On Friday, June 7, 2019, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-14 creating the UP Energy Task Force. This action comes as the Governor and Enbridge failed to reach an agreeable timeline for the replacement and decommission of the existing Line 5 pipeline. According to the press release, the new task force will assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met; identify and evaluate potential changes in energy supply and distribution; and formulate alternative solutions to meet the UP’s energy needs – including alternatives to the current distribution of propane through Line 5, which poses an unacceptable threat to The Great Lakes. The press release goes on to say “25 percent of UP residents use propane for home heating, and much of that propane is delivered through the Line 5 pipeline. The future of Line 5, however, is uncertain” and adds that “The unacceptable threat posed by the continued operation of the pipelines through the Straits, as well as the lack of an established backup propane distribution system were Line 5 to malfunction, make developing alternative solutions a priority”.
This advisory body to the Governor, within the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) will be comprised of at least 13 members appointed by the Governor, all of whom must be Michigan residents and possess relevant expertise. The group is tasked with submitting a propane plan in part to the Governor by March 31, 2020 that will focus on alternative means to supply propane in the event of a Line 5 shutdown and submitting a final report by March 31, 2021.
In 2017, an independent study conducted by Dynamic Risk did in fact look at alternative to the Straits pipeline and determined that they were either not feasible, contained higher risk or would require much higher costs. In addition to these conclusions, the study confirmed that the existing pipeline was in excellent condition.
The Governor has yet to make appointments to the new task force.