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Ontonagon Republicans adopt pipeline resolution

ONTONAGON COUNTY — The Ontonagon County Republican Party (OCRP) on April 6, 2021, adopted a resolution urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to allow the existing Enbridge Line 5 pipeline to remain open. The resolution also asks the governor to take no further action to prevent or delay the construction and operation of Enbridge Energy’s new segment of Line 5.

The OCRP resolution states that Line 5 pipeline provides 50-65 percent of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula propane demands, as well as 55 percent of Michigan’s statewide demands. Whitmer ordered Enbridge to shut down the pipeline by May 12, 2021.

The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is a major oil pipeline in the Enbridge Lakehead System, which runs between two major nodes of the Enbridge Pipeline System at Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. The Enbridge terminal at Superior conveys western Canadian crude oil from various incoming pipelines (including lines 1-4) to Line 5 and Line 6, which go around the northern and southern shores of Lake Michigan respectively.

Line 5 also feeds refineries in Detroit and Toledo with the building blocks for more than 6,000 manufactured items used by consumers every day. These refineries served by Line 5 also supply a large percentage of the aviation fuel at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport.

The OCRP resolution also argues that alternate sources of reasonably priced propane are not available in sufficient qualities to supply the Upper Peninsula’s propane demand and that Whitmer’s Michigan Propane Security Plan is inadequate to provide to provide the needed propane to the U.P. that will be lost by the closing of Line 5.

On March 11, 2021, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued a release stating that the State of Michigan has a comprehensive, five-step plan to ensure a secure propane supply for Michigan families and businesses when Line 5 shuts down.

In addition to recommendations for 2022 is a proposal for $10million for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Rail Economic Development Program to focus on propane delivery, including new rail infrastructure and trainloads of propane in the Upper Peninsula.

Enbridge argues Whitmer’s plan in unrealistic.

It would take an estimated 2,100 trucks heading east every day from Superior, WI and travelling across Michigan, to do the same job–or the equivalent of 90 trucks an hour leaving our Superior Terminal, Enbridge states. Similarly, it would take 800 rail cars a day to transport the equivalent amount of product, and current infrastructure does not exist to support the necessary truck or rail traffic to fill the job currently done by Line 5.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has also taken issue with the state’s five-step plan. A March 24 report by Jason Hayes, titled: “Gov. Whitmer’s inadequate Line 5 replacement plan: Proposed plan will not ensure resilience in propane supply,” concluded that:

“The governor’s plan will increase costs, as well as the risk of accidents and spills associated with propane deliveries. Additionally, the plan to expand rail capacity in the U.P. will not address the lost jobs in refineries across the region — in Detroit, Toledo, Ontario and Quebec. This plan does not address the rising costs of gasoline and jet fuels in the region. It does not address the fact that Michigan will be viewed as an untrustworthy trading partner by business and elected officials in Canada and across the Midwest.” Hayes is the director of Environmental Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

On March 12, clickondetroit.com reported that Environmental activists, native tribes and some elected officials began pushing to decommission Line 5 after an Enbridge pipeline spilled at least 843,000 gallons (3.2 million liters) of oil in the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan in 2010.

The same report went on to say that Enbridge signed a consent decree in 2017 with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve claims in from the massive oil spill in 2010 and another pipeline leak in Illinois. Enbridge paid $177 million and pledged to improve pipeline safety under that agreement.

Pressure grew as the company reported gaps in protective coating and installed supports when erosion opened wide spaces between sections of pipe and the lake bed, the report stated. An anchor dragged by a commercial tug and barge dented both pipes in April 2018. One of the pipeline supports was damaged this summer, apparently by a boat cable.

The issues with Pipeline 5 discovered in June came just after the company reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pay a $6.7 million fine for allegedly failing to quickly fix pipeline safety issues, stated clickondetroit.com. The EPA determined that Enbridge neglected to properly evaluate thousands of “shallow dents” on its Lakehead Pipeline System.

The OCRP resolution concludes by saying:

“Be it further resolved that neither Governor Whitmer, nor any member of her administration, take any further action to close the existing Line 5, or to prevent or delay the construction and operation of Enbridge Energy’s new segment of Line 5.”

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