WASHINGTON — Two Michigan members of Congress are re-introducing legislation which calls for a pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac to be shut down if it’s found to pose a significant risk.

U.S. Reps. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, proposed the measure today. If passed, it would require the U.S. Transportation Department to perform a year-long study to “evaluate the conditions and structural integrity” of pipelines in and around the Straits of Mackinac.

If any of those pipelines — including Line 5, a pair of 60-year-old pipelines running along the bottom of the straits where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet — were found to pose “a sufficient risk of hazard to life, property, or the environment,” the legislation would require the federal government to shut them down.

The legislation is similar to that proposed in the last Congress by former U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township. Environmentalists in recent years have widely criticized the pipeline, saying a rupture there could decimate water quality. But Enbridge, a Canadian energy company, has both defended the pipelines as safe and said it is open to additional reviews of the line.

“More than 23 million gallons of contaminants are transported under the Straits of Mackinac every day, and while I understand that we need this energy, pumping millions of gallons through poorly inspected pipelines is careless and irresponsible,” said Trott. “We can no longer bury our heads in the sand. We need a comprehensive study and regular inspections.”

Dingell noted that a University of Michigan study said that some 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline could potentially be at risk if there were a rupture of the line, depending on current, wind and weather conditions.

“This legislation would allow the Department of Transportation to thoroughly study the condition and integrity of the underwater pipes and facilities in the Straits of Mackinac,” said Dingell. “If PHMSA (the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) finds the conditions of the pipes to be a significant risk to the environment and public health, the operations of Line 5 will be shut down.”

Contact Todd Spangler at 703-854-8947 or at tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.

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