Frustrated Dane County zoning officials said last week they won’t fight the state and continue with efforts to get Enbridge Energy to come up with additional spill clean-up funds.
Spurred by a petition filed last month by an environmental advocacy group asking the county to rescind the company’s conditional use permit (CUP), the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation (ZLR) Committee looked into requiring a $25 million trust fund for spills.
But County Supervisor and ZLR chair Patrick Miles said based on the county’s legal counsel, that’s not an option.
“There are no violations and there are no grounds for rescinding the conditional use permit, we just don’t have the legal authority,” Miles said in an interview after the Sept. 8 ZLR meeting where no action was taken.
Miles said it would be a losing battle against the state, which prohibited the county’s original CUP condition that required Enbridge to come up with an additional $25 million in environmental impairment liability insurance.
The provision, put in the state budget just days before Enbridge was set to appeal, prohibited counties and towns from requiring additional insurance for interstate pipeline companies if comprehensive general liability included sudden and accidental pollution liability.
“If we asked for a $25 million trust fund I would be assured that the Legislature would react strongly to that also and I am not interested in seeing our authority further eroded,” Miles said of the state’s power that authorized the county’s zoning authority.
The budget when signed by Gov. Scott Walker, sparked protests that politicians were doing the company’s bidding in exchange for expected campaign contributions.
Enbridge submitted the CUP application last August to make upgrades to the Town of Medina substation as part of a Line 61 expansion that will double the volume of tar sand oil being transported through pipeline running from Superior to northern Illinois.
During the last year, 350 Madison -- which filed last month’s petition -- and other environmental groups put pressure on county zoning and board officials to require the additional insurance based on Enbridge’s track record for past spills, including the July 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River that cost more than $1 billion to clean up.
350-Madison disagreed with county counsel that the CUP could not be revoked, stating because the insurance condition is no longer being met and the project is now detrimental to public health. Leaders of 350-Madison weren’t discouraged by the ZLR lack of action last week and said they will continue.
“Like our allies in the Midwest and beyond, we’re in this for the long haul,” 350-Madison leaders wrote on a Facebook post after the meeting.
Town of Medina Chair Steven Schulz -- who was at Tuesday’s meeting -- said he believed the county zoning did the right thing by not moving forward to revoke Enbridge’s CUP.
“It was approved by the town and the county and nothing has occurred to recall the conditional use permit; Enbridge has followed it to the letter,” Schulz said.
He also said the company has done its due diligence in maintaining and increasing safety on the pipeline running through Dane County.
Schulz pointed out that protesters who showed up at the Sept. 8 meeting were not residents of the Town of Medina and that local officials have done their homework and research on Enbridge’s means to clean up a spill.
“They have done an excellent job of working with us. They don’t want a spill any more than we do -- that would be like money leaking out of their pockets,” Schulz said, based on experience the township has with company during the last 50 years on multiple pipeline projects.
He said Enbridge expects to start work on the substation within the next couple of weeks and emphasized that it will bring good paying union jobs to the area.