News Story

Shutting Down Pipeline Will Be Costly, Analyst Warns

Among the costs: $3,400 annually for extra heating bills; one-time expenses of $3,500 to $25,000

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed shutdown of an oil and gas pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac is “a short-sighted and dangerous attack” on the state’s economy. It will destroy jobs and add up to $3,900 a year to annual home heating costs for tens of thousands of Michiganders.

That’s the assessment of Jason Hayes, the director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Hayes said Whitmer’s Nov. 13 decision to revoke an easement for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline — on the grounds that the easement violates state government’s public trust duty to protect the environment — strikes at the heart of the region’s energy infrastructure.

Hayes said that if the shutdown is not reversed, it will have several ill effects. It will:

● Limit the supply of crude oil and natural gas liquids to refineries across the Midwest and cost thousands of jobs. It will limit the supply of fuel, increase its cost for commercial and consumer transportation, and cut off propane to more than 330,000 homeowners who rely on it.

● Force residents to convert to alternative sources, such as natural gas (where available), costing $3,500 per conversion.

● Alternately, when natural gas isn’t available, force people to use electricity for heating, which could add amount to $25,000 per household in conversion costs and add $3,400-$3,900 to annual electric bills.

Hayes derived those estimates from a Mackinac Center review he co-wrote on the implications of a report produced earlier this year by Whitmer’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force.

Whitmer’s announcement on Line 5 was also met with harsh criticism from Canadian officials, including Ontario Minister of Energy Greg Rickford.

Rickford said it would jeopardize “the energy supply we rely on daily,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

Rickford said the move was both economically reckless and environmentally irresponsible, the Detroit Free Press reported. It would, he said, increase the risk of pollution from alternative ways of transporting oil and gas and cause an overall increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Pipelines are the safest way to transport fuels, he said.

Last year, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged Whitmer to avoid a shutdown of the pipeline, which supplies two refineries in his state, a position his office affirmed this week, according to The Detroit News.

Whitmer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on those concerns. In announcing the easement revocation — formally initiated in a lawsuit filed in Ingram County — Whitmer said the original 1953 agreement to authorize the pipeline violated the state’s obligation to protect its natural resources.

Enbridge, she said, has repeatedly failed to abide by the agreement’s safety protocols, resulting in “an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Great Lakes that could devastate our economy and way of life.” If the order is not withdrawn or blocked by the courts, it is scheduled to take effect in May 2021.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.