Shutting down Line 5 would hurt consumers

Man at the gas pump, and propane flame

Michiganders could see energy price spikes, shortages

Sept. 8, 2021

Many people are assessing the impact of a potential shutdown of Line 5 and they don’t like what they see.

A future without Line 5 could hit the wallets of Michiganders, costs jobs, and have people scrambling to find sources for their propane.

A respected, Michigan-based think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, analyzed the situation. In Jennifer Wiland’s Aug. 26 blog, she cited findings from a May 2021 report, The Regional Economic and Fiscal Impact of an Enbridge Line 5 Shutdown. Prepared for the Consumer Energy Alliance, the report cites that Michigan alone could lose more than $3 billion in economic activity and cost nearly 6,700 Michiganders their respective job if the State proves successful in idling a critical piece of energy infrastructure.

“From refinery workers to engineers to maintenance staff, everyone whose work relies on the pipeline would be forced to seek employment elsewhere,” wrote Wiland. “Union leaders say shutting down Line 5 would immediately cost 1,200 union jobs, and members of Steelworkers International and Local 912 have protested on the lawn of the state Capitol.”

In addition to increased energy and fuel prices and lost jobs across the region, Wiland noted that decommissioning Line 5 also would endanger Michigan’s energy supply.

“Line 5 supplies 65 percent of the Upper Peninsula’s propane needs, and 55 percent of the State’s,” wrote Wiland. “Without it, thousands of Michiganders could be left without the fuel they need to heat their homes.”

Fuel shortages, price spikes beyond Michigan

As an example of the consequences of losing a major pipeline, Wiland cites the May cyberattack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline. “Though the pipeline was only offline for five days, 17 states declared a state of emergency due to fuel shortages,” Wiland noted. In addition to Michigan, parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania depend on the light crude oil and natural gas liquids Line 5 transports each day to heat homes and businesses, fuel vehicles and power industry.

The United Refining Company in Warren, PA, approximately 140 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, relies on product from Line 5. The independent refiner distributes gasoline and fuels cars, trucks, farm and construction equipment and heats homes and businesses in Pennsylvania and portions of New York and Ohio.

Based in western Pennsylvania and straddling Allegheny and Beaver counties, Pittsburgh International Airport also relies on Line 5 to supply the Toledo refineries; the refineries provide 66 percent of the Airport’s aviation fuel.

“Imagine the disruption, with many airlines already facing supply constraints,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance (PEIA) when addressing the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee meeting in August.

Approximately 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Beaver County is a major hub for energy development. Knaus and many PEIA members spent a few days in western Pennsylvania discussing several energy infrastructure and pipeline projects, including Line 5, that are helping to drive environmental gains and economic growth. 

Line 5 demonstrates how connected we are

“A pipeline dispute in Michigan has big consequences for all of us in western Pennsylvania,” said Knaus. “Abruptly shutting down Line 5 would disrupt fuel supplies and push prices higher. Fortunately, the shutdown hasn’t occurred, and the pipeline remains operational, as do negotiations between Michigan and the Company and the U.S. and Canada. Line 5 demonstrates how connected we are.”

That connectedness spans Michigan, four other states and Canada’s two largest provinces. The residents and business of each would feel the repercussions if the State of Michigan is successful in its attempts to revoke the long-standing easement agreement that enables Line 5 to operate in the Straits.

Consumers would pay the price

“Decommissioning Line 5 would impose heavy costs while eliminating a minimal risk,” said Wiland.

“Moreover, Enbridge has presented a better option: the Great Lakes Tunnel Project. This tunnel would guard against an oil spill while allowing Line 5 to continue fueling the Great Lakes region. Even so, Nessel has sought to obstruct this project. These efforts run contrary to her stated goal of minimizing price increases in energy.”

The Great Lakes Tunnel is the solution

Enbridge is investing $500 million to build the Great Lakes Tunnel, which 70 percent of Michiganders’ support.  The Project will encase Line 5 in a utility tunnel under the lakebed, reducing the chance of an incident to nearly zero. The Great Lakes Tunnel also could house other important services, like high-speed internet and 911 emergency notification lines.

Equally important, energy to Michigan and the region would keep flowing, providing Michiganders the propane to heat their homes and businesses and avoid spikes in their energy bills.

“The Great Lake Tunnel project is truly a win-win situation for Michiganders,” said Mike Moeller, Enbridge’s director of liquids pipelines for the Great Lakes Region.

“The tunnel, which we are paying for, provides the environmental protection that people demand while keeping the lights and heat on. Plus, the construction project will put people to work. Coming out of the pandemic, it’s important to put people back to work, everywhere.”

The company estimates that it will need to hire more than 200 workers to build the Tunnel, requiring approximately 2,000,000 hours of labor for this vital project.

“Until Enbridge completes the tunnel, Line 5 should remain open,” posted Wiland. “With the welfare of thousands of Michiganders at stake, the proposed benefits of shutting down Line 5 don’t justify the costs.”