people and natural resources of our state.
On the other hand, Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) introduced House Bill 4540, a measure to protect Enbridge and other pipeline companies from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and additional public scrutiny. Heise’s bill, introduced just eight days ago, has been fast-tracked and is immediately under consideration in the House Oversight and Ethics Committee this Thursday, while Democratic bills to enhance transparency and pipeline safety are languishing without consideration.
The committee hearing is scheduled the day after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Dan Wyant announced a $75 million settlement with Enbridge Energy from the July 2010 oil spill that affected the Kalamazoo River. At more than 800,000 gallons, it was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history with ongoing cleanup efforts and costs pegged at more than $1 billion.
“While Michigan is settling out of court for what amounts to a slap on the wrist, the Legislature is rushing forward on a bill to exempt Enbridge from transparency and accountability,” said Nic Clark of Clean Water Action.
“We can’t afford another disaster like the 2010 oil pipeline leak that flowed into the Kalamazoo River, where a ruptured pipeline and a delayed response caused enormous damage,” Rep. Roberts said. “Our bills will increase safety standards and enable more effective emergency responses, so that Michigan doesn’t suffer another billion-dollar debacle.”
The bills in the Pipeline Safety package would:
- Require the Michigan Public Service Commission to issue permits only to pipelines that are unlikely to adversely affect the environment; public health, safety, or welfare; or the public trust in the Great Lakes
- Require compliance with the Water Resources Protection Rules of the Michigan Administrative Code – ending the current exemption for Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac
- Require pipelines underneath the Great Lakes to be operated responsibly and to require the DEQ to regularly inspect pipelines located under the Lakes
- Require a pipeline owner/operator to prepare and submit to the DEQ an emergency response plan as well as conduct leak response drills
- Require a pipeline owner/operator to immediately notify the DEQ and all impacted property owners if they have knowledge of a leak
- Require a pipeline owner/operator to pay an annual pipeline impact fee to be distributed 50 percent to the county where the pipeline is located and 50 percent to the General Fund, to be used to implement the Emergency Management Act and the Fire Prevention Code
- Require the DEQ to give Michigan products and services priority in awarding contracts for the cleanup of leaked crude oil or petroleum
“Our bills allow Michigan to implement much-needed safety standards to protect drinking water and the Great Lakes,” Rep. Irwin said. “We need more transparency when it comes to pipelines, not more secrecy. Unfortunately, our bills have yet to see any action while Republicans have introduced and are ready to push through legislation that prevents citizens from obtaining information about leaks, spills or the results of safety tests.”
“Michigan citizens need to know more, not less, about the safety of Enbridge’s pipelines and all pipelines in Michigan,” said David Holtz, chairman of the nonprofit Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter. “Rep. Heise’s HB 4540 won’t make us safer — it will do the opposite.”
“The fact that our package of bills, which would safeguard public health and protect our Pure Michigan economy are still sitting in committee while Rep. Heise’s secrecy bill has been fast-tracked through the process is indicative of the Republicans’ true priorities,” Rep. Driskell said. “Our Legislature should be prioritizing legislation that keeps Michigan’s citizens informed and aware of the potentially dangerous process occurring in all of our backyards.”
“We all know a leak in the Enbridge pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac would be an epic disaster,” said Rep. Cochran. “Experts from the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute produced this simulation of a pipeline leak under the Straits of Mackinac showing the widespread damage that would occur to the Great Lakes and our Pure Michigan brand.”