COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has urged President Joe Biden to support keeping propane and light crude flowing through pipelines along the floor of the straits of Mackinac under threat of closure from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and environmentalists.
DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted, who heads Ohio’s workforce development efforts, sent a letter to Biden warning of the severe economic damage a shutdown would entail to the state and the region.
The letter to Biden stressed the widespread negative impact of closing the pipeline, citing a Consumer Energy Alliance report of a potential loss of 33,755 workers in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania and a $20.8 billion annual economic hit. About 20,000 of those jobs are in Ohio as well as $13.7 billion of that economic hit.
“Any disruption in Line 5 would have a devastating impact on the economy of Northwest Ohio, further harming industry supply chains, eliminating thousands of good-paying jobs and increasing the cost of fuel for transportation, heat for homes and products American use every day,” the letter read. “The closure of this vital resource would put our state and the neighboring states at a great disadvantage as the nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
According to the website of pipeline operator Enbridge Inc., Line 5 consists of twin, 20-inch pipelines carrying propane, light crude as it crosses 4.5 miles along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Michigan’s Whitmer has raised concerns about potential environmental impacts a pipeline burst may cause. Indeed, a tugboat damaged one of the pipes three years ago, leading the Michigan legislature to support a tunneling effort to better protect the pipeline under the strait that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Whitmer has opposed that plan approved by her Republican predecessor, Rick Snyder. Enridge earlier this month won a ruling to keep the state’s lawsuit seeking to close the pipeline in U.S. District for Western Michigan Southern Division.
The 645-mile line itself runs from Sarnia, Ontario in Canada north of Detroit to Superior, Minnesota, but it has significant connections into Ohio that would impact a Toledo refining operation and other facilities and end markets.
The pipeline provides 65 percent of the Upper Peninsula’s propane demand and 55 percent of Michigan’s statewide demand, according to the pipeline company’s website.
The possibility of a shutdown also has implications for Canada, which has raised its concerns with the Biden administration because of the impact it would have on Eastern Canada fuel supplies.
The issue also comes against the backdrop of national and international energy politics as the Biden administration seeks to push alternatives to so-called fossil fuels amid claims of their impact on global climate change.
DeWine and Husted this summer met with Whitmer to dissuade her from shutting down the pipeline.
Husted’s role in the issue stems from his leadership role with the Office of Workforce Transformation and the state’s Common Sense Initiative that seeks to reduce burdensome regulations hindering economic growth.
Ohio’s appeal to Biden also follows the November 11 call of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce supporting the planned improvements Michigan had previously endorsed.
“The Ohio Chamber of Commerce urges President Biden and Governor Whitmer to keep Enbridge Line 5 operational,” Chamber CEO Steve Stivers said in the press release. “Ohio businesses, employees and families depend on Line 5, and are counting on the operation of Line 5 and the construction of the Great Lakes Tunnel to protect local economies of the Great Lakes, all while keeping energy prices affordable for consumers.”
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Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist writing for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Send him news tips at [email protected]