Opinion: Nessel's Line 5 lawsuits could drive up your heating bill this fall

This column originally appeared in The Detroit News.

Moms and dads will be firing up their furnaces this month, as summer fades and fall descends: changing leaves, crisp mornings and football weekends. We know the routine, and we love every bit of it. Except maybe those higher home heating bills.

When it comes to keeping the house warm, costs could skyrocket because Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed multiple lawsuits that could raise your bill.

Keeping the house and the jobsite warm isn’t cheap, but right now, it’s affordable. That’s because for more than 65 years, a safe, underground pipeline — Enbridge’s Line 5 — delivers daily up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil, light synthetic oil and natural gas liquids.

Line 5 meets 65% of the propane demand in the upper peninsula, where temperatures get cold faster, and 55% of the propane used anywhere in the state.

The attorney general is trying to shut off that spigot, and every single one of us is caught in the crosshairs. Her lawsuits center around a tiny portion of the pipeline that safely sits deep below the water in the Straits of Mackinac. 

A plan was approved just a few years ago to build a state-of-the-art tunnel deep below the lakebed and move that portion of the pipeline inside, but that’s not good enough for the attorney general. She’s apparently following ideology and not science.

If she’s successful, demand won’t change, but the way fuel is delivered will. It’d take an estimated 2,100 tanker trucks risking a spill and smashing Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges with every mile. Try "fixing the damn roads" with that extra freight added.  

Immediate supply shortages would kill jobs, hamstring Michigan manufacturers, stiff farmers, close small businesses and more. The Consumer Energy Alliance estimates Nessel’s goal would kill thousands of jobs, cost the state $3 billion in economic activity, $1 billion in gross state product and drain $56.8 million tax dollars out of public coffers.

This isn’t a partisan issue. In 2018, Democrats and Republicans stood together to pass the tunnel legislation.

Last year, current legislators reaffirmed their backing for Line 5 and the “Great Lakes Tunnel,” passing a new resolution with sweeping bipartisan support. In fact, some of the project’s most vocal supporters are Democratic lawmakers and labor unions, who depend on the pipeline for affordable energy and scads of good-paying jobs.

The attorney general ran on pandering to the extreme “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party and promised radical environmentalists that she’d wage war on the fossil fuel industry. Credit where it’s due, that’s a campaign promise she’s kept, regardless of the damage it’ll do to our jobs, our roads and bridges and families’ bank accounts. 

This is the same attorney general who is attempting to raise rates on all Michigan families by forcing all energy companies to engage in rebates during outages. Granted, this sounds slick. But imagine if Michigan taxpayers could get rebates for all the failures of the AG’s office or state government in general. 

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

There was a time when the office of attorney general in Michigan was synonymous with consumer protection. Frank Kelley transformed a stuffy lawyer’s job into a bureau that fought to make sure every day Michiganians were not abused by gouging. 

Subsequent attorneys general pushed those efforts to new frontiers. 

Nessel’s blazed an entirely different path. Instead of focusing on consumer protection, she’s politicized the office, targeted regular Michigan families for simply trying to stay in business and is waging a bizarre and potentially disastrous war that could drive up fuel costs across the state.

We expect cooler temperatures every fall in Michigan. None of us expected an attorney general fighting this hard to lock families out in the cold.

Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.

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