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Energy committee chair Upton says he will advance pipeline safety legislation

The massive oil spill last summer that contaminated dozens of miles of the Kalamazoo river with crude oil, has resulted in U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) announcing that he will move legislation on pipeline safety from his committee, Energy and Commerce.

While Upton chairs the important Energy and Commerce Committee, it does not have primary responsibility for oversight of the countries hazardous pipelines. That responsibility falls to the Transportation Committee, which has a dedicated subcommittee on pipelines.

Regardless, the Kalamazoo Gazette reports Upton intends to move pipeline legislation that will encompass many of the reforms called for by former Rep. Marc Schauer (D-Bedford Township).

“We are still in the midst of crafting legislation to adequately address and improve pipeline safety,” Upton’s office said later Monday. “Some changes to current law might include increased financial penalties for spills, new rules for incident reporting time frames and new requirements for pipeline control technologies that could help prevent accidents and ensure quicker recovery should a spill or explosion occur.”

Upton’s office said it would not create new restrictions on tar sands crude. New regulations on the thicker oil have called for increased regulations, noting the chemical composition of the crude — which is drawn from the ground by injecting steam into the thick, tar-like deposits then pumped out as a liquid — leads to heavier corrosion and an increased risk of pipeline failure.

The problems Upton’s office says new legislation would address fall in line with criticisms leveled at Enbridge Energy Partners in their response to the July 25 rupture of the Lakehead Pipeline B in Marshall. In July a six foot long hole blew open in the line, dumping an estimated one million gallons of Cold Lake Crude Oil — a tar sand oil — into a wetland then into Talmadge Creek, which then drained down into the Kalamazoo River.

The company has been criticized because complaints of a natural gas smell began flooding Calhoun County’s dispatch on Sunday night about 9 p.m. however, the rupture and oil spill were not discovered until 11 a.m. on Monday. Despite dispatching a company official to the site at 9 a.m., the rupture was ultimately discovered by a Consumer’s Energy employee.

Meanwhile, as Michigan Messenger reported Monday, Enbridge officials could face criminal charges for the spill.

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