Coast Guard isn't ready for spill in Great Lakes, environmental groups say

Aug 23, 2018

The Coast Guard's Northern Michigan oil spill response area.
Credit The U.S. Coast Guard

Environmental groups say the U.S. Coast Guard is not ready for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.


The Coast Guard is required by law to have a plan for a spill.


However, Margareta Kearney, an attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says they don’t.



“There was testimony that clearly stated the Coast Guard is not at the ready to respond to an oil spill in the Great Lakes,” Kearney said.



Kearney says that’s against the law. The ELPC filed the lawsuit with The National Wildlife Federation.

At the senate hearing last November, former Coast Guard head Paul Zukunft said they couldn’t handle an oil spill in the Great Lakes.


"I would go on the record to say that the Coast Guard is not semper paratus for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes," Zukunft said.


Semper paratus is a latin phrase, meaning “always ready.” As part of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Coast Guard has The Northern Michigan Area Contingency plan, a response plan for a spill in the Great Lakes. It includes state and federal measures to contain the source of a spill, and to protect “sensitive areas.”


Just this week at a hearing held by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D) in Traverse City, Coast Guard Admiral Joanna Nunan said the Coast Guard could respond to a spill within 24 hours.


“If you look around the Great Lakes, there are [Oil Spill Removal Organizations] and industry materials: booming, absorbent pads, vacuum trucks all throughout the Great Lakes,” Nunan said.


The Coast Guard has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.