Canadian-based Enbridge is the largest oil and gas transportation company in North America. They have been defying Gov. Whitmer’s directive to shut the line down by May 12.
That date has come and gone, and Enbridge is still running Line 5. Ernie Birchmeier, manager of the Center for Commodity Farm and Industry Relations for Michigan Farm Bureau, says if the pipeline were to shut down, it would have a lot of economic impacts on farmers.
“Line 5 does serve about 55 percent of our state’s propane needs—about 65 percent of the propane used in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan,” he said. “It serves about 17,000 farms in Michigan that use propane gas. It’s an important energy source that we need on our farm operations.”
Farmers use propane for drying grain and heating their homes, barns, greenhouse. The impacts aren’t limited to Michigan. Ohio, Indiana and Canada would also see the ripple effects.
“Shutting it down would have a major impact on a lot of farms and homeowners here in Michigan and throughout the Midwest,” said Birchmeier. “You can’t automatically cut off an energy supply without fully realizing the total impact.”
Birchmeier said Enbridge has estimated that 2,100 trucks would need to haul product from Superior to Michigan each day.
“That’s a lot of additional trucks on the road—it’s more expensive to move it that way—and where are you going to find additional 2,100 truck drivers right now?” he added.
Earlier in the week, former Michigan governor and current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said pipelines are the best way for transport. Birchmeier said there’s mixed messaging on whether or not they are safe.
“It’s a lot more economical to keep the product flowing down the pipeline that’s been installed and done so with quality engineering and safety measures put in place,” he said. “At the same time, we need to make sure we’re protecting the environment—the Great Lakes are a critical resource to us in Michigan. I understand the concerns, but that’s why there’s constant maintenance and upkeep on Line 5. The engineers that designed it and those that continue to operate it make sure we’re protecting those Great Lakes.”
Birchmeier isn’t sure how long the case will be tied up in court, but he’s optimistic there will be a decision that’s beneficial to all involved.
“We need to make sure we’re making the right decisions for the right reasons and not letting politics come into play when we’re making those decisions.”