Jefferson County Residents Seize Control of Enbridge Line 61 Hearing

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Jefferson, WI - Enbridge knew that the residents of Jefferson County, Wisconsin, were starting to catch on to the dangers of their proposed Line 61 tar sands pipeline expansion. So, in an attempt to create positive PR, Enbridge called for an event Tuesday night at the local Fort Community Credit Union called “Coffee and Conversation” in order to answer questions about the project. Enbridge set the agenda as well as the scope of the hearing, so nobody knew what to expect from the meeting. Nobody knew, that is, until the people of Jefferson County seized control of the event and turned it into a real public hearing.

Two Jefferson Police Officers greeted people as they entered the venue where the hearing was taking place. It was later determined the officers’ time was paid for by Enbridge officials. Some of us wondered why Enbridge felt that police presence was necessary at a friendly PR event. 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.

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.

Once the chairs were all placed everyone sat down and started asking tough questions of Enbridge officials. Most of the residents’ questions were answered with canned company talking points, not taken seriously, or in some cases completely ignored, as was the case when a representative of Enbridge was asked to explain the chemical make-up of the diluent used by the company to help transport thick tar sands. The company officials never gave a straight answer to this question. Finally another woman, despite attempts by an Enbridge official to halt her, revealed the toxic ingredients in the diluent to a horrified room.

Residents brought up many valid reasons to oppose or question the pipeline expansion, but one thing was for certain; the entire room, with one visible exception, was opposed to the pipeline’s expansion or needed more questions answered. Not surprising for a project that would expand Line 61 to carry a far bigger tar sands payload than the Keystone XL, which itself has been delayed multiple times due to fierce resistance. Why then has there only been one public hearing in Superior, Wisconsin on Line 61? Because Enbridge doesn’t want this pipeline to be delayed the same way as Keystone XL so they’ve stealthily moved the pipeline forward in hopes of avoiding the same scrutiny. As the standing room only crowd at this hearing can attest, the people of Wisconsin are not happy about such corporate trickery, and are not about to back down. As Enbridge officials were wrapping up the event, a chant rose from the back of the room:

“Put the people before the profits!”

Grilling Enbridge on Line 61 Expansion from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

Meme courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade.

Meme courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade.

To continue to follow this story LIKE “Stop the Expansion of Enbridge’s Line 61 Tar Sands Pipeline in Wisconsin” on Facebook.

The entire “Coffee and Conversation” with Enbridge Hearing was captured on Ustream and can be watched here. The broadcast was started about 30 minutes into the hearing.

9 thoughts on “Jefferson County Residents Seize Control of Enbridge Line 61 Hearing

  1. Susan Marks

    Community rights movement is giving citizens a chance to know when they are getting screwed over by corporations and do something about it. Nice job Jefferson citizens on pulling together and calling out this scam. Divide and conquer is how the frac sand companies overwhelmