Dane County landowners sue over pipeline project

The Wisconsin Gazette

Seven Dane County landowners filed suit on Feb. 8 in Dane County Circuit Court to force the Enbridge pipeline company to provide $25 million in clean up insurance before increasing capacity of the largest tar sands oil pipeline in the United States.

“Enbridge’s bullying tactics met their match today, as seven Dane County citizens took their safety into their own hands,” 350 Madison spokesman Ben Peterson said in a news release.

Enbridge wants to triple the capacity of Pipeline 61 to 1.2 million barrels of tar sands oil per day by upgrading pumping stations along its route across Wisconsin from Superior to refineries in Texas.

Last spring, the climate action group 350 Madison argued for inclusion of the $25 million insurance provision in arguments before the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee. In July 2015, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a measure prohibiting counties from requiring pipeline insurance.

Peterson said Enbridge’s efforts to triple the capacity of its dirty tar sands pipeline through Dane County pose substantial risks to taxpayers and the environment.

“Yet,” he said in the news release, “efforts by the Dane County Zoning Committee to protect local citizens, their well-being, and the environment by requiring that Enbridge purchases clean-up insurance have been steamrolled by the Canadian behemoth exploiting its political clout.”

He continued, “That gut punch to the integrity of our political institutions occurred in the dark of night when the company or someone acting on its behalf, lobbied key legislators to include an 11th hour budget amendment that sought to override the county’s insurance requirement.”

The plaintiffs live within 350 yards of the pipeline and are near neighbors to the pumping station in the town of Medina.

The upgraded Waterloo Pump Station would increase the capacity of the underlying 42-inch diameter pipeline, which is larger than any other oil pipeline in the United States, from 560,000 to 1.2 million barrels per day of bitumen from the Alberta tar sands through the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries.

For tar to flow through a pipe, it must be combined with toxic and volatile diluents, heated and forced under pressure, which the new pump station will increase to 1,200 pounds per square inch. This creates additional abrasive and corrosive stresses on the pipeline, through which 2.1 million gallons will flow each hour, increasing the risk of major oil spills.

When a tar sands oil spill occurs in waterways, the diluents have been observed to evaporate and, unlike conventional oil that floats in water, the bitumen sinks, making cleanups extraordinarily difficult and expensive.

Enbridge has been responsible for 800 oil spills, including the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2010. That spill continued for 17 hours before the pipeline was shut down, causing $1.2 billion in damages. The company had known the pipe was cracked and corroding five years earlier, when 15,000 defects in the pipe were observed.