Susan J. Demas
A new report from the Pipeline Safety Trust concluded on Thursday that Michigan is among the worst states for public transparency regarding intrastate pipelines.
The review, conducted annually by the Washington-based nonprofit watchdog group, looks at how easily members of the public can access information about pipeline safety and pipelines near their homes.
Michigan houses more than 61,100 miles of natural gas distribution lines and nearly 60,000 miles of service lines (about 2.25 million service lines in total). There are 8,625 miles of transmission pipeline, both interstate and intrastate, with 270 miles of gas gathering. Natural gas is the primary heating fuel in more than 75% of households in the state.
The Pipeline Safety Trust (PST) gave Michigan a “fail” rating, along with 14 other states and Washington, D.C. With an average score of one out of three, the state scored well on users’ ability to find the website, view a description of regulations and view transmission pipeline maps, but scored poorly or failed on all other eight criteria.
“These state pipeline safety websites are a valuable resource for not only the public, but for local representatives and pipeline operators as well,” PST Program Manager Amanda McKay said in a statement.
“It has been rewarding to see the improvement states have made over the last ten years and the dedication that some state program managers have toward increasing the transparency of their programs. We hope to see that same effort spread to states whose websites continue to lack transparency.”
Although the Pipeline Safety Trust notes that many states have improved their scores in the last decade, only three states — Illinois, Washington and Nevada — received perfect scores in the 2022 report.
The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) operates the state’s natural gas and pipelines website and regulates both natural gas rates and conditions for service.
“We believe in transparency in all that we do and have taken multiple steps in recent months to improve public access to information,” said Matt Helms, a spokesperson for the MPSC.
“These steps [include] launching a new Facebook page to broaden our outreach and the ability of the public to interact with us, as well as a new web page that brings into one place all the resources Michiganders need if they are looking for help paying utility bills or lowering their home energy costs,” Helms continued.
“The MPSC has no immediate comment on the Pipeline Safety Trust’s report, but we will review it as we work to further increase transparency about matters critical to our mission of serving the public by ensuring safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates.”
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