With the recent approval in Minnesota of the Line 3 oil pipeline route across the state, environmental groups in Wisconsin anticipate a proposal for a pipeline across the Badger State won’t be far behind.
“This decision likely means that Enbridge, the company responsible for the catastrophic Kalamazoo River spill, will seek permission to put another massive pipeline through some of the state’s most valuable resources like Lake Superior, the Namekagon, St. Croix, Wisconsin, and Rock Rivers, and many other lakes and streams,” said Elizabeth Ward of the Sierra Club-John Muir (Wisconsin) Chapter.
Enbridge leaders have previously said that increased flows across Minnesota would create a “bottleneck” at the company’s terminal in Superior, Wis. That choke point would be resolved with a new pipeline (Line 66) added to a corridor which already cuts diagonally across the state.
Expanding capacity, expanding corridor
The corridor crosses the upper reaches of the St. Croix River, as well as other streams in its watershed. Four pipelines of varying size and contents cross under the Namekagon River and the Totogatic River, two streams recognized for wildness and clean water.
It also cuts across private and public lands and nearly every major watershed in the state on its way to terminals and refineries in Illinois — and, increasingly, to the Gulf of Mexico for export overseas.
When Line 61 was added to the corridor in 2009, and when its flows were tripled in 2015, the state of Wisconsin required only minimal study and public input before approving the projects. The construction project ended up garnering more than $1 million in fines for environmental damage, the highest amount in state history.
“We favor the development of renewable energy sources rather than the addition of more pipelines,” said Phil Sylla, President of the Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Alliance, representing an area that includes the Namekagon, Totogatic, and St. Croix Rivers.
The Sierra Club of Wisconsin and a coalition of groups concerned about the possibility of a new pipeline have launched a petition calling for comprehensive analysis before any such pipeline moves ahead. The petition reads:
The Line 66 Pipeline Jeopardizes All Of Wisconsin
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted to approve the Certificate of Need for Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 tar sands pipeline, greenlighting more oil to flow into Superior, driving the need for another tar sands pipeline through Wisconsin. This will likely mean that Enbridge will start seeking permits in Wisconsin and getting easements and permission from the landowners and tribes for the new pipeline. The decision hurts community members across Wisconsin who care about the environment; our lakes and rivers; community and property rights; and safety.
Now that we can expect to see permit applications start for the Line 66 Pipeline, we need to make sure that Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Meyer thoroughly studies the impact of a potential pipeline.
A new Line 3 in Minnesota will be able to carry double the amount it currently does, increasing to a maximum of about 32 million gallons of oil per day.
New pipeline possibility
Line 66 could carry 23 million gallons per day, according to the company’s CEO in 2015.
Enbridge has been surveying the corridor since 2014, analyzing where it would need new easements. It’s believed the current corridor is not wide enough for a new pipeline.
Private landowners have organized in a coalition called 80 Feet Is Enough, protesting the prospect of the company seizing more land for a new pipeline. The Wisconsin legislature made it easier for Enbridge to use eminent domain to acquire lands in 2015.
Federal law currently prohibits any new pipeline crossings of National Park units — including the Namekagon where the pipeline corridor crosses (it crosses the St. Croix above the National Park boundaries). The White House recently proposed removing that rule.