On Saturday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared an energy emergency because of propane delivery delays that jeopardized the heating source for many Michigan homes. The order allows tanker truck drivers to exceed their maximum daily driving limits until Feb. 28.
“With a cold wave gripping the country, our top priority right now is ensuring that Michigan families and businesses have the home heating fuel we need to stay warm,” Whitmer said in a statement. “While I am confident that our state has the energy supply we need to get through these cold winter days, we aren’t taking any chances after what happened in Texas this week.”
However, Republican lawmakers argued Whitmer’s attempted shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5, which Enbridge estimates supplies 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula and 55% of statewide Michigan, would permanently reduce propane access for those same Michiganders.
Michigan has the largest residential hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) consumption nationwide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Total HGL consumption, including propane, is greater in Michigan than in all but five other states, EIA says.
Nearly one in five Upper Peninsula households use propane, and nearly 24% of those living in the northern Lower Peninsula use propane as a primary heating source, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s Statewide Energy Assessment.
Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels per day of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids, some of which is refined into propane.
Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told The Center Square it was a “relief” to see Whitmer keep heat flowing to over 330,000 households “but her continued legal and political attacks on the Line 5 pipeline belies her stated concerns.”
“If the governor is serious about protecting essential energy for Yoopers and rural residents of the northern portions of the Lower Peninsula, she will cease her attempts to shut down Line 5 and work with Enbridge to speed the construction of the Line 5 tunnel,” Hayes said in a statement.
Whitmer’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry of how she plans to heat the Upper Pennisula or the rest of Michigan if she succeeds in halting Line 5 operations.
Rep. John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, said Whitmer declaring an energy emergency “proves her politically motivated threats to shut down Line 5 without an adequate replacement are reckless – and could harm families and job providers in Northern Michigan and the U.P.”
“U.P. residents deserve the same energy infrastructure stability and reliability residents in downstate Michigan generally take for granted,” Damoose said in a statement. “I’m hopeful the governor’s emergency declaration – designed to help with the distribution of vitally important propane – is a wake-up call for her. Stop messing with the lives and livelihoods of our people, and let the underground tunnel to replace Line 5 proceed.”
The 68-year-old pipeline has been targeted for shutdown by environmentalists who fear a spill similar to the 2010 oil spill near the Kalamazoo River – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
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