WSW: Senator Gary Peters on Syrian Refugees, Pipeline Safety and More

Oct 22, 2015

In this Sunday, June 14, 2015 file photo, a Syrian refugee carries a baby over the broken border fence into Turkey after breaking the border fence and crossing from Syria in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey. A Kurdish official says a new administration has been formed for a majority Sunni-Arab town controlled by Syrian Kurds, expanding the ethnic group’s semi-autonomous administration in northern Syria
Credit Lefteris Pitarakis / The Associated Press

Senator Gary Peters says Syria is facing a humanitarian crisis and the U.S. should help refugees seeking a safe place. 


Peters wants the United States to bring in 30,000 Syrian refugees. He says about 85,000 refugees from around the world are allowed in every year. Peters says refugees from Syria should be a priority given the current crisis.

The Democratic Senator, elected last year, recently visited that region. He says the refugees really want to go home. He says in order to do that Syria and Iraq have to be stabilized. Asked about screening for people with terrorist ties, Peters says proper screening is important. He says that’s done now, but would have to be stepped up if more refugees from Syria are allowed in.

In terms of stabilizing that area of the world, Peters says it’s a long-term project. The Senator says that during his visit, military leaders reported that the air campaign has helped stop the advance of the group known as ISIS. But Peters says that doesn’t create peaceful areas. He doesn’t support U.S. combat troops on the ground. Peters says other nations in that region will have to step up, but he admits there are no good options right now.

Waterfront Development

Peters was interviewed by WMUK’s Gordon Evans on Monday. The Senator came to Kalamazoo to discuss federal legislation to promote waterfront development. He says that’s a key part of economic development. Peters’ legislation would promote revitalization of waterfront communities. It would provide grants to communities for planning. Peters says she is working with colleagues from the Great Lakes, as well as from states on the east and west coast. He says communities should make their own decisions about how to develop along a waterfront. Peters says the federal role is not to push them in any direction.

Senator Gary Peters
Credit Courtesy Photo / Senate website

Pipeline Safety

Peters has proposed legislation designed to promote pipeline safety. He says more frequent inspections are needed, especially in “high consequence areas.” Peters says his bill would make the entire Great Lakes basin a “high consequence area.” He says the Enbridge Energy pipeline that ruptured in 2010 near Marshall showed how devastating and expensive and oil spill on the Kalamazoo River can be. Peters says he’s focused now on the Straits of Mackinac where a pipeline owned by Enbirdge is over 60 years old. He says an oil spill in that area of the Great Lakes would be catastrophic. Cleaning up an oil spill is also a priority, Peters says the federal government needs plans that account for ice cover on the Great Lakes and other factors. He says greater transparency is needed on inspection reports of pipelines. Peter says government agencies and watchdog groups should also have access to reports on pipeline safety.

Veterans

Legislation to protect veterans who have been given an administrative discharge has been introduced by Peters. He says it’s in response to stories from veterans groups across the country. Peters says veterans who have not received an honorable discharge and therefore not eligible for services from the VA, would be able to have their discharge reviewed. He says then a veteran could be screened for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Peters says it’s possible that PTSD may have caused a change in behavior but was not properly diagnosed while a veteran was still on active duty.

In the extended version of the interview Peters discusses efforts to stop postal service centers from closing and helping manufacturing. He also weighs in on a Huffington Post story on his status as the only new Democrat elected to the Senate in 2014. The story found that Peters is the "least powerful" member of the Senate. The freshman Senator says the article was "fun." But Peters says he's focused on working for the state, and working across the aisle to get it done.