Ohio Lt. Gov blasts Michigan Gov. Whitmer for 'unreasonable, irresponsible' effort to shut down oil pipeline

Carley Shimkus gets look at Line 5 pipeline in Ohio

Workers at Line 5 pipeline in Toledo emphasize the critical need to keep the pipeline open as Biden administration considers shutdown.

Republican Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is calling out Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her efforts to shut down a major oil pipeline that carries Canadian oil across the Midwest. 

Whitmer, a Democrat, contends that Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 poses a risk of a “catastrophic” oil spill in the Great Lakes. She and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel have launched legal challenges to close the pipeline built in 1953 that moves oil through northern Wisconsin and Michigan to refineries in Ontario.

The ongoing Line 5 dispute is getting renewed focus at a time of high gas prices, a ban on Russian oil imports and efforts to boost oil and gas supplies domestically. 

Husted said Michigan needs to end its legal effort to shut off a friendly source of energy from the Canadian pipeline. Whitmer’s actions threaten Ohio’s economy and could deliver more pain at the gas pump, the Republican said.

“With what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine, I think the world is learning right now that we can’t be dependent on other nations for the supply of our oil and gas who are adversarial to us,” Husted told Fox News Digital in an interview. “We can work with nations who are allies — in this case, with Canada and Line 5 — but Michigan is being unreasonable and irresponsible with their actions.”

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is calling out Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her efforts to shut down the Line 5 oil pipeline that supplies crude oil to Ohio refineries.  
(Governor Jon Husted’s office)

The Russia-Ukraine war, however, hasn’t prompted the Whitmer administration to end its pipeline fight. Nessel, the Michigan AG, recently said she hopes the Biden administration would be more “vocal” on shutting down the pipeline and contends that the impact on Michigan gas prices would be “incredibly minimal.”

“I do wish that the Biden administration would be even a fraction as vocal about the importance of shutting down Line 5 as Justin Trudeau and his government have been about, you know, maintaining a pipeline that has outlasted its lifespan by, you know, two times,” Nessel reportedly told the Royal Oak Area Democratic Club in March.

The increased consumer energy prices have signaled to Whitmer a need to develop alternatives to oil, rather than become more dependent on fossil fuels., her office claimed.

“The energy supply constraints resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the increased prices created by big oil companies has highlighted how important it is to ensure that Michigan is not overreliant on one source and has energy independence to protect Michiganders’ pocketbooks and our state’s economic security,” Bobby Leddy, Whitmer’s press secretary, told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

“That’s why we are moving forward to diversify our state’s energy options, which will significantly expand jobs and economic investment in our state.” 

The pipeline issue has meant that Ohio is siding with Enbridge and Canada over neighboring Michigan. If Michigan shuts down the pipeline, Ohioans would be left with higher fuel prices and economic hardship, according to Husted.

A new study out by Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) found that if Line 5 gets shut down, gas prices in the Midwest region would increase between 9.47% to 11.66%. 

Closure would mean refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec would lose about 45% of their crude oil input, reducing their ability to maintain current production levels. And drivers in that region will pay at least $4.7 billion more each year for gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the study by CEA, a business, energy supplier and consumer group.

“You see the consequence of higher fuel prices on public opinion and on the lives of working-class Americans,” Husted told Fox News Digital. “In this case, it’s being caused by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin. But it could easily be caused by Governor Whitmer in the future for the people that are served by this pipeline if they don’t find an alternative.”

Whitmer’s office disputes that a pipeline shutdown would have a major impact on gas prices, pointing in part to an independent report in 2017 called Alternative Analysis for the Straits Pipeline that found gas prices in Michigan if Line 5 shut down would increase about two cents per gallon for gasoline and diesel. 

Another report released this year by Environmental Defence Canada, an environmental group, found that the impact on consumer prices for gasoline and diesel fuel in neighboring Ontario and Quebec would be so modest it “would likely go unnoticed” as long as the shutdown is coordinated with other investments to the crude oil logistics system. 

Gas station in Jackson, Wyo., March 16, 2022.

The big picture, according to Whitmer, is the potentially devastating impact a pipeline rupture would have on the environment and economy. 

“Governor Whitmer’s top priority is protecting our economy and the 350,000 jobs in Michigan that depend on the Great Lakes, while ensuring our state has access to affordable energy supplies,” Leddy, Whitmer’s press secretary, told Fox News Digital in a statement.Right now, Line 5 is operating at normal capacity, and it has not impacted gas prices in any way, even when Enbridge has closed the line for extended periods of time to do routine maintenance.”

Michigan has recent experience with oil spills and close calls. In 2010, a different Enbridge pipeline burst near Marshall, Mich., spilling 843,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek that flowed into the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary. And in 2018, a large ship dragged an anchor that damaged a portion of Line 5 that sits at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during an event at the General Motors Co. Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, Mich., March 22, 2019. 
(Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Scott Hayes from Toledo Refinery Company in Oregon, Ohio, said his plant would likely close if it no longer had access to crude oil from the Line 5 pipeline.

“Shutting down Line 5 would most likely result in a domino effect, causing our plant and several other regional refineries to most likely close because the primary supply chain for feedstocks would be cut off, along with propane for winter heating,” Hayes, the company’s health, safety, environmental and government relations manager, told Fox News Digital. 

“These shutdowns would have a devastating effect regionally – for families living in Michigan who rely on propane delivered via Line 5 and to the rest of the Midwest who will be affected by the huge price spikes predicted from a line closure.”

Whitmer’s office says there’s enough capacity in existing oil pipelines to make up for the potential losses at Detroit and Toledo-area refiners if Line 5 were decommissioned. In 2013, the governor’s office says, there was an unexpected, prolonged shutdown of Line 5, and the Detroit and Toledo-area refineries ran uninterrupted.

The 2018 anchor strike of the pipeline didn’t cause an oil spill, but the close call prompted former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP legislature to allow Enbridge to replace the lake bottom portion of the pipeline with a new tunnel bored through rock under the lake bed that will house the pipeline and better protect it from rupture or anchor strikes. Enbridge agreed to pay for the $500 million project, dubbed the Great Lakes Tunnel.


Line 5 has operated safely and reliably in the Straits for more than 65 years, Enbridge says, and the Great Lakes Tunnel will virtually eliminate the chance of a pipeline incident in the Straits by boring through rock, as much as 100 feet below the lake bed — to house Line 5. Additionally, it will ensure the region has critical energy resources delivered in the safest and most sustainable modes available. 

This July 19, 2002, file photo, shows the Mackinac Bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac from Mackinaw City, Mich. Enbridge runs a section of the Line 5 pipeline on the floor of the Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac.  
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

“It is clear that a shutdown of Line 5 would only add to the current disruption of the energy market and would hurt small businesses and the hard-working families in Michigan and throughout the region at a time when they can least afford it,” Ryan Duffy, an Enbridge spokesperson, told Fox News Digital. 

“That is in part why Enbridge is actively moving the Great Lakes Tunnel forward to ensure safe and reliable energy is available to support the region’s economy,” Duffy added. 

Enbridge last year received permits to build the tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Enbridge still needs approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the federal level. 

Ohio’s Husted said the tunnel project should be approved to ensure Line 5 continues to run safely and the U.S. can continue working with Canada to increase supplies. Renewable energy should be pursued, but such alternatives are still decades away from replacing oil, he said.  

His message to Whitmer: “Let’s be reasonable. Let’s not eliminate an essential supply line for the fuel that powers our states [and] our economy. Gas prices are high enough. We don’t need to artificially restrict supply.”

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