A Canadian oil company says it has no commitment yet to build a twin pipeline across the state but that isn’t stopping environmental groups from building up opposition to the plan.
The groups want to bring attention to Enbridge’s “Line 66” that could be built parallel to Line 61 that runs from Superior to Pontiac, Ill.—saying it could increase the threat of spills to the area with a higher capacity of tar sands running through the channel.
Carl Whiting, of Wise Safe Energy (WiSE) Alliance, says he doesn’t believe that property owners are aware of the impact the plan could have on their land.
Enbridge surveyed land for the project starting in 2014, but aren’t saying how much land they would need outside the existing 80-foot corridor.
Whiting said, based on information that WiSE received from landowners who had their land surveyed, the company could expand easements 200 feet beyond the current Line 61 corridor, demolishing homes and buildings in its path.
“For these property owners, the line used to be in the back forty, then underneath the swing sets in their backyard, know it could be right underneath their front porch,” Whiting said.
Enbridge announced to stockholders in October that they will further explore the twin pipeline plan but company spokesperson Jennifer Smith there is no timetable.
“We will only move forward with a project if sufficient customer (market) support exists. If, and when, that happens, we will announce the project to the public and begin outreach to landowners and other stakeholders along the proposed route in both states,” Smith said.
The project would need to get multiple permits, approvals, agreements and consultation at federal, states and local levels, Smith said. She said the company has completed land survey, that started in 2014.
While Whiting said there’s more awareness of Enbridge and its possible pipeline plans in Dane County, he says for the most part, landowners do not understand the impact it may on them. He said Enbridge could petition the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to get the authority to take the land needed for the project under eminent domain laws.
“That would be an improper use of eminent domain, for a foreign company to take private property for profit,” Whiting said.
Land owners, in other states where Enbridge has pipeline, have challenged the company in court regarding eminent domain with mixed results.
Wisconsin Public Radio reported last July that according to legislative drafting files, Enbridge Energy attorneys helped write proposed changes in Wisconsin’s eminent domain law that occurred in the 2016 biennial state budget process.
Whiting said the law change allows Enbridge -- which is not a corporation, but a limited partnership -- to use the eminent domain to get easements for the project.
Whiting said WiSE, 350 Madison and the Sierra Club have all worked to educate landowners about the possible expansion.
He said he has seen local grassroots groups sprout up, including the “80 Feet Is Enough” based in Marshfield, and he expects more to be formed as landowners become aware of the project.
During the last year, Enbridge has faced resistance from environmental groups regarding the Line 61 pipeline expansion in Dane County that will almost double capacity of crude oil being transported. Dane County asked the company to provide additional spill clean-up insurance but a state law, passed during the state biennial budget process, prohibited that.
The company is moving forward with the expansion but Dane County landowners are suing the company, asking for the additional insurance. Both sides will argue their case during an April 11 Dane County Circuit Court hearing.
The Line 61 expansion project will carry around 1.2 million barrels of tar sands crude a day, more than Keystone XL, a proposed pipeline by TransCanada Corporation, that had its application rejected by President Barack Obama last November.
Whiting added that there’s now pressure being put on Democrats to ask that all pipeline projects, including a proposed Line 66, get the same federal government public environmental review scrutiny.
“We want all these pipelines,” Whiting said, “to be looked at through the same lens.”