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Issues Of The Environment: Pipeline Safety Legislation In Michigan

May 14, 2015

If you look at a map of the pipelines that run through the state of Michigan, it resembles a spider-web. They are everywhere, and more on planned and more are being constructed as we speak.  As we learned in 2010 when a pipeline burst and polluted portions of the Kalamazoo River system, protection of our waterways may be lacking in some areas.   

On Earth Day last month, A group of state lawmakers and the heads of some leading environmental groups publicly announced a package of legislation that aims to address pipeline safety and natural resource protections.  This week, we are talking with Ann Arbor State Representative Jeff Irwin about the Pipeline Safety Legislation that he helped introduce.

 Jeff Irwin, State Representative-(D-Ann Arbor) 53rd District, is a sponsor of a recent package of bills aimed at adding some state level safeguards for oil and gas pipelines. Although the federal government regulates many aspects of pipeline safety, there are some serious concerns about the efficacy of that agency. Michigan could take some important steps to strengthen our laws and protect the Great Lakes without straying into federal territory.

The bills in the Pipeline Safety package would:  

  •  Require pipeline operators to get a permit from the state. The MPSC would issue a permit 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 all pipelines comply with Part 5 of the Water Resources Protection Rules of the Michigan Administrative Code
  •  Require pipelines underneath the Great Lakes to be operated responsibly and to require the DEQ to regularly inspect pipelines located under the Lakes
  • Require an owner/operator of a pipeline to prepare and submit to the DEQ an emergency response plan as well as conduct leak response drills
  •  Require an owner/operator of a pipeline to immediately notify the DEQ and all impacted property owners if they have knowledge of a leak
  • Require an owner/operator of pipeline to pay an annual pipeline impact fee to be distributed 50% to the county where the pipeline is located and 50% 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 clean-up of leaked crude oil or petroleum

Issues of the EnvironmentA regular weekly feature on Morning Edition produced in partnership with the Washtenaw environmental Health Division and heard only on 89.1 WEMU.