Report says Line 5 shutdown would have minimal impact on energy prices
A recent report has found that a potential shutdown of Enbridge Energy’s controversial Line 5 pipeline would have a minimal impact on natural gas prices.
The white paper by Illinois firm PLG Consulting, partially funded by the National Wildlife Federation, suggests that existing energy transportation infrastructure could sufficiently address the absence of the petroleum pipeline that currently runs along the floor of the Straits of Mackinac.
It found that gas prices would increase by 1/2 to 1 cent per gallon in the absence of Line 5. The report also suggested that oil distributors would be able to replenish their supply without a significantly increased cost.
Ultimately, the report suggested that the industry has existing infrastructure and transportation capable of moving oil, and expansion of railway systems would assist in continuing the flow of oil.
Tribal nations and environmental groups have been calling on Enbridge and state and federal governments for years to shut down the pipeline. They say it poses too great a risk to sensitive ecosystems and maritime economies in the Great Lakes.
And Governor Gretchen Whitmer revoked the company's easement and ordered the pipeline shut down in 2020. Enbridge continues to operate the pipeline as a legal battle plays out, and the company plans to replace the line's route along the bottom of the straits with a tunnel below the straits that it says would be safer than the current setup.
Graham Brisben, CEO of PLG Consulting, said if the line did shut down, "there are enough alternative sources of replacement, supply and logistics.”
”That applies to both crude oil and propane," Brisben said.
Beth Wallace, Great Lakes freshwater campaigns manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said the report showed that Line 5 isn’t necessary. “Proposing a tunnel when we know that there is a very feasible way to transition away from Line 5, is asking the people of Michigan and the of the Great Lakes to take on an extremely unacceptable risk for the profit of a Canadian oil company.”
“They do not have a monopoly on transportation of product in the region, and this report outlines how the market naturally adjusts in situations like this.” Wallace said.
Enbridge said in a statement that the report’s findings would “defy common sense and would put the environment at risk by suggesting the use of more oil tankers on the waters of the Great Lakes and more rail cars crisscrossing the region to transport the product Line 5 carries."
“There are currently no alternatives to deliver the entirety of energy that Line 5 transports,” Enbridge said, arguing that rail-based alternatives would displace agriculture and further congest roads.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is representing the state in its court effort to have the pipeline shut down. She called the report a “game-changer” in a statement.
In a statement, Enbridge said the tunnel project is “the safer, smarter, better solution to protecting the environment and protecting our economies."
The future of Line 5 is remains in limbo awaiting a decision on approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps pushed that decision back several months.
Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.