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Save The River Applauds Federal Legislation that would Ban Crude Oil Shipments on the Great Lakes

September 24th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Save The River Applauds Federal Legislation that would Ban Crude Oil Shipments on the Great Lakes, Assess Pipeline Risks and Improve Spill Response Plans

WASHINGTON, DC – Save The River is applauding the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act which would ban the shipping of crude oil by vessel on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.  U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow (MI) introduced the legislation today which in addition to banning crude oil in vessels, requires a comprehensive, top-to-bottom review of hazardous pipelines in the region. This legislation would also compel an assessment of oil spill response and cleanup plans, require ice cover be part of worst-case scenarios in response plans and increase public information about pipelines for local communities.

“We have suffered a major oil spill on the St. Lawrence River, and our communities will never forget”, said Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and executive director of Save The River. “As pressures increase to bring crude oil cargoes to the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, we will vigorously support this legislation and we encourage our representatives to do so as well. Shipping on the St. Lawrence River has long been an all-risk and no-reward proposition, and crude oil on ships would greatly increase that risk to our environment, our economy and our communities.”

Save The River has been fighting to protect the vulnerable and fragile natural and human environment on the St. Lawrence River for its entire 37 year history, with a recent focus on the threat of new crude oil cargoes on the River. Last winter Save The River’s annual environmental conference featured an extensive examination of crude oil shipments, and possible impacts to the River. Earlier this month, Save The River brought these very concerns before a committee of the Jefferson County Legislature for consideration.

Currently, Willbanks is in Washington D.C. for meetings with Representative Stefanik and other members of the New York congressional delegation. While there he will urge support for the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, along with other River protection issues such as Plan 2014.

The Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act will protect the Great Lakes from oil spills by:

·         Banning the shipment of crude oil on tanker vessels and barges on the Great Lakes. Earlier this month, the State of Michigan and Enbridge reached an agreement not to transport heavy crude oil under the current configurations of Line 5. As we rapidly explore alternatives to Line 5, and as energy transportation increases in the U.S., this bill makes clear that shipping crude oil on the Great Lakes is an unacceptable transportation option. There is currently no crude oil transported by vessel on the Great Lakes, and this bill keeps it that way.

·         Mandating federal studies on pipeline risks in the Great Lakes, including alternatives to Line 5. The bill mandates analysis by the Department of Transportation and the National Academies on the risks associated with pipelines that run through the Great Lakes and other waterways in the region. The studies must deliver a report to Congress with safety recommendations related to reducing spill risks, including an assessment of alternatives to Line 5 and a comprehensive map of pipelines crossing waterways in the Great Lakes basin.

·         Improving oil spill response plans. The legislation requires the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies to independently assess the current status of oil spill response and cleanup activities and techniques. It would also amend current law to require response plans that address icy conditions, when waters affected by a spill are covered in whole or in part by ice. During the past two winters, maximum ice coverage in the Great Lakes has been well above normal levels. The Coast Guard has stated it does not have the technology or capacity for worst-case discharge cleanup under solid ice, and that its response activities are not adequate in ice-choked waters.

·         Increasing public information and transparency about pipeline risks. Corporate information on pipeline operating standards, inspection reports and other information related to safety is often kept secret, or difficult to access and understand. The bill ensures residents are notified about pipelines near their property and compels operators to maintain publicly available information.

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