By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – New federal regulations require stricter safety standards for pipelines transporting oil and other dangerous liquids through the Great Lakes region, coastal waters and beaches, said Thursday responsible.
The rule issued by the United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration designates these locations as “high consequence” areas where pipeline operators must step up inspections, repairs and other measures to avoid spills.
The agency estimated that an additional 2,905 miles (4,675 kilometers) of hazardous liquids pipelines will be covered by the new rule, primarily in states along the Gulf of Mexico.
“The Great Lakes and our coastal waters are natural treasures that deserve our strictest protections,” said Tristan Brown, deputy administrator of the agency. “This rule strengthens and expands pipeline safety efforts.”
Congress last year ordered the Pipeline Safety Agency to include the Great Lakes, coastal beaches and coastal waters among “exceptionally sensitive areas” deserving special attention.
“We know that a pipeline spill in the Great Lakes would be catastrophic,” said Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan who sponsored the provision.
The natural gas and petroleum industry “is committed to ensuring the safe and environmentally sound operation of America’s energy infrastructure, and pipelines remain one of the most secure means of providing affordable and reliable energy.” said Robin Rorick, vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association. “As our industry strives to protect the environment and the communities where we live and work, this rule provides the opportunity to strengthen that commitment. “
Large oil releases would seriously damage coastlines and underwater environments, fisheries, human health and the economies of coastal communities, according to the regulation.
The 53-page document acknowledges that there is no way of knowing how many disasters the new requirements will prevent. But it offers several previous examples of damaging spills in designated areas.
Among them: the spill last month from an oil pipeline in southern California and a 2010 spill of about 840,000 gallons (3.2 million liters) of crude near Marshall, Michigan, which contaminated near 64 kilometers from the Kalamazoo River.
He also notes an anchoring impact in 2018 that dented Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, although it did not cause an oil leak.
The new rule requires operators to include any pipelines that could affect designated environments in their safety management programs.
These procedures include in-line inspections, pressure testing, and other methods to measure pipeline integrity, as well as analyzes of significant threats such as corrosion.
Environmentalists praised the measure, but said they would continue to push to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries oil between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.
“The aging pipelines in our basin pose a risk to our water and our way of life,” said Beth Wallace, Great Lakes campaign manager for the National Wildlife Federation.
Enbridge said its Line 5 integrity management program already meets the new requirements.
“Our goal is to protect the waters of the Great Lakes while providing affordable energy to Michigan and the region on a daily basis in a safe and reliable manner,” said spokesperson Ryan Duffy.
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