Whitmer Urges Michiganders To Reduce Natural Gas Usage Following Consumers Energy Fire

Residents asked to keep thermostats at 65 degrees or less

January 31, 2019 - 10:45 am

DETROIT (WWJ) - Following a request for Michigan residents to turn down their thermostats, Consumers Energy is asking that people keep up the effort.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a brief news conference Wednesday night to urge Michiganders to reduce their use of gas and electric in the coming days, following a fire and reported explosion at one of the utility's compressor stations.

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Whitmer asked residents to turn their thermostats to "65 degrees or less" between Wednesday night and noon on Friday.

“Every one of us can play a role in making sure that we get through this with minimal harm,” Whitmer said. “We’re calling on every Michigander to do your part and to help us weather this storm together.”

Residents received an emergency alert sent to their cell phones late Wednesday night that said "Due to extreme temps Consumers asks everyone to lower their heat to 65 or less through Fri." 

Late Thursday morning, the governor tweeted a photo showing she'd turned her thermostat down to 64, adding: "I'm asking everyone who is able to please do the same." 

Consumers Energy executives said Thursday they are cautiously optimistic that the efforts made by customers to turn down their thermostats to 65 degrees are working.  But they still need cooperation through the end of the day Friday. Meanwhile, the utility says it is working to secure continued gas supply from other sources.  

This all comes after emergency crews responded to the scene of a fire Wednesday morning, at the Consumers Energy Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station at 32 Mile and Omo Road.

The WWJ Newsradio 950 newsroom received multiple calls from tipsters about the incident, late Wednesday morning, saying they heard an explosion and felt their homes shake.

Due to the fire, MSP and Consumers asked residents and businesses to cut back on usage over the next 24 to 48 hours to "make sure there is plenty to go around during this cold spell." MSP says Michiganders can help by turning down the thermostat a few degrees and sealing any drafts from the outside.

No injuries were reported during the fire, but the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Consumers says all gas flow from the compressor station has been shut in, until safety and damage assessments can be completed. The company says it is activating natural gas peaking storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to help deliver natural gas to customers.

"Natural gas is stored underground and reserved in these fields, which are activated when energy demand requires it. Further, we are asking some large business customers to reduce gas energy use at this time," the utility said. 

Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Michigan earlier in the week, as brutally cold temperatures -- 12 degrees below zero in Detroit Wednesday night -- and dangerous wind chills grip the state following Monday's snow storm.

Consumers President and CEO Patti Poppe addressed the state on a Facebook Live video, saying while she understands the record-breaking cold has created a huge demand for gas as Michiganders try to stay warm, she is begging for residents to take action.

"The forecast for tomorrow is not good," Poppe said. "It's going to be colder tomorrow than it was today. And without any action, that means there will be more demand for natural gas tomorrow than there was today."

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