Senators Stabenow, Peters: “Top Pipeline Safety Official Will Participate in First-Ever Straits of Mackinac Pipeline Safety Drill”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters today announced that Marie Therese Dominguez, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), will participate in a safety drill taking place at the Enbridge pipeline running underneath the Straits of Mackinac. The 2015 Straits of Mackinac PREP Exercise will test how efficiently private, federal, state and local responders are able to work together to manage a potential oil pipeline spill on the Great Lakes. Administrator Dominguez's agency is critical to preventing oil pipeline spills and accidents that harm Michigan communities. Senators Stabenow and Peters invited Administrator Dominguez to participate in the drill to see firsthand whether or not containing an oil spill on the Great Lakes is possible in the event a spill happens.

"Strengthening pipeline safety is a critical issue for Michigan families, for our wildlife and for our natural resources," said Senator Stabenow. "We all remember the devastating pipeline break that spilled nearly one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Michigan families cannot afford to have that kind of a spill happen anywhere in the Great Lakes. Administrator Dominguez's agency is key to identifying risks that need to be addressed in order to stop pipeline leaks, which is why her visit to the Straits of Mackinac is so important. I look forward to hearing her recommendations for increased pipeline safety oversight at both the state and federal level."

"I'm pleased that PHMSA Administrator Dominguez will be attending Enbridge's emergency response exercise this week to see firsthand if we have the capacity to respond to an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac," Senator Peters said. "An oil spill in the Great Lakes would have a catastrophic impact on our environment, our waterfront communities and Michigan's economy. With so much at stake, it's important that the leader of the federal agency overseeing pipeline safety will be on site during this drill to assess the situation at Line 5."

Led by the U.S. Coast Guard, the 2015 Straits of Mackinac PREP Exercise will take place Tuesday, September 22 through Friday, September 25 in St. Ignace. It will feature simulations that address shoreline cleanup, open water oil recovery, and wildlife rehabilitation practice. In addition to the PHMSA Administrator, participants in the exercise will include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan State Police, local law enforcement, and Native American tribes.

A copy of the Senators' invitation to Administrator Dominguez follows:

Dear Administrator Dominguez:

We write to request your attendance at the Straits of Mackinac Emergency Response Exercise in St. Ignace, Michigan scheduled for September 22 through September 25, 2015. The exercise will test Enbridge Energy Partners' capacity to work with federal, state, and local responders in the event of a spill at its Line 5 pipeline that runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The Enbridge Energy Partners' Line 5 pipeline was installed in 1953 and travels 645 miles between Superior, Wisconsin and Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline passes inland along environmentally sensitive areas throughout Michigan, including under the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet and separate Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. PHMSA has identified this leg of the pipeline as a "high-consequence area." A 2014 study conducted by the University of Michigan found that a spill at this location would result in catastrophic contamination of the waters and shorelines of both Lakes Michigan and Huron.

Michigan is unfortunately well aware of the devastating impact an oil spill can have on communities and the environment. Five years ago, a pipeline owned by the same company ruptured near the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. The 843,000 gallons of oil that spilled into the Kalamazoo was largest inland oil spill in U.S. history and cost more than $1.2 billion to clean up.

The 2015 Straits of Mackinac PREP Exercise is an opportunity to see firsthand whether sufficient emergency response capabilities exist to contain an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac. We hope that your schedule will permit your attendance at this important event.