LANSING, Mich., Oct. 15, 2020 — State Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) introduced House Bill 6307 today to protect the Great Lakes from devastating oil and gas spills by making it a felony for large ships to drag equipment that could damage an underwater pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Anchor strikes occur when a freighter negligently has their anchor deployed while passing over a pipeline, and the controversial Line 5 that runs through the Straits of Mackinac has already been damaged by past anchor strikes. Another such strike could further compromise Line 5’s integrity and cause irreparable harm to the environment and local economy.
“Michigan is home to the largest freshwater ecosystems in the world,” said Hood. “And as Michiganders, it is our responsibility to take the lead in protecting the Great Lakes. We must act now to deter freighters and ship owners from negligent or otherwise reckless behavior that might harm our most treasured natural resource. And we need to ensure those that fail to protect our waters are held properly accountable for a potentially devastating error.”
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) cosponsored the bill and joined Rep. Hood in announcing it today.
“Continuing to allow a pipeline to operate under the Straits of Mackinac poses a catastrophic threat to our lakes and to hundreds of miles of shoreline,” said Rabhi. “But even if Line 5 were shut down today, it would remain a hazard on the lakebed. Until it can be removed, we need to ensure that commercial shippers take precautions to avoid rupturing it.”
“The anchor strikes in recent years show that there is no safe way to operate Line 5 in the Straits,” said Sean McBrearty, Legislative and Policy Director for Clean Water Action. “We need to shut down the pipeline and provide clean alternative power sources for the Upper Peninsula. If the Legislature won’t act to shut the pipeline down today, the least they can do is to reduce the risk that a negligent shipping operator will devastate our fresh water ecosystems.”
Since 1968, oil from Line 5 has spilled into the Great Lakes more than 30 times, releasing over 1 million gallons during that time. In 2018, the Erie Trader dragged its anchor for more than a day, damaging the pipeline and an underwater cable, and spilling 800 gallons of dielectric oil into the Straits. Under this bill, operators found guilty of knowingly dragging equipment in the Straits would face up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine, in addition to reimbursing the State for all clean-up costs. The bill would also require DNR and Enbridge to place and maintain marker buoys warning of obstructions like the pipeline and would require large ships to use approved maritime pilots to guide them through the Straits.
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