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Commerce Committee Hearing on Line 5 and Great Lakes planned for Northern Michigan

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) will convene a field hearing titled “Pipeline Safety in the Great Lakes: Incident Prevention and Response Efforts at the Straits of Mackinac” at 10 a.m. on Monday Aug. 20 in Traverse City, Michigan.

The hearing will focus on enhancing federal oil spill prevention efforts, preparedness and response capability in the event of an oil pipeline break in the Straits of Mackinac.

Line 5, the 65-year-old pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac, has been the subject of multiple safety concerns, including damage from anchor strikes.

“The Great Lakes are not only important to Michigan – they are an economic driver for our entire country, and this hearing will examine how we can ensure they are protected from an oil spill or pipeline leak,” said Senator Peters. “An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be an economic and environmental catastrophe that could disrupt the flow of commerce on the Great Lakes, damage our significant fishing and tourism industries, and threaten the drinking water supply for millions.”

Peters is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and serves as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the federal agency tasked with overseeing pipeline safety throughout our nation’s extensive pipeline system, including the Great Lakes.

It also has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, which plays a leading role in overseeing the federal and state response to oil spills, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provides scientific support for oil spill prevention, response and restoration.

Last Congress, Peters helped pass bipartisan legislation reauthorizing PHMSA, which included provisions designating the Great Lakes an unusually sensitive area, subjecting the Great Lakes basin to higher standards for safe pipeline operation, and improving oil spill response plans to address ice cover.

He has also authored provisions to improve both NOAA and Coast Guard’s oil spill preparedness, including the establishment of a Coast Guard Center of Expertise to improve research and understanding of oil impacts in freshwater systems.

Witnesses:
Panel I:

  • 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

Panel II:

  • 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

* Witness list and panels are subject to change.

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