Enbridge Energy has announced plans to expand their pipeline, Line 61, which cuts through Wisconsin, carrying a mixture of oil, including toxic tar sands oil, making the risks much greater (map source: Sierra Club of Wisconsin).
Few people realize that a pipeline called Line 61 carries toxic tar sands oil right down the middle of Wisconsin. Even fewer know that its owner, a foreign company called Enbridge, is trying to triple Line 61′s capacity, so that it would carry more tar sands oil than the notorious Keystone XL.
This is because so far the company’s plans have received very little public scrutiny — but that is beginning to change.
On June 12th, the Dane County Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for a local public hearing, as well as a full environmental impact statement. It followed the lead of neighboring Jefferson County, making it the second county crossed by Line 61 to demand a change in the piecemeal, secretive way that the project has been moving ahead thus far. On the same day, 18 Wisconsin State Legislators sent a letter to Secretary Stepp of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources calling for full environmental impact statements and public hearings on Enbridge’s energy plan.
Tripling the flow through Line 61 is something we should all be concerned about. This letter to the editor by Ronnie Monroe of Wisconsin Tar Sands Action Coalition discusses the pipeline, Enbridge’s spotty safety record, and the risks of the proposed expansion.
“It was a little gray house, with a big yard. This is how my daughter summed up our existence, in a 7th grade haiku. She summed it up pretty accurately. Lots of good times in that small house with the big yard. We knew there was a pipeline on the hill behind the house, because it was the one clear area where the kids would take their sleds for a downhill ride. It was just a plain old pipeline. In 1993, we sold the home with all the memories, moving Up North for a while. We returned to Lake Mills in 2006, to find a large construction project going on near our former home. Huge pipes were being installed. We assumed they were upgrading. Tar sands were not on our horizon yet. In our hurried rush to move into our new home east of Lake Mills, we missed the ONE public meeting, held in Portage. That was the one and only public information meeting on the pipeline.
In recent weeks, I have learned that this pipeline, which was once so unassuming, is now bigger than Keystone XL. At 42 inches in diameter, it dwarfs Keystone XL by a foot. When up to full capacity it will carry 1.2 million barrels of ‘North American Crude’ which is the code name for tar sands or dilbit, bitumen, a heavy, thick tar like substance that requires it be diluted with hydrochloric acid, benzene and a host of proprietary chemicals that are a trade secret. It will carry 30% more tar sands than Keystone XL. A barrel contains 42 gallons, by my math, that is over 55 million gallons of tar sands oil that will traverse Wisconsin on any given day. The pipe must be heated to 158 degrees for this to remain fluid enough to travel through the pipeline. It must be pressurized to 1400 psi (pounds per square inch). Dilbit corrodes pipelines 3 times faster than regular crude.
This pipeline slices Wisconsin in half, from Superior to Delavan, where it splits and proceeds to Flanagan IL. In our area, it crosses the Maunesha River between Marshall and Waterloo in Dane County, crosses Hwy. B in Jefferson County, and runs along Zeloski Marsh, to the Lake Mills Wildlife area, proceeding to the Rock River where it crosses it at the heron rookery just on the north end of Lake Koshkonong. It passes very close to people’s home and to Jefferson County’s heritage farms, threatening farmland, not to mention Wisconsin’s treasured waters.
Jefferson and Dane County receives no compensation for hosting this pipeline, which contains, Canadian oil owned by global corporations, including Chinese corporations. What we are on the receiving end of is risk. Tremendous risk, for no gain. This pipeline also impacts us, by property devaluation as well. This pipeline is a threat to our water and our land, possibly our safety. This pipeline is an even greater threat to our democracy if it is allowed to proceed. It seems that this enormous pipeline rather clandestinely made its appearance in 2007. No one seems to know if an Environmental Impact Study was done to evaluate the consequences of a spill anywhere along its course. In its course, this pipeline crosses pretty much every important river we have, including the Flambeau and the Wisconsin. It runs dangerously close to several lakes, and right through wildlife refuges and waterfowl breeding grounds. It runs right next to homes, through farms and golf course subdivisions. It also seems to have run OVER our democracy. Local officials don’t seem to know much about how this pipeline appeared. There is some question as to whether all small town first responding units actually even know what is in the pipeline. It seems that no one really knew what this pipe was intended for, except Enbridge, who states they designed it to carry tar sands. Surprise, surprise! A another surprise, there are actually FOUR pipelines in that easement. None of them small, at 24, 34, 42 inches, and even a return pipeline at 20 inches, running north, to return dilutent to Alberta.
The more I read about Enbridge, the more concerned I became. I learned that Enbridge the company that owns this pipeline has had over 800 spills on their lines from 1999 to 2010. A spill on the Kalamazoo River in Marshall MI, in 2010, still has not been cleaned up despite almost $1 billion spent. Tar sands sink. Traditional methods of cleanup do not work with tar sands.
No one wants a tar sands pipeline in their back yard. No one. Enbridge’s design to run their multiple lines through, under and around the Great Lakes, which contain 95% of our nation’s fresh water supply is a dangerous and short sighted plan, which only provides for profit for Big Oil, leaving the people of the nation to bear the risk.
Contact your State and Local officials or join a grassroots group.
Wisconsin is OUR land, and this is OUR water, and OUR democracy, and we need to demand it back.”