Local activists to hold benefit opposing Line 61 pipeline expansion in Wisconsin

The nation’s attention has been on the acts of the Standing Rock Sioux to protect the waters of the Missouri River from Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline crossing it.

A pipeline expansion, with similar threats to bodies of water in Wisconsin, is currently taking place. Enbridge Energy, the $42 billion Canadian company that operates Line 61, is tripling the capacity of that line from the original 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million bpd. Some of the same troubling facts that faced the tribe in North Dakota have now arrived on Wisconsin’s doorstep and an opposition movement is growing.

Inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux and its allies, local activists from Madison Action for Mining Alternatives and 350 Madison Climate Action Team will host the Pipeline Fighters’ Benefit Extravaganza on Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to midnight at the Wil-Mar Center, 953 Jenifer St. in Madison. The family-friendly event is intended to raise awareness of the Enbridge pipeline expansion through Wisconsin and to build the legal defense funds to stop it.

In addition to increasing the capacity of Line 61, Enbridge has plans underway to “twin” Line 61, creating a new line (66) in the same corridor to carry 800,000 bpd, meaning that 2 million barrels of toxic tar sands, by and large destined for export, would flow through Wisconsin each day.

“We know the dangers and inevitability of tar sands spills,” said Ben Peterson of 350 Madison. “It’s no longer a matter of “if” there will be a spill, but “when” and then we’ll be left with pollution to our air and waterways and the price of clean-up. It’s an all risk, no reward situation. We believe that the more citizens learn about the facts at an event like the Pipeline Fighters Benefit Extravaganza, the better chance we’ll have to stop these irresponsible actions before it’s too late.”

Speakers for the event include Ronni Monroe, founding member of the Wisconsin Tar Sands Action Coalition, and Peter Anderson of 350 Madison Climate Action Team.

The benefit kicks off at 10 a.m. with an art build. Attendees can make a poster, help build a puppet for political theater, paint a banner, and more. The art build is free, but all works of art stay with 350 Madison for future events, protests, and theater. Space is limited, so signing up in advance with Phyllis Hasbrouck is recommended.

The afternoon program starts at 5 p.m. with a welcome and opening ceremony, followed by a meal of local foods that would be threatened by a pipeline spill. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early, as only the first 100 will be able to be served.

Music, dance, and theater acts will perform, including Tani Diakite and the Afro-Funkstars, Thistle & Thorns, the Solidarity Singers, Chandraya Dance Collective, the Raging Grannies, and the 350 Madison Players’ production of Walker’s Bribery Game.

A silent auction will run throughout the event. Guests can bid on crafts and other items from local artists and businesses. Representatives of grassroots environmental groups will be on hand with literature and ways to get involved.

The suggested donation is $25 at the door and $10 for students and limited-income. Children under eight are free.

Madison Action for Mining Alternatives is a Madison coalition supporting communities struggling against mining in Wisconsin. 350 Madison Climate Action Team is the local branch of 350.org, an international grassroots organization that is mobilizing a global climate movement.