Whitmer on right course in setting up energy panel

We’re not big fans of so-called blue-ribbon committees that, it seems, are very often established by big wheel politicians seeking to bury a nettlesome problem. These groups often produce findings and reports that few people read and even fewer care about — all at taxpayer’s expense.

That said, the state of Michigan’s biggest political wheel — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — has set up a committee and actually tasked it with something important: to assess energy needs in the Upper Peninsula amid a dispute with the company whose pipeline plays a key role in supplying the region with propane.

The move late last week came as the latest round in what is turning into a nasty spat between Canadian company Enbridge, which owns controversial Line 5, and the state. According to The Associated Press, key among the task force’s jobs will be finding ways to get propane to the U.P. that doesn’t involve Line 5, which transports natural gas liquids used in the fuel, in addition to crude oil. The pipeline extends 645 miles between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, crossing a large section of the Upper Peninsula.

“Enbridge has a disappointing safety record in Michigan, and the dual pipelines that run through the Straits of Mackinac create an unacceptable risk of an oil spill by anchor strike or other means,” Whitmer said for an AP story. “Such an event would be catastrophic for the Great Lakes and our economy, and would send energy costs skyrocketing for U.P. families.”

About 25 percent of the U.P.’s residents use propane for home heating and much of it is delivered through Line 5. Enbridge says Line 5 delivers 65 percent of the U.P.’s propane and 55 percent of the propane used statewide. That’s a lot.

Enbridge, which has long maintained Line 5 is safe, including a stretch that runs under the Straits of Mackinaw, has asked a downstate court to rule in the legality of a deal it concluded with the Snyder Administration to replace the submerged Line 5 beneath the straits with a line buried in a tunnel below the lake bottom.

While it’s unclear when the Michigan Court of Claims will rule on the suit, Whitmer has asked the new committee to report back by March 31, 2020.

The Mining Journal has long believed the state was coming up short in how propane availability and distribution vis a vis Line 5 was being handled. We believe simply shutting Line 5 down, a position supported by some environmentalists, is unfeasble.

We hope this new state committee will plot a reasonable course forward, the litigation not withstanding.


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