Ohio Governor Underscores Impact of Line 5 Shutdown

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine met in June with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan to express his concerns regarding her plans for decommissioning or replacing Enbridge Inc.’s (Calgary) Line 5 pipeline. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted traveled to Toledo to meet with employees at Toledo Refining. The pipeline traverses the Straits of Mackinac and serves several refineries in northwest Ohio.

The weekend meeting with Whitmer in Milwaukee followed the Ohio elected officials sending a letter to the Michigan governor expressing their interest in the future of Line 5. “Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and I appreciate that you are evaluating the situation in regards to Line 5 in a comprehensive manner and are considering the effect that any resolution may have on the entire region,” DeWine wrote.

“Ohio has two refineries near the border that supply a significant percent of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to Ohio and southeast Michigan. In fact, our refineries supply the majority of aviation fuels to Detroit Metro Airport that cannot currently be replaced in any significant capacity without Line 5,” he clarified.

The governor, a former U.S. senator from Ohio, added, “As you know, losing Line 5 would also put more than 1000 good-paying union jobs at risk in Ohio and Michigan. Our states have much at risk in terms of potential fuel price spikes, lost jobs, airline schedule disruptions, and lost transportation project funding. We ask that you please consider options to improve the safety of Line 5 that do not result in taking the pipeline offline.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press (AP) reports that Ohio refinery operators are worried that a potential shutdown of the Great Lakes pipeline in Michigan could push up their costs or even force them to close. As previously reported, talks between Enbridge and Whitmer broke down after the Wol- verine state governor insisted Line 5 be replaced within two years. Enbridge maintains its significant, multimillion-dollar project to encase the dual Line 5 pipelines in a concrete tunnel buried deep beneath the lakebed cannot be completed until 2024, even without additional permitting delays.

Environmentalists, who supported Whitmer’s successful election, demand an immediate shutdown. They say a rupture of the 4-mile-long underwater segment could contaminate hundreds of miles of Great Lakes waters and shoreline. Line 5 transports 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids daily, including up to 75% of Michigan’s propane requirements.

Enbridge’s twin pipelines, in service since 1953, have been deemed in sound condition by all relevant regulatory authorities and could continue operating indefinitely. However, the company has offered to install a tunnel in bedrock 100 feet beneath the Straits of Mackinac in which Line 5 will be housed, virtually eliminating the possibility of a leak.

The AP quotes PBF Energy observing that the line is the source for much of the sweet crude used by its Toledo Refining Co., and there are no other viable alternatives for supply if the pipeline is taken out of service. “If Line 5 is shut down, it will jeopardize the continued operation of this facility,” Mike Gudgeon, PBF Energy’s Toledo refining manager, tells The Blade.

The BP-Husky refinery in suburban Toledo and the Marathon Oil refinery in Detroit, along with other refineries, would also be impacted, the newspaper reports. Jamal Kheiry, a spokesman for Marathon Petroleum Corp., says more expensive methods of sourcing oil to its refinery would be necessary if the pipeline is shuttered.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, July 7, 2019)