Dane County hires Chernobyl insurance expert in Enbridge pipeline permit request

Enbridge wants to upgrade the Line 61 pipeline, which runs from Superior to Northern Illinois, to increase pumping capacity from 560,000 barrels to 1.2 million per day. The project includes pumping station upgrades, including the one in the Town of Medina, which requires approval from Dane County zoning.

Dane County will hire an environmental insurance expert to analyze if Enbridge Corporation’s pipeline expansion project has the right kind of insurance, and enough of it, to handle a spill.

David Dybdahl, who helped insure containment operations after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, will advise the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee after supervisors asked for more guidance on the company’s conditional use permit request. 

Environmental are applauding the county’s decision but Enbridge officials argue they have enough insurance to handle a spill.

The company wants to upgrade the Line 61 pipeline, which runs from Superior to Northern Illinois, to increase pumping capacity from 560,000 barrels to 1.2 million per day. The project includes pumping station upgrades, including the one in the Town of Medina, which requires approval from Dane County zoning.

The county delayed a decision on the CPU for a second time in January. The committee OK’d hiring Dybdahl at its Feb. 10 meeting at an estimated cost of $5,000, which is expected to be paid by Enbridge.

Enbridge has $700 million in general liability insurance per incident, and in a meeting with county lawyers, offered an additional $100 million per incident where it would name Dane County as the insured, allowing the county to collect directly from the insurance company in the event of a spill. 

Environmentalists believe that isn’t enough, pointing to the $1.2 billion clean-up costs of Enbridge’s July 2010 pipeline rupture that released 843,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

Federal funds, up to $1 billion per incident are also available from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The fund was set up after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

Enbridge spokeperson Aaron Madsen, who was at the Feb. 10 zoning meeting, said the company’s insurance is adequate, and there is no more available on the marketplace.

“The type of insurance and the level of insurance that Enbridge carries is not like getting car insurance or home insurance, where you can spend more money and get additional coverage,” Madsen said. “Enbridge buys as much insurance available on the market, it’s in our best interest for our company to do so, and $700 million is what were are able to get on the market right now.”

But Madison 350 representatives disagree and are glad to see county zoning stand up to the company and protect the county.  

“ This insurance is not intended for pollution clean-up, and it were adequate why is the company suing in a previous case, in 2010, to get payment?” said Peter Anderson, Madison 350 spokesperson. 

He said there is more insurance on the market and says if the company can't get it, then they must be a bad risk.

Enbridge spokesperson Steve Rolstad said the company has the funds to clean up spills and uses insurance as a final measure to recoup costs. 

He also said Enbridge has spent $4.4 billion since 2010 to help prevent spills. This includes a new control center in Edmonton that monitors pressure and flow and implementing Smart Pigs, a device that is inserted in the pipeline that acts like an MRI and can show restrictions and deformations.

For now, the Pipeline 61 expansion is stalled in the county, and there’s no word yet on how long the consulting process will take.

Approvals were already granted by the other 11 municipalities for pump station upgrades along the pipeline. Officials from the town of Medina, where the pump station is located, recommended the conditional use permit to the county. The company has also received a Department of Natural Resources permit on the expansion project, as well as federal approval to operate at the project expanded oil pumping output.

Recommended for you