McBroom: Energy report shows pipeline tunnel UP’s best option
The U.P. Energy Task Force recently sent its final report on propane availability to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, making recommendations on steps the task force hopes the administration, Legislature and others might take to protect U.P. residents’ access to the propane widely used throughout the region to heat homes and job sites.
Reading the report, two things are clear.
First, making a safe Line 5 pipeline safer by building the Great Lakes Tunnel remains our safest, smartest and best way to protect the U.P.’s access to reliable, affordable energy.
Second, suggestions from anti-fossil-fuel activists that the U.P. shift from a safe pipeline buried deep underground to a new array of railroads and train cars moving through U.P. communities, carrying fuels through them during inclement winter weather, makes little safety sense, and the report makes clear our residents would pay more for the energy they need.
The U.P. knows all too well the financial hardship that hits our region’s seniors and fixed- and low-income residents most when energy prices increase. We have seen this scenario before, and we should not have to accept a plan that most certainly will result in higher costs and less reliability.
The U.P. Energy Task Force’s work reinforces the stability of the current propane supply system.
Today, the Upper Peninsula counts on a system that works. We benefit from the system that includes a local refinery at Rapid River. The refinery receives its fuels for processing into propane from the Line 5 pipeline. This system supports jobs for many locally based propane distributors who know and serve their communities and customers.
Line 5 employs hundreds across the U.P., pays significant local taxes that support public services and schools, and is one of the highest electric rate payers in the U.P., which helps to prevent higher electricity rates for residents.
There is major new investment happening right now — construction of the Great Lakes Tunnel — that would make the already-safe pipeline even safer. The tunnel would get the pipeline out of the water at the Straits of Mackinac, house it in a state-of-the-art tunnel buried under the lakebed and virtually eliminate any risk to the waters of the Great Lakes.
Developing the Great Lakes Tunnel will keep energy flowing, and it comes at no cost to taxpayers. The company building the tunnel has committed the funding in this major infrastructure project along with many other infrastructure upgrades across the U.P. I say again — taxpayers are not on the hook for the project!
The push by activists to switch from pipeline to road or rail transport requires railroads and cars that have not been built and a volume of storage that does not exist, and all would require taxpayer funds to construct. These options have proven expensive in the past and the burden of paying for these proposals would fall squarely on U.P. residents and businesses.
The task force recommendations call on the Legislature to explore these supposed solutions while offering no consideration of their actual costs to taxpayers or the impact of the loss of the pipeline to the rest of the state’s residents. While the propane supply to the U.P. is its most significant issue, Line 5 has an even more significant impact on energy, safety and jobs in the Lower Peninsula.
The Legislature has already acted to help address the energy needs of the Upper Peninsula and the entire state. It is time to move forward with building the Great Lakes Tunnel.