Peters to lead panel overseeing Line 5 regulators

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (left) is pictured during his tour of BAJ Glass in Flushing, where he highlighted how small businesses – such as BAJ Glass – have stepped up to support Coronavirus response efforts. (Office of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters)

By Laina G. Stebbins, Michigan Advance

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who has come out in favor of shutting down the Canadian Line 5 oil pipeline in the Mackinac Straits, has been selected to lead the Senate panel responsible for overseeing the pipeline’s federal regulators.

Peters was named chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight and Ports on Friday. The panel primarily oversees national agencies governing pipeline, vehicle and traffic safety.

One of those agencies is the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the sole federal regulator of the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline at the center of three ongoing lawsuits between the state of Michigan and Canadian oil company Enbridge.

“The Great Lakes not only provide drinking water for 40 million people, but they are also an economic driver for our state and are simply part of who we are as Michiganders,” said Peters in a statement. “We already know how a pipeline spill in Michigan can have long-term and damaging consequences. A pipeline spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be catastrophic for Michigan – we must do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes for future generations, and I look forward to continuing to work with PHMSA through my subcommittee chairmanship.”

Peters has previously been involved with oversight efforts related to Line 5, including holding hearings, introducing legislation and working with PHMSA to ensure safety regulation enforcement.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer served a notice to Enbridge in November ordering the 68-year-old Line 5 to be shut down by May, Peters released a statement in support of Whitmer’s actions.

“Given the structural integrity and age concerns around Line 5 — particularly in recent years — and Enbridge’s failures and inability to be transparent with Michiganders, it’s clear that Line 5 poses too serious of a threat and must be removed in the coming months,” Peters said on Nov. 13.

PHMSA is housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), led by newly confirmed Secretary Pete Buttigieg. PHMSA’s office was headed up by the controversial President Donald Trump-appointed Howard R. Elliott until last month.

Elliott’s replacement has not yet been announced. Currently leading the agency as acting administrator is Tristan Brown, a Michigan-born attorney who served as Peters’ legislative council from 2019 until this year.

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