by J.D. Davidson
Ohio lawmakers continue to pressure Michigan’s governor to keep open a pipeline that affects more than 20,000 Ohio jobs and nearly $14 billion in state economic activity.
Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester, who testified before the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this week, said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to make poor decisions at a time when energy security remains in question after a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline that continues to leave the Southeast with gasoline shortages and higher prices.
Baldridge also testified recently before Michigan’s Senate Energy Committee and met with the state’s Senate leadership in response to Ohio Resolution 13, which urges Michigan to keep the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline operating.
The Line 5 pipeline services two Oregon refineries in northwest Ohio. According to Ohio officials, closing the line would cause a significant disruption in the supply chain, which serves as a source of jet fuel for several regional and international airports, particularly in Cleveland and Detroit.
“It’s a step in the right direction to see the House Resolution’s companion resolution have its first hearing in the Senate, but there’s still a lot more head of us,” Baldridge told the Ohio Senate committee. “This is a time where we should be taking a big picture and global approach to energy policy because one-sided partisan decision making certainly does not capture the whole picture.”
Colonial Pipeline was the victim last week of a cyberattack, which closed the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline that runs from Texas to New York. It pushed the national average for gas above $3 a gallon and caused shortages throughout the Southeast.
“Governor Whitmer continues to escalate her poor policy decision making at a time when the wide-ranging impact of energy insecurity in this country is at the front of our minds,” Baldridge said. “The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline is deeply felt throughout our Southeast region and the Michigan governor underestimates the scope of her decision. Ohio workers and consumers should not be relegated to political casualties.”
A Line 5 shutdown affects jobs and fuel availability to the region, according to Enbridge, leaving Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan and Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec with a 14.7-million-U.S.-gallons-a-day supply shortage of gas, diesel and jet fuel. That represents about 45% of the current supply.
A shutdown could cause the loss of $5.4 billion in economic output to Ohio and southeast Michigan, the company said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger filed a lawsuit Nov. 13 in Ingham County Court demanding Enbridge cease Line 5 operations by May 2021. The easement has been in place since 1953.
Whitmer and Eichinger said the administration’s actions are based on what they are characterizing as Enbridge’s violation of the public trust doctrine, which protects the state’s natural resources.
Among the violations cited by the governor are “the unreasonable risk that continued operation of the dual pipelines poses to the Great Lakes,” according to a November news release. Whitmer cited events in April 2018 and another in 2019 in which Line 5 was damaged.
The first event was an anchor strike from a commercial vehicle, and the second, reported by the company in June, was from either an anchor or cable from ships. Although pipeline coatings and a support were damaged in these incidents, the pipelines did not leak any oil into the Great Lakes.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Brian Baldridge” by The Ohio House of Representatives.