Snyder declares energy emergency after Harvey

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday declared an energy emergency in Michigan after Hurricane Harvey devastated Gulf Coast oil and petroleum refineries.

Snyder’s emergency executive order allows the state to suspend certain vapor pressure regulations to let petroleum products be transported at a higher-than-usual pressure in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Livingston, Washtenaw, Monroe and Lenawee counties because of a shortage of fuel resulting from hurricane damage in Texas.

The impact could be seen at the pumps, where the price of unleaded regular gas increased in Michigan Thursday to $2.59 a gallon, up 8 cents from Wednesday, according to AAA. The price was up a dime a gallon from the week before.

Michigan has experienced a price surge before following a hurricane. In 2012, the price of gas rose 14 cents to a high of $4.09 a gallon as Gulf of Mexico refineries closed in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. The price of gas eventually eased down, even after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast that October and prompted gas lines in New Jersey and New York.

Snyder has issued energy emergency orders at least twice before.

Last year, the Republican governor issued an energy emergency declaration heading into Memorial Day weekend after the shutdown of a fuel pipeline in Wisconsin and an unplanned outage of the Marathon refinery in Detroit. The goal was to allow more supply of fuel to enter the state.

In 2012, he also declared an energy emergency targeted only at Upper Peninsula residents because of fuel production problems in a Wisconsin. In the winter of 2013-14, he declared another emergency to allow propane truck drivers to work longer hours to offset a shortage of the heating fuel in the U.P.

Snyder joined other states in declaring an emergency, which compliments a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emergency declaration suspending certain federal Clean Air Act requirements related to the sale, distribution and use of gasoline in fuel emergencies, according to Snyder’s office.

“With such severe impacts to the petroleum production, refining, and distribution facilities along the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Harvey, regional petroleum supplies will be affected across the country, including Michigan,” Snyder said in a statement. “This executive order will help ensure there are no artificial shortages of fuel impacting the state’s residents or visitors.”

The order ups the pressure from 9 pounds per square inch to 11.5, a move that Michigan Agency for Energy director Valerie Brader praised Thursday.

“In light of the impact of Hurricane Harvey, Michigan is happy to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency on the nation’s petroleum supply assurance plan,” Brader said in a statement.

The state’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will coordinate enforcement of the order with other state agencies, including the MAE, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan State Police, according to Snyder’s office.

The order remains in effect until it is rescinded or by Sept. 15.