Enbridge Corporation was all set next week to appeal Dane County’s $25 million additional insurance requirement for a pipeline expansion but a last minute state budget provision may have come to their rescue.
Opponents said it’s the work of the company’s high paid lobbyists but Enbridge representatives said it’s a check on local government overstepping its bounds.
If passed, the budget provision prohibits counties or towns from requiring additional insurance for interstate pipeline companies if comprehensive general liability insurance includes sudden and accidental pollution liability. Counties and towns could also no longer impose requirements on conditional use permits that are pre-empted by federal or state law.
In April, the Dane County and Zoning and Land Regulations (ZLR) Committee required Enbridge to have $25 million of environmental impairment liability (EIL) insurance to get a conditional use permit for pipeline substation upgrades in the Town of Medina. The company is doubling the volume of tar sand oil being transported through the county on Line 61 that runs from Superior to northern Illinois.
The Dane County Board was scheduled to hear Enbridge’s appeal at its July 16 meeting but chair Sharon Corrigan, who disagrees with the budget provision, said that’s up in the air as officials watch whether or not the state budget will be approved by then.
“This is just another case of the state trying to take control out of the hands of local government,” Corrigan said. “The insurance requirement for Enbridge was put into place to protect the local areas impacted. Now we have people who do not even live in Dane County making the rules.”
The county hired Chernobyl containment insurance expert David Dybdahl, who advised the county to ask for the EIL insurance coverage because of the company’s track record of clean up on past oil spills, including the July 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River which cost the company more than $1 billion to clean up.
Enbridge lawyers say federal laws govern interstate pipeline safety and the county’s decision is shutting down the entire Line 61 expansion unnecessarily, which may lead to higher oil prices for consumers. The CUP was applied for last August.
The company contends the county zoning committee and the town have no valid basis under county ordinances to impose insurance requirements and said the decision was based on erroneous legal standards and political pressure.
Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith said that lawmakers who support the provision realize that the Line 61 upgrades will have positive economic impacts and provide energy security for the U.S.
“Ensuring a vibrant economy is part of the legislator’s job, so it make sense that legislators are paying attention to what is happening in Dane County and the impact such decisions may have on state and local jobs and the economy,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith said Enbridge currently has approximately 550 employees in Wisconsin. Current Enbridge projects total $1.4 billion in infrastructure investment in the state of which $768 million is from the Line 61 Upgrade Project.
According to the Government Accountability Board, on Feb. 12 a lobbyist for Enbridge Corporation registered efforts in the 2015-2017 budget for development, drafting or introduction of a proposal relating to pipelines, shortly after the county zoning committee’s January decision to delay issuing a CUP because they wanted to hire an insurance expert to review options.
In filing its appeal in May, Enbridge lawyers said $700 million in general liability insurance and an additional $100 million per incident offered, where it would name Dane County as the insured—is more than enough to cover a spill clean up.
Environmental group 350 Madison, who has put pressure on the county to require the additional insurance said the budget provision, said the action shows the company’s well-financed influence over lawmakers.
Peter Anderson, a 350 Madison spokesperson, said the pipeline project is all risk and no gain for the state. He said the county is trying to protect is citizens if Enbridge financial climate changes with a shift away from fossil fuels.
“To pay back Enbridge’s undue influence in the Republican-controlled Legislature, under the cover of darkness, late at night, without notice or hearing, the Republican budget barred localties from requiring Enbridge to carry the kind of insurance needed to guarantee that the next big spill is cleaned up. This leaves the state’s taxpayers to pay for the clean up in the future.”
Corrigan said she plans to keep the Enbridge appeal on the July 16 agenda but may amend it if the state biennial budget passes before that. The full Legislature is set to vote on the budget this week. It would then move to the Gov. Scott Walker’s office for vetoes and a signature.