2018-02-01 / News

Governor Snyder Rejects Line 5 Closure To Prevent a Propane Supply Crisis

Governor Rick Snyder says he will not temporarily close Enbridge Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac because doing so could create a propane supply crisis. His statement was made to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) Monday, January 29, in response to board resolutions in December calling for the pipeline’s decommissioning until gaps in the exterior coating are repaired, among other things.

In a move more to do with timing than policy, the governor said he plans to extend from August 15 to September 30 the deadline for the state to make a decision about Line 5. The extension will coincide with the completion of the Risk Analysis by Dr. Guy Meadows of Michigan Technological University.

Addressing the PSAB’s resolution calling for Line 5 to be shut down until the entire line can be expected and gaps in the coating are repaired, Gov. Snyder wrote: “As a practical matter, such further inspections and repairs cannot be completed until the summer of 2018. Review of the recent hydrotest results of Line 5 through the Straits indicated there is not a risk of imminent failure, and that test was done when these coating gaps existed. I do not believe an immediate and extended shutdown of the pipeline in the middle of the winter is a proper approach that safeguards the health and welfare of Michigan citizens. An immediate and unexpected shutdown of the pipeline for several months would very likely create a propane supply crisis.

“It is highly unlikely that Enbridge would agree to voluntarily suspend pipeline operation for months, pending further external coating inspections and repairs. I am also unaware of the basis to carry out the recommendation that Enbridge be required to supply propane to the public if the pipeline ceases operation.”

A second PSAB resolution asked that the November 27, 2017 agreement Gov. Snyder brokered directly with Enbridge to shut down Line 5 in adverse weather at the Straits of Mackinac be amended. The agreement said the line would be shut down when waves on Lake Huron reached eight feet, but the resolution called for the threshold to be lowered to three-foot-high waves, above which the Coast Guard has said it could not clean up leaking oil.

Mr. Snyder responded, “There was no requirement for a shutdown due to any weather conditions prior to the November 27, 2017 agreement. Given the amount of negotiating time and effort that went into that specific provision, a request to reopen that provision would be extremely unlikely to result in an agreement to move in the direction envisioned by the resolution.”

A third resolution called for the state to take a more Michigan-focused approach to assessing oil and gas distribution alternative to Line 5, specifically considering how to meet Michigan’s needs currently met by Line 5.

Gov. Snyder said the state is working to get more Michigan-specific information about the products carried through Line 5.

He wrote, “State agency staff are working to independently verify key Michigan-centric data and assumptions contained within the Final Alternatives Analysis Report, setting up consultations with key customers to discuss how a potential shut down of the dual pipelines would impact their Michigan operations, and are gathering additional information about the logistical capabilities of major oil and propane terminals around Michigan.”

The state, he continued, is also considering hiring an outside transportation consultant to better understand the feasibility and cost of alternatives to Line 5 to transport Michigan propane and crude oil.

The governor added that the resolution was unclear when it asked for an analysis “on the public need for Line 5 in Michigan” and “a more robust study of alternative pipeline capacity to reroute the portion of Line 5’s flow dedicated to Michigan’s needs.”

He wrote, “In particular, it is not clear: (a) who would conduct these analyses, (b) how the scope of the work would be defined, (c) what it would cost, (d) who would pay for it, and (e) how it would be completed by the June 25, 2018 deadline proposed in the resolution.”

PSAB member Jennifer McKay of Petoskey, the lead policy advisor for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, helped draft the December resolutions. She contends the resolutions passed because a majority of those who voted were in favor. Five members supported the resolutions, one member dissented, and seven members abstained.

In his letter to the board, Gov. Snyder said the resolutions did not pass, because a majority vote of serving members was required. Since there were 15 board members attending the meeting, the resolutions needed more than seven votes to pass, he said.

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