PERRYSBURG — Winter heating worries from the gas industry topped discussions at a roundtable held by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, on Monday at Penta Career Center.
“This is what happened during the polar vortex of 2014. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the propane, they just couldn’t get it from point A to point B,” Latta said. “This is not a Republican or Democrat or Independent issue. This is a huge impact for people. It’s about people heating their homes and heating their businesses and keeping their livestock alive.”
Latta is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives. After the hard winter of 2014, which saw supply chain issues related to extremely cold conditions and heavy snow, he formed the Propane Caucus.
According to Latta, industry expectations are for propane prices to increase 54% and natural gas to rise 45%.
On Monday, he heard concerns about the labor shortage, regulatory stumbling blocks to certify more truckers and pipeline issues.
“Ohio is the ninth biggest propane state for residential use in the country. It’s about a $2.3 billion industry with 1,600 people employed throughout the state,” said Derek Dalling, executive director of the Ohio Propane Gas Association and president of the propane industry lobbying Kindsvatter Dalling and Associates.
He spoke with Latta about trucker CDL training issues that may further affect propane shipping.
“The biggest one is Feb. 7, when everyone who drives a truck commercially will be required to have more and more training. Our issue with that is that we are already facing a significant shortage of drivers,” Dalling said. “Finding qualified drivers is already difficult and there’s already a shortage.”
One alternative to truck and rail transport is the use of pipelines, but they do not solve the short term supply issues and a primary pipeline, the Enbridge Line 5, is currently embroiled in controversy.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has given Enbridge until May 13 to quit using the pipeline, citing potential risk to the environment.
Latta is a proponent of a new $500-million tunnel proposed by Enbridge in 2018. It would take the current Line 5 light oil and natural gas liquids pipeline 100 feet under the lakebed at the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. The line terminates in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, from which many of the liquids are transported to the BP refinery in Oregon, Ohio.
That refinery can process up to 160,000 barrels of crude oil per day, according to the company website. Latta said that much of the jet fuel used at Detroit Metro Airport and auto fuel in Northwest Ohio comes from the facility.
Latta said that more than 500,000 miles of road travel would be required to replace the pipeline, in order to ship the oil. He was unsure of the number of potential job losses that might result at the Oregon refinery, but was sure there would be an impact.
According to Enbridge infrastructure updates, the company expects to begin construction of the Great Lakes Tunnel in 2021.
“While Line 5 has operated safely and reliably in the Straits for more than 65 years, the Great Lakes Tunnel will be bored through rock, as much as 100 feet below the lakebed—virtually eliminating the chance of a pipeline incident in the Straits,” stated Enbridge on the corporate website.
Latta said that the Army Corps of Engineers is currently reviewing the Enbridge plans.
“This is the right thing to do, to get the tunnel in,” Latta said. “For us in the Midwest it is a lifeline for us that we have to have.
“When you have 86,000 manufacturing jobs, like you have in my district, we have to have power.”