Groups encourage resident response to expanded pipeline proposal

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Staff | May 14, 2014

MADISON--Enbridge Energy Company, a large Canadian pipeline owner, is proposing to triple the capacity of Line 61, its pipeline that travels through Wisconsin from Superior to Flanagan, Illinois, passing through western Walworth County from the Delavan pumping station just outside of Whitewater to just east of Allens Grove.

If approved, the pipeline will increase from an initial 400,000 to 1.2 million barrels per day of tar sands oil. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is currently considering an air permit for the expansion—the only statewide permit the pipeline needs. Groups including 350 Madison, Pledge of Resistance-Madison, and Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter are urging citizens to request the DNR study all impacts, including air, water, and climate effects.

A press release from 350 Madison Climate Action Team, NOKXL and the Sierra Club encourages Wisconsin residents to take advantage of a public comment period on the air permit, which ends Monday, May 19.

Wisconsin residents can email comments to,  or send regular mail to: Don C. Faith, III, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Air Management, 101 S. Webster St., Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921m Attn: Don C. Faith, III.

“If this planned expansion is allowed,” stated Dr. Carl Whiting of Pledge of Resistance in the release. “It would carry significantly more tar sands oil than the highly contested Keystone XL.  We urge our fellow citizens to tell the DNR to deny the permits for expansion of the Enbridge Line 61, and to instead conduct a full environmental assessment. We also ask citizens to request that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hold public hearings in affected counties on this proposed project and its potential environmental impacts.”

The only public hearing regarding the proposed expansion took place Monday, May 5 in Superior.

“This pipeline and its expansion jeopardize Lake Superior, other lakes, rivers, and waterways along the route.  Citizens should be invited to weigh in on the potential impacts with hearings near the path of the pipeline,” said Elizabeth Ward, conservation programs coordinator for the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter. .  

The release noted Enbridge Energies has a poor safety record, with approximately 800 pipeline-related incidents since 1999, including a rupture in Grand Marsh in Adams County, in Wisconsin, in which an estimated 50,000 gallons of oil spilled and 17,000 tons of soil were contaminated.

The release stated: “More notoriously, Enbridge also is known for the largest tar sands oil spill in history, when a pipeline erupted and spilled 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into a wetland that leaked into the Kalamazoo River during a planned shutdown in 2010.  Four years later, the spill has still not been successfully cleaned up, despite an expenditure of over $800 million; the Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered the river be dredged again.  This spill resulted from a failure in a pipe with a flow-rate one-sixth of the Line 61 proposal that runs through the state of Wisconsin.

“Tar sand oil is very different from traditional 'light' oil, making the potential for a spill and the concerns worse,” explained Ward, “tar sands oil is incredibly dense, so if there is a contamination in a waterway, it does not float, making clean-up much more difficult.  Additionally, it must be mixed with a chemical compound to move it through pipelines, which makes the likelihood of a rupture higher.”

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