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This diary adresses the proposal to establish a large marine terminal shipping dock for liquid hydrocarbons (including tar sands derivatives) at Superior, WI.  

This proposal would enable significantly increased shipping of crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons throughout the entire Great Lakes and St. Lawrence System.   The increased shipping would result from increased pipeline transportation of heavy sour crude tar sands derivatives from Hardesty, Alberta through the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline to Superior, WI, and from increased shipments of North Dakota Bakken crude arriving at Superior, WI through pipelines or by railroad transport.

I previously published diaries about this issue here, and here.

Today brings news on this matter from the Alliance for Great Lakes in Chicago [I should disclose that they are a past client of mine]:

Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Alliance for the Great Lakes

For Immediate Release  
Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014  

Contact:  Andrew Slade,  218-727-0800

              Lyman Welch:  312-445-9739

Wisconsin dismisses controversial oil terminal permit application, for now
Proposal would open the door to tar sands shipping on the Great Lakes

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- A plan to begin shipping tar sands oil across Lake Superior – and potentially open the door to shipping large volumes of this relatively new form of thick crude across the Great Lakes -- has been dealt a setback for now.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in December dismissed an application for a loading dock rehabilitation viewed as the first step toward a $25 million crude oil complex meant to facilitate shipments of tar sands crude across Lake Superior starting as soon as next year. As the first permit to pave the way for tar sands shipping on the Great Lakes, the proposal had broad implications for the region.

Before the project can proceed, the DNR has instead ordered a comprehensive Environmental Assessment of the entire dock project, something many called for during a public informational hearing in November attended by about 50 residents from both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“Area residents really care about Lake Superior and they want to make sure this unique resource is not threatened by costly and harmful spills of this dangerous type of crude oil,” said Andrew Slade, Northeast Program Coordinator for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “This demonstrates how, when citizens speak up on such important water issues, government agencies can actually respond.”

The applicant, Elkhorn Industries, may re-apply for the permit under conditions set by the DNR in its Dec. 23, 2013 letter to the company. The letter says public comments from the meeting played a role in its decision, and states that the agency “will need significantly more information about the plans and activities proposed for the site.”

“We want to thank Wisconsin DNR for agreeing that more information is needed, and to the members of the public who helped make this change,” said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program director for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “This gives the community – and the region – much-needed time for a larger binational discussion about whether the Great Lakes should become the next frontier for shipping tar sands crude oil.”

Welch is the lead author of a report released in November ( that explores the potential risks of tar sands oil shipping across the Great Lakes. The report found that neither the Great Lakes shipping fleet nor its ports were designed to ship this form of crude over the lakes, and highlighted the proven challenges of cleanup after a spill.

The DNR cited two other issues as having a role in its dismissal of the application, including that Elkhorn Industries does not own the entire waterfront property necessary to complete the proposed project and could not legally apply for work on the property it does not own.


-- Andrew Slade, Minnesota Environmental Partnership,  218-727-0800

-- Lyman Welch, Alliance for the Great Lakes,  312-445-9739 ,

Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) is a statewide network founded in 1998 to strengthen the effectiveness and build the power of our members to achieve the highest quality natural environment for Minnesotans.  A partnership of more than 70 organizations, MEP helps groups work together for clean water, clean energy and conservation investments through policy initiatives, public education and community events.

Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest Great Lakes organization in North America. Our mission is to: conserve and restore the world's largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife. More about the Alliance for the Great Lakes is online at

Lyman C. Welch | Water Quality Program Director |
Alliance for the Great Lakes |
17 N. State Street, Suite 1390 | Chicago, IL 60602 |  312.445.9739

Originally posted to LakeSuperior on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 01:29 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, Climate Change SOS, and Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No, no, no, a thousand times no. Allowing this (10+ / 0-)

    transport of poison across the Great Lakes would be like floating a you-know-what across a punch bowl.

    It's almost four years later and here in MI we are still cleaning up what was called a small oil spill from a ruptured pipeline that was operated by Enbridge Oil, another Canadian oil operation.  Those who are still working along the Kalamazoo River claim they will be there for several years longer.

