National Security Council weighs in on Michigan energy crisis

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
The sun is seen through ice formed on a window in Burnsville, Minn., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, as a deadly arctic deep freeze envelopes the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures.

Washington — The White House National Security Council underscored the urgency of Michigan’s energy crisis Thursday by urging consumers to follow the instructions of local officials as the state endures record-breaking cold.

“For those in Michigan, please listen to your State and local authorities tonight and tomorrow re natural gas use in the coming days,” the council said Thursday morning on Twitter. 

The plea followed a request from Consumers Energy Co. late Wednesday for its 1.8 million customers to reduce their thermostats after a fire at a gas compression facility in Macomb County.

The utility warned of brief shutoffs if customers didn't heed its request.

"This truly is an unprecedented crisis," Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe said. "We have never been in this situation before."

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An emergency alert also went out cellphones Wednesday asking residents of the Lower Peninsula to turn their thermostats down to 65 degrees into Friday — a message echoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the public service commission. Consumers said later Thursday that customers could turn up their thermostats after Friday midnight. 

The utility said the Ray Compressor Station, where the fire occurred, accounts for roughly 64 percent of its supply.

DTE Energy also called for reduce electricity usage during the extreme cold to "help safeguard the reliability of the regional energy grid."

“I urge everyone in Michigan to heed the Governor’s call, exercise leadership, and turn down the thermostat to 65 until noon tomorrow,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, who worked for the White House National Security Council under President George W. Bush. 

“It’s hard, but collectively we can keep our heat going in our homes, hospitals, shelters and warming stations. Please do your part!”