U.P. Energy Task Force to host inaugural meeting today

Gretchen Whitmer

MARQUETTE — The first meeting of the Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Northern Center’s Ballroom III on the campus of Northern Michigan University.

The meeting will be open to the public.

The task force has been charged with assessing the U.P.’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met; identifying and evaluating potential changes in energy supply and distribution; and formulating alternative solutions to meet the U.P.’s energy needs, including alternatives to the current distribution of propane through Enbridge’s Line 5, which transports natural gas liquids and light crude oil beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The group plans to schedule multiple listening sessions across the Upper Peninsula this fall specifically to receive public input.

Twelve of the individuals tapped for the 19-member council are U.P. residents, including Mike Prusi, director of Whitmer’s Northern Michigan Office; Anthony Retaski, executive director of the U.P. Construction Council; Jennifer Hill, a member of the Marquette City Commission and contractor with the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan; Thomas Harrell, CEO of Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association in Gladstone; and Kristopher Bowman, president of Bowman Gas Co.

“I’m committed to ensuring U.P. residents have an energy supply that is affordable, secure and environmentally sound,” Whitmer said in a June 14 press release. “The members of this task force have a wide variety of knowledge and perspectives, who will make recommendations to ensure the U.P. has a reliable propane supply and to identify solutions for lowering costs.”

Whitmer said that 25 percent of U.P. residents use propane for home heating.

“U.P. residents are currently incurring some of the highest electricity rates in the nation,” the release states said. “Implementing real energy solutions will begin to reign in these high rates and provide relief to hardworking U.P. residents.”

The panel is also notably seeking solutions to replace Enbridge’s 60-year-old Line 5 tunnel, which Whitmer has said poses an “unacceptable threat” of an oil spill.

Enbridge says Line 5 delivers 65% of the U.P.’s propane and 55% of the propane used statewide.

The dates and locations for the listening sessions and other meetings will be made available after Tuesday’s organizational meeting.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.