Rep Jack O'Malley
Rep. O’Malley: Gov. Whitmer must be forthright on decision that could restrict basic needs of Northern Michigan families by next winter
RELEASE|December 22, 2020
Contact: Jack O'Malley

Governor’s Line 5 shutdown order leaves people without answers for needed heat

State Rep. Jack O’Malley has sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requesting an update on her administration’s plan to ensure Northern Michigan families will continue to have access to affordable heat for their homes and livelihoods next winter.

O’Malley, of Lake Ann, said it’s unclear why the governor has ordered Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline to shut down next spring without announcing an alternative plan, along with steps to implement the plan. Every day, hundreds of thousands of families rely on the pipeline – which stretches under the Straits of Mackinac – to transport propane used for heating their homes and businesses, he said.

Recent news reports disclosed that the administration has been relatively quiet about what they plan to do without the services Line 5 provides, O’Malley explained, and that’s destressing for families throughout Northern Michigan.

“This is not to defend a company,” O’Malley writes in his letter. “It is to defend the citizens of this state who will lose heat before the final thaw. The pipe might be gone but the basic need will remain.

O’Malley underscored the environmental issues that could arise from hauling large amounts of fuel by truck and rail, as well as tanker ships carrying oil on the Great Lakes, to account for Line 5’s discontinuance.

 “These alternative scenarios that are out there don’t sound very practical or safe,” O’Malley said. “I feel strongly Gov. Whitmer needs to be more transparent with people about this process. People in the northern parts of our state need heat in their homes and they’re going to need answers for how this will get done in Line 5’s absence. So far, we’ve heard few answers – and I don’t think that’s acceptable or comforting for people.”

O’Malley reminded the governor that if she shuts down the pipeline by May, she will be cutting off heat to much of the Upper Peninsula – as the line provides around 70 percent of the propane used there.

“No one wants to soil our Great Lakes,” O’Malley says in the letter, noting his House district contains 175 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. “But Michigan families already pushed to their breaking point by COVID-19 should not be in fear that they will soon lose access to affordable heat, too. No one, but especially in these times, should be the victim of political scare tactics like the ones you are using.”

O’Malley said rather than shutting down the pipeline, the governor’s administration should focus its efforts on a compromise by speeding up the construction of the new tunnel, which is undoubtedly the most practical plan for protecting the state’s natural resources, providing hundreds of jobs and delivering a basic need to Northern Michigan families.

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