Newly proposed federal legislation could prevent vessels from transporting crude oil on the Great Lakes and provide a “top-to-bottom review” for pipelines on the waterways.
The Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act, introduced last week by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan, also calls for new research on oil spill response, such as how to respond to a spill during the winter when ice covers the lakes, and increases access to safety information about pipelines.
The pair said in statements that they were inspired by a large spill in the Kalamazoo River.
“One can only imagine what a disaster it would be for a similar oil spill to occur in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest system of fresh surface water,” Sen. Peters said in a statement.
The pair also noted discomfort among maritime officials about the effectiveness of oil spill cleanup methods, such as oil dispersants, in times of cold water.
Among those advocating for the measure were Save the River, Clayton, which dedicated its winter conference to the topic earlier this year.
“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,” D. Lee Willbanks, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.
Tom Flanagin, spokesman for Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said that the congresswoman was looking for ways to protect the lakes without limiting access to affordable energy, and that the proposal was under review by her staff and the Great Lakes Task Force.
Similarly, a spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the senator’s office also is reviewing the measure. A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she is considering the proposal, and is committed to protecting area lakes and waterways.
Currently, no crude oil shipments are made by vessel on the Great Lakes, Save the River and lawmakers said. However, the possibility of Canadian companies shipping crude oil on the St. Lawrence Seaway was reviewed last year by the U.S. Department of State as a part of its examination of the Keystone XL pipeline project.