Dane County zoning officials want to be sure Enbridge Energy has enough insurance to clean up an oil spill before they issue a permit that would triple volume in the company’s pipeline that runs through Wisconsin.
It was standing, and sitting on the floor room-only at the Jan. 27 Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee meeting as it, for the second time, postponed a decision on a conditional permit that would allow an upgrade to the company’s pump station in the town of Medina.
The company’s plan is 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.
Enbridge has $700 million in general liability insurance, and in a meeting with county lawyers, offered an additional $100 million where it would name Dane County as the insured. That would allow the county to collect directly from the insurance company in the event of a spill.
County officials said Tuesday night they were feeling the pressure of the complex insurance issues surrounding the permit and were “not comfortable” with making a decision yet. Supervisors asked the county to hire a consultant to advise them whether the insurance is adequate to cover spill clean-ups or leakages.
The insurance issue has come into focus because of the company’s July 2010 pipeline rupture which released 843,000 gallons of crude oil contaminating Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge says the clean-up cost are around $1.2 billion.
Opponents to the projects applauded the delay and called for public hearings on any new insurance proposals offered by the company. Peter Anderson, spokesperson for 350 Madison, a group that advocates for reduced carbon dioxide efforts, told the committee they should get an outside expert opinion.
“I think you need to roll up your sleeves, and get into details and get someone on your side,” Anderson said. The project has been met with criticism from environmental groups who fear the increased oil flow may make the pipeline more susceptible to ruptures and leaks. The Jan. 27 meeting was packed, with several protestors occasionally interrupting the procedure throughout the night.
Enbridge officials said they are committed to cleaning up spill with company and insurance funds. With no decision Tuesday night, company officials said they will keep trying to move forward.
“We are disappointed in the decision to postpone, we were hopeful to have a decision last night but we are looking forward to continuing to work with the county and determine the next step,” said Enbridge spokesperson Becky Haase.
Town of Medina officials recommended the conditional use permit to the county. Approvals were also granted from the other 11 municipalities for pump station upgrades, as part of the company’s proposals. While some municipalities required screening and buffering of the project, none required insurance or bonding for spills and leaks. Haase said she was unsure how the postponement would delay the company’s project.
The next Zoning and Land Regulation Committee is scheduled for Feb. 10 but it county officials said it’s too soon to know if the Enbridge conditional use permit petition will be on the agenda.
Zoning committee chairman Patrick Miles said the county would hold a public hearing, if any new proposals in the permit process required it.