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House Transportation Chair Jack O’Malley, of Lake Ann, reacts to testimony during a committee hearing on Tuesday, May 11. O’Malley and the committee examined the effects of a potential Line 5 shutdown on Michigan’s infrastructure.

Rep. O’Malley: Logic shows new Line 5 tunnel offers most common-sense compromise for state’s energy needs
RELEASE|May 11, 2021
Contact: Jack O'Malley

Hearing comes on eve of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s deadline for Enbridge

House Transportation Committee Chair Jack O’Malley today led a hearing examining the infrastructural impacts of a potential Line 5 shutdown, underscoring the practical approach of housing the pipeline in a tunnel as planned as opposed to alternatives that have been floated.

In November, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave Line 5 owner Enbridge a May 12 deadline to shut down a pipeline which provides crucial resources to people and businesses in northern Michigan and across the state. Enbridge has maintained that it will continue to operate the pipeline.

 The committee heard testimony from economics experts as well as individuals who illustrated Michigan’s continued need for viable oil transportation for things such as heat to homes and small businesses, fuel and other vital needs.

“We’ve heard a lot about science and data from the governor in the last year, but when it comes to Line 5 – as we heard today – there is a lot of science and data that the governor is choosing to ignore for the sake of her environmental base,” said O’Malley, of Lake Ann. “Trucking our oil all over the state at an increased rate is not good for our carbon footprint. It also creates the increased and very real possibility of an environmental issue if one goes off the road.”

Michigan Oil and Gas Association President and CEO Jason Geer outlined the massive logistical stress of suddenly having to put roughly 14,000 barrels of oil per day on truck or rail car without Line 5 in existence. There also isn’t the manpower in the form of available drivers or the truck capability to handle such a change, Geer said.

“Two-thirds of our state’s production for oil and gas is in northern Michigan,” Geer said. “We have to be able to get that production to refineries, so without Line 5 this becomes a much greater challenge for us.”

 Scott Hayes, health, safety, environment and government affairs manager for the Toledo Refining Company in nearby Oregon, Ohio, said: “It’ll put thousands of refining jobs at risk.” Hayes noted almost 30 percent of the company’s workers live in Michigan and a substantial amount of fuel received from Line 5 and produced at the company goes right back into Michigan, including to airports in the form of jet fuel.

O’Malley specifically pointed to further testimony from Chris Douglas, professor of economics at the University of Michigan-Flint, who laid out cost and resource usage projections for increased trucking compared to using the pipeline.

By using 600 miles of Michigan roadway to make the trip from Superior, Wisc. to Sarnia, Ontario, Douglas used Congressional Budget Office information to estimate that a tanker truck would create roughly $240 in pavement damage round-trip as part of a total cost of $324 round trip. With the estimate that 2,150 would be needed each day to replace the capacity from Line 5, the extra truck traffic would lead to almost $700,000 extra in cost to the state each day. If these trips are made every day, Douglas said, the annual cost would be more than $250 million. Douglas also highlighted increased carbon dioxide emissions estimates from increased trucking.

“A key principle in economics is that every action involves a trade-off,” Douglas added. “Any action needs to be evaluated against its next best alternative. Whatever benefits are associated with closing Line 5 must be evaluated against the costs of the next best alternative. As these estimates indicate, the next best alternative is likely to be extremely costly.”

“This was extremely informative as we approach this deadline and look at the future of Line 5,” O’Malley said. “The data is clear. The alternatives out there are concerning, expensive and not practical. Housing the pipeline in a tunnel is a forward-thinking and safe solution.”

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