The Wisconsin Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of Enbridge v. Dane Co. at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26.
This is the culmination of a long battle that began between Dane County and the Canadian-based pipeline company as it sought to expand its operations.
A substation has been constructed on Cherry Lane in the Dane County Town of Medina. The conditional use permit continues to remain in effect during this appeal process and has not impacted operations at the Waterloo station.
The saga began in 2014 when Enbridge applied for a permit to build a pumping station in Dane County in order to increase the amount of oil flowing through its Line 61 pipeline. This expansion was a concern for residents across Dane County and the state because it’s almost unprecedented for a tar sands oil pipeline to flow at such high pressure and carry such an enormous volume of oil.
Given heightened concerns about the impact of a potential spill on the community, the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee (ZLR) required Enbridge to purchase additional insurance to ensure that if there were a spill, Dane County residents wouldn’t be on the hook for the clean-up costs.
In April of 2015, the ZLR required Enbridge to obtain spill cleanup insurance as part of its conditional use permit.
A provision inserted in the 2015-17 state budget tried to block Dane County from requiring insurance. Enbridge sued the county, demanding the insurance requirement be withdrawn. Seven landowners from the impacted region also filed suit, asserting that even if the budget provision barred the county from enforcing the insurance requirement, it did not similarly bar enforcement by affected landowners. A long court battle ensued.
A circuit court ruled Sept. 27, 2016 that Dane County’s insurance condition be removed from ZLR’s conditional use permit due to the amendment in the state budget. The court of appeals reversed that decision.
Enbridge believes the Dane County Circuit Court’s decision to strike the insurance requirements from the conditional use permit is the correct course of action to be taken.
In January 2018, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed to hear oral argument in the case, and on May 24, the court agreed with the landowners and the county that they have a right to know they will be protected if a spill occurs.
According to Enbridge officials, the company carries more than $900 million in insurance coverage, and the company’s existing insurance policies along with its overall financial position more than ensures that any release in Dane County, or anywhere Enbridge’s system are for that matter, could be sufficiently remediated by the company at no cost to the county’s residents.
Enbridge appealed the decision, and last fall the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue. In September, 350 Madison Climate Action Team, called the Wisconsin Supreme Court review surprising. Review by the Wisconsin Supreme Court is rarely granted and is limited to cases of major importance involving complex questions of law, 350 Madison stated in a release.
Oral argument were to be held before the Supreme Court in the Supreme Court Hearing Room, second floor, East Wing of the Capitol.