    Many ships have gone down in our legendary and infamous Great Lakes storms.  We do not want this sludge in our fresh water supply.  No Asian carp and no oil spills, please.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 01:54:28 PM PST

  •  DNR's decision (7+ / 0-)

    I attended the hearing and spoke against granting the permit. The notice materials identified that part of the location is historic lakebed, and that a parallel matter sought long term lease for the area of lakebed. (Wisconsin constitional language makes it part of Wisconsin waters and as such is public, not private, property) Such grant of lease is supposed to be supported by public interest for the lease. Is there anything more from the DNR decision to explain the facts upon which the underlying "ownership" was relevant to the application?

  •  Asian carp AND crude/bitumen oil products (6+ / 0-)

    ...what could possibly go wrong?

    As a property owner on the Seaway I have a dog in this hunt.

    Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

    by riverlover on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 02:33:13 PM PST

  •  On framing....this issue should be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, jorogo, WisVoter

    pursued with the dual frame:

    1.  First time ever shipment of tar sands in Great Lakes marine operations.

    2.  Potential for significantly increased marine liquid hydrocarbon/crude traffic of all types.

    •  Framing; for who are you framing? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I am not sure who you have in mind for a target audience. The permit application just reviewed was for a dock wall repair. The DNR was not looking at a request for shipping dilbit on this request. If the DNR was your audience, then I am not sure that this frame is a winner going forward. I am also skeptical that it is a winner in local politics. Enbridge (the pipeline) is a big dog, locally, and Calument (the refinery) is perhaps the biggest dollar local payroll. Elkhorn, is a secondary name for a local trucking company operator, who is also then a big fish in this small pond. Enbridge, which usually just gets its way, is being fought by some local organic farm operators,(Carlton County, MN, a few miles west), and Enbridge apparently is changing some of its plans because of the opposition. But their opposition was not one dimensional, and they dug into the weeds enough to identify and address the rules of decision. It seems like there is a lot more than these two frames if this shipping terminal is a serious proposal and there is real desire to stop it.

  •  Election (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Walker will approve this after re-election or if the election is a done deal win or lose by a large margin. In other words this year is the best government we will have in Wisconsin under complete Republican control - and it will still be among the worst in the nation.

    The report will take as long as necessary for the big bucks to fall through the coin slot into Republican campaigns and not a minute longer. Pay for Play on steroids.

  •  Enbridge is also working (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisVoter, LakeSuperior

    to complete a plan by mid-2015 to pump dilbit through its Line 61, a 42 inch diameter pipeline which runs across the entire length of Wisconsin from Superior and into Illinois, with a planned flow rate of 1.2 million barrels per day. The controversial Keystone XL pipeline, by comparison, has a proposed flow rate of 830 thousand BPD. This past summer, there has been constant construction activity along Line 61 where it crosses Wisconsin's Central Sands region where I live, to install the increased pumping capacity for the plan. The line runs about a quarter mile from my home.

    Far worse is that Line 61 crosses the Fox River watershed, at least 8 tributaries of, and the Fox River itself near the French Creek State Wildlife Area, within a couple miles of John Muir's boyhood home. Any spill here would contaminate thousands of acres of some of America's best-preserved wetlands, possibly dwarfing the Kalamazoo spill in both spill rate and the sheer amount of wetlands threatened.

    And that wouldn't be Enbridge's first spill in this area. On July 27, 2012, Enbridge Line 14, a 24" pipeline which runs parallel with Line 61, spilled 1,729 barrels of crude oil in New Chester Township in Adams County, contaminating soil and 2 ponds, but by sheer good fortune was not near any flowing bodies of water or wetlands. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) lists the cause for that spill as unknown.

    Without a seismic shift in public awareness and involvement, these transportation plans will continue, constantly shifting the push from one form or route to another, flying under the radar and unmentioned in almost all media, while our efforts are distracted to just the latest dangerous proposals. They're literally building a network of options too complex to oppose with any meaningful focus. While we're busy trying to stop one, another's already being built with virtually no publicity.

    "All war is stupid" - JFK

    by jorogo on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 09:48:17 AM PST

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