Enbridge Energy is quietly working on a significant expansion of their pipeline Line 61 to carry toxic "tar sands" oil through Wisconsin, putting the watersheds for Lake Superior and Lake Michigan at significant risk.
The expansion could triple the capacity and includes 3 new storage tanks on Lake Superior, modifying the two existing storage tanks, increasing pumping pressure at 3 stations and installing 9 new pump stations. In 2014, capacity would become 560,000 bpd (barrels per day) and by 2015 could be near 1.2 million bpd-an almost unprecedented amount of pressure.
Enbridge has a history of crude oil spills in Wisconsin: 2007, 2009 and 2012 (see above link to Sierra Club for details of each spill). Shifting to "tar sands" oil, at a higher capacity than their current pipeline, is a recipe for even more disasters. Remember that these are the same people who polluted the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Enbridge Energies has a poor safety record, with approximately 800 pipeline-related incidents since 1999, including a rupture in Grand Marsh in Adams County, in Wisconsin, in which an estimated 50,000 gallons of oil spilled and 17,000 tons of soil were contaminated.
There has been no call for a formal Environmental Impact Statement. As usual, Enbridge is looking to slip this by the citizens by refusing to hold meaningful public hearings. They held only one public hearing in Superior WI on May 5 this year. Shortly thereafter, the Jefferson County Board passed a resolution urging the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to reject the air permit for the proposed tar sands pipeline expansion and undertake a full environmental assessment first.
Last night in Jefferson County, Enbridge held a PR "meet and greet" they billed as "Coffee and Conversation" at the local Fort Community Credit Union. Local citizens were not interested in coffee and conversation. They wanted real answers and a real public hearing about this potentially devastating project.
So the citizens took control.
An Enbridge sign-in table awaited attendees and several company representatives stood in front of three large cardboard promotional placards and talked with residents as they arrived. It became apparent that the company plan was to field questions from individual residents instead of holding a full group hearing. Enbridge clearly wanted to avoid a group encounter with concerned citizens. That’s when the people of Jefferson decided to take democracy into their own hands.Way for engaged and informed citizens to take control of a meaningless corporate PR stunt and bend it towards a real hearing! Enbridge representatives were not prepared for people to assert their desire to have questions answered.
Several of those frustrated by the company’s format for the evening started setting up chairs that were stacked on a wall in the room. Enbridge officials seemed perplexed as people started grabbing chairs and setting them into the room. At one point the lead Enbridge spokeswoman tried to tell those setting up chairs to move them to the back of the room, but by this point almost everyone in the room was helping with the impromptu action. Enbridge wanted people alone and isolated. The people in attendance, many of them strangers to each other, wanted a real public hearing.
Please read the entire story, Jefferson County Residents Seize Control of Enbridge Line 61 Hearing, including pictures and a short video. Many thanks to Joe Brusky of Occupy Riverwest for attending and documenting the "hearing".
While everyone focuses on KXL, these fossil fuel extractors are trying to sneak other equally dangerous projects in under our noses. Constant vigilance!
Quick Update (1:30 pm)
I refer to "tar sands oil" but it is worth clarifying that the stuff in these pipelines that comes from the tar sands is amazingly toxic. The actual chemicals used to dilute the bitumen are considered a trade secret so the public and regulatory agencies don't know exactly what they are. However, they likely include carcinogens such as benzene and naphtha. Read about dilbit on Wikipedia and Tar Sands Protection League.