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Ban proposed for oil tankers in Great Lakes

Michigan in 2010 experienced one of the worst inland spills in the industry's history.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Ban proposed for oil tankers in Great Lakes
Sen.. Gary Peters, D-Mich., calls for ban on crude oil tanker traffic in Great Lakes waters as pipeline company Enbridge conducts monitoring on pipeline running through state waters. File photo by Gary Malerba/UPI

LANSING, Mich., Sept. 25 (UPI) -- With Enbridge on a regional monitoring mission, two Michigan senators introduced legislation aimed at banning vessels from carrying oil through the Great Lakes.

Pipeline company Enbridge is conducting emergency response drills on Line 5, a twin oil line running through the Straits of Mackinac dividing the two Michigan peninsulas. Enbridge, the company behind a major 2010 oil spill in lower Michigan, has faced safety questions over the durability of the 60-year-old Line 5.

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"After experiencing one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history, Michiganders know all too well that a pipeline break can have devastating consequences for our environment and our economy," Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said in a statement.

Line 6b, part of the larger Enbridge network, ruptured near Marshall, Mich., in 2010, dumping more than 25,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding community. More than 30 miles of the region's Kalamazoo River were soiled by the spill, making it one of the worst incidents of its kind.

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Peters and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act which, among other things, aims to ban crude oil tanker traffic on the Great Lakes and mandate studies on the Line 5 pipeline system.

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Two of the state's Great Lakes intersect at the straits, creating a rough maritime environment. A Michigan pipeline task force report requires Enbridge to carry full insurance, create a public pipeline safety board and disclose safety reports.

Enbridge, in an overview of Michigan operations, notes there's never been a leak on the Line 5 system in its 60-year history.

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On tanker traffic, a 2013 study from the Alliance for Great Lakes states finds the cost of shipping oil through the Great Lakes is about 30 percent less than rail.

An increase in North American crude oil production has outpaced existing capacity on pipeline networks, forcing many companies to look for alternate transit methods.

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