Whitmer declared an energy emergency due to weather, but Republicans try to tie it to her Line 5 shutdown order

By: - February 23, 2021 1:31 pm

Mackinac Bridge | Susan J. Demas

On Saturday, in the midst of the cold snap still gripping the country and straining already-weak energy infrastructure in states like Texas, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order declaring a “state of energy emergency” in Michigan to temporarily loosen restrictions on propane distribution.

The order remains in effect until Sunday and is meant to allow Michiganders to get propane more quickly, since there is an increased demand for the energy source in colder weather. 

Senate Republicans took the opportunity to make a jab at Whitmer over the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline, conflating the two issues and falsely suggesting Whitmer caused the propane emergency by ordering Line 5 to be shut down by May.

“Governor who issued executive order to shut down crucial source of propane issues executive order declaring a propane emergency,” a tweet from the Michigan Senate GOP reads.

Whitmer in November issued a notice of revocation and termination to Canadian oil company Enbridge, essentially dissolving the company’s right to have and operate Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. The notice gave Enbridge until May 12 to shut down the pipeline. The GOP-led Legislature approved and then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed off on a new tunnel around the pipeline to extend Line 5’s life shortly before Whitmer took office in January 2019. 

The state and Enbridge are now locked in numerous legal battles over the order, which are still pending in both federal and state courts. A main argument Enbridge has used to justify Line 5’s existence is that residents in the Upper Peninsula rely heavily on propane to heat their homes in the winter, and a good portion of that comes from Line 5.

But there is no shortage of propane in Michigan, Whitmer noted in her executive order, and various state departments and commissions have been preparing to adjust energy transportation methods in the absence of Line 5.

In an email to the Advance, Whitmer spokesperson Chelsea Parisio said the energy emergency was declared based on propane distribution challenges posed by current conditions — not a shortage in supply.


“The governor declared an energy emergency based on the recommendation of her energy experts at the Michigan Public Service Commission,” Parisio said. “The current weather event did not create a shortage of propane supply; rather, increased demand and hazardous road conditions created challenges with propane distribution.

“In particular, drivers were nearing the maximum hours-of-service limit per week. The declaration of an energy emergency under Michigan law was a necessary, proactive step to temporarily raise those limits to ensure that propane distribution was not hampered in Michigan.”

The anti-Line 5 Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition released a statement Monday slamming Republicans for their “partisan attack” on Whitmer’s executive order.

“The governor’s emergency order clearly indicates she is addressing potential propane distribution issues in Michigan and not propane supply,” said campaign coordinator Sean McBrearty. “It’s unfortunate that the GOP would try and exploit the suffering and challenges Michigan is facing because of extreme cold to score partisan political points.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).