Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday touted a report that concludes shutting down the Enbridge Line 5 dual pipeline will have a minimal economic impact on Michigan businesses and residences.
Proponents of Line 5, however, disagree.
The PLG Consulting report states that customers will adapt in the event Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are successful in shutting down Line 5.
The pipeline has traversed the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac for 70 years and transports an estimated 540,000 barrels of petrochemicals daily. Enbridge has been endeavoring to remove the pipelines to a $500 million tunnel it would build at its own cost 100 feet beneath the bedrock of the lakebed.
The PLG report notes that “With advance notice, the markets can be expected to [adapt] without supply shortages or price spikes.”
“Enbridge has known of the possibility of a Line 5 shutdown for years, and yet they have consistently claimed that a shutdown would cause an economic catastrophe.” Nessel said. “The truth is that Enbridge and the companies that receive oil and gas from Line 5 have had ample time to prepare contingency plans. The failure to do so would be professional malpractice.”
Jason Hayes, environmental policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told The Midwesterner he’s skeptical of PLG’s claims.
“We showed in our work a couple of years ago that the cost for the average UP family would jump at least $200 a month if Line 5 were shut down,” Hayes said. “It’s the same as saying there’s no point in drilling in Alaska because we can’t drill our way to lower oil and gas prices to quote the former president.”
Hayes said Michigan residents consume 489 million gallons of propane yearly, more than any other state. He explained that the pipeline transports natural gas liquids to refineries in the Great Lakes region, around Sarnia, Ontario. The refined propane returns to Michigan, where more than 223,000 homes and businesses statewide. He added that 23,000 rural Upper Peninsula rural residents rely on 34.2 million gallons of propane to heat and power their homes each year.
“Over time it’s a death by 1,000 cuts. If they shut down this pipeline, then next week they’ll shut down the next pipeline. Then the week after that, they’ll go and they’ll shut down the next pipeline.”
PLG’s assessment derives from an assertion that customers currently reliant on Line 5 are aware a potential shutdown may occur and have already established contingency plans.
“The report’s recommendations defy common sense and would put the environment at risk by suggesting the use of more oil tankers on the waters of the Great Lakes and more rail cars crisscrossing the region to transport the product Line 5 carries,” Enbridge Spokesman Ryan Duffy told The Midwesterner.
“There is already an agreed-upon solution that will protect the Great Lakes and provide today the energy that is depended upon by thousands of businesses and millions of people. Enbridge has agreed to pay to build the Great Lakes Tunnel under the Straits as a means to replace the pipelines currently in the water, protect the environment and keep energy flowing,” Duffy added.
Duffy noted that energy demand will continue to increase, and the means to meet this demand will include “all forms” of energy for the foreseeable future.
“There are currently no alternatives to deliver the entire energy that Line 5 transports,” he said. “Adding additional rail or marine vessel capacity is not only bad for the environment and our climate, but will take years, if not decades, to develop, permit, and build.”
Duffy also noted that only two pipelines in the Enbridge Mainline system are able to transport the natural gas liquids necessary to produce propane. One of them, Line 1, terminates in Superior, leaving only Line 5 to transport the natural gas to refineries.
“To replace the energy being delivered by Line 5 would take 2,100 tanker trucks or 850 rail cars every day; adding to already congested roads and rail lines and potentially displacing other products and commodities such as auto parts and agriculture crops,” Duffy said, adding, “Michigan’s own energy task force report found that any infrastructure development consisting of rail improvements or significant storage facilities associated with the use of tanker trucks would take years to permit and build.”