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Senator Peters Hosts Senate Field Hearing on Line 5 in Traverse City

Traverse City, MI – Today, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) hosted a field hearing for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in Traverse City on pipeline safety, specifically through the lens of the Mackinac Straits pipeline, Enbridge Energy’s Line 5.

“We appreciate Sen. Peters for holding this critical hearing on pipeline safety in the Great Lakes,” said Mike Shriberg, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Executive Director, who testified at the hearing. “His leadership on protecting the Great Lakes from Line 5 has driven positive action on the federal and state level.”

At the hearing, Sen. Peters questioned two panels of witnesses including: 

  • The Honorable Howard “Skip” Elliot, Administrator, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan, Ninth District Commander, United States Coast Guard
  • Mr. Scott Lundgren, Emergency Response Division Chief, Office of Response and Restoration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • David Bryson, Senior VP Operations, Liquid Pipelines, Enbridge Inc.
  • Michael Shriberg, Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center
  • David Murk, Manager of Pipelines, Midstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute
  • Chris Hennessy, Business Development Representative, Michigan Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET)
  • Larry Bell, Founder and Owner, Bells Brewery

“We know that an oil spill in the Great Lakes would be absolutely catastrophic for our environment and our economy,” Sen. Peters said in his opening remarks. “If you’re looking for the worst absolute place for an oil disaster to occur, it would be the Straits of Mackinac.”

During the hearing, Peters questioned witnesses about the response to the April anchor strike which dented Line 5. What emerged during the hearing was the fact that not only was Line 5 dented, but it was also gouged. Peters drew applause from the full crowd at the Dennos Museum Center when commenting that the delay in inspection of Line 5 following the anchor strike was “unacceptable.”

Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Upper Hand Brewery in Escanaba and a member of the Great Lakes Business Network, testified about a how a Line 5 oil spill could impact businesses like his in the Great Lakes.

“Mackinac Island would be toast, right away,” said Bell. “We’d have oil on the beaches of Mackinac Island. This is a really important place where I do a lot of business – we make private label beer for the Grand Hotel – and tourism could be affected for a generation to come.”

Sen. Peters has proposed legislation to require PHMSA to classify pipelines which cross sensitive waterways – like Line 5 – as offshore pipelines, which carry heavier liability requirements than onshore pipelines.

During the hearing, he also secured a commitment from Enbridge to release all documentation of the damage sustained to Line 5 from the anchor strike, including videos and images; previously, they had only released grainy photos of the dented area.

“That’s a good step,” replied Shriberg. “It shouldn’t take a hearing with the sitting U.S. senator, although I appreciate you having this to get to the bottom. What I would like to see is that being a standard practice, not something that a special hearing would have to come to, but thank you, Senator.”

“The bottom line is we know there are alternatives to the small amount of service that Line 5 provides to the state of Michigan,” Shriberg concluded. “We know there are no alternatives to the Great Lakes.”

The full video of the hearing can be watched here

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