MPSC investigates Consumers’ natural gas fire, begins assessment of state’s energy supply, availability
LANSING– The Michigan Public Service Commission today formally opened an investigation into a fire at Consumer Energy Co.’s Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station. Separately, it launched an assessment requested by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of the supply and deliverability of natural gas, electricity, and propane in Michigan and contingency plans.
The MPSC will conduct an independent investigation into events surrounding the fire that began at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 30 at the Ray facility in Macomb County (Case No. U-20463). The fire was extinguished by 3 p.m. Damage led to Consumers stopping the flow of natural gas from the station, the largest source of working gas capacity in Michigan and which supplies a large portion of Consumers’ natural gas needs during winter usage.
Because of high demand partially due to extremely cold weather, Consumers had to arrange for more natural gas supplies, increase production at its storage fields in Northville and St. Clair, and limit natural gas used for electricity production so it could satisfy customer demand. Consumers also asked large customers to curtail use, and requested that all customers conserve energy. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a similar plea for curtailment and the Michigan State Police sent an emergency alert last Wednesday night to cell phone users in the Lower Peninsula. By noon, Feb. 1, Consumers resumed normal natural gas delivery to customers.
The Commission ordered the investigations to determine:
Once the investigations are complete, the MPSC may propose remedial action.
The emergency incident prompted Gov. Whitmer to request in a Feb. 4 letter to the MPSC’s chairman that the Commission assess the state’s supply and availability of natural gas, electricity, and propane, recommend ways to mitigate risk, and ensure safe, reliable energy.
The Governor asked the MPSC to include in its assessment:
A draft outline of the assessment will be posted to the web page by Tuesday and interested parties have until Feb. 19 to offer their input on the draft. Comments can be sent to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909, or emailed firstname.lastname@example.org. A final draft outline will be available March 5.
Once a final report is complete by Sept. 13, the MPSC is to direct utilities to address any identified shortfalls, including but not limited to recommendations for changes to energy planning criteria and approaches, regulatory review, and proposed oversight improvements.