Whitmer executive order aims to help gas supply challenges after BP fire

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan).
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan).(WLUC/State of Michigan)
Published: Aug. 27, 2022 at 12:19 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Michigan, issued an executive order Saturday after a fire caused BP’s Whiting, Indiana oil refinery to temporarily go offline.

According to a press release, the governor is working to ensure continued access to an adequate supply of motor fuels by waiving regulations on motor vehicle hours-of-service rules, as the effects of the outage at the plant are expected to spread across the region and will impact drivers transporting such fuel.

“I am taking action to help address Michigan’s fuel needs after a fire and power outage at a BP refinery in Indiana,” said Governor Whitmer. “The impacts of the outage at the Whiting facility will be widespread across our region, and I am taking proactive steps to help Michiganders get the fuel they need to drive their cars and help businesses keep their products moving. With today’s action, I am freeing up more gas supply and removing any impediments to gas delivery to cut down wait times at stations. I will keep working to get Michiganders the affordable gas they need without delay.”

Governor Whitmer’s executive order declaring an energy emergency takes the following two temporary actions:

1. Lifts Hours of Service Rules: exempts motor carriers and drivers transporting gas and diesel from compliance with the maximum weekly driving and on-duty limits, ensuring that these limits will not hinder the delivery of gas and diesel to stations in Michigan.

2. Suspends Vapor Pressure Requirements: temporarily suspends certain laws and regulations to accelerate the transition to the fall fuel supply and takes advantage of existing stocks of fuel, contingent on the Environmental Protection Agency making similar changes.

“This is a great example of government and business working together to ensure that we continue to provide needed energy to keep Michigan moving,” said Mark Griffith, President of the Michigan Petroleum Association. “This type of issue is usually short lived, the actions taken here will make it less onerous on Michigan businesses and residents.”

“We appreciate Governor Whitmer taking quick action to protect fuel supply for stations and drivers across the state,” said Fay Beydoun, CEO, American Arab Chamber of Commerce. “By lifting these restrictions and working to keep supply flowing to the state, we can insulate the market and economic pressures to keep prices down. The Chamber of Commerce will be working with our partners at stations around the region to deliver for our customers and communities.”

“When faced with challenges, it’s crucial that we work together to identify solutions and action” said Martin Manna, CEO, Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. “Governor Whitmer’s proactive response will help ensure that our stations can continue to serve drivers across the region. Our focus right now is working with owners to keep supply lines open.”

Executive Order 2022-9 takes effect immediately and remains in effect through duration of the emergency remains in effect only for the duration of the supply challenges related to the refinery fire or until the end of the day on September 15, 2022, whichever comes first.   In addition to this order, the Michigan’s Public Service Commission (MPSC) will continue to monitor the situation and work with and provide information and assistance to the Governor’s Office, states agencies, and the public.

“The Michigan Public Service Commission continues to actively monitor the situation at the Whiting refinery,” said Dan Scripps, Chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission. “The Commission will continue to use every tool at our disposal to insulate Michiganders from price spikes and preserve access to motor fuels for Michigan drivers and businesses for end of summer and Labor Day travels.”

Background on the BP Whiting Facility Fire

On Wednesday, August 24, BP’s 435,000 barrel-per-day refinery located in Whiting, Indiana, suffered an electrical fire. As a result, the refinery has ceased production and is undergoing a damage assessment. The Whiting refinery is the sixth biggest, by capacity, in the United States and provides approximately 20% to 25% of the refined gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel used collectively by Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. While efforts are underway to find ways to replace the supply from the Whiting refinery, disruptions in the fuel supply are likely.

Background on federal government action

On Friday, August 26, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a issued a regional emergency declaration for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin to allow motor carriers and drivers additional flexibility to provide direct assistance to affected states. Additional information here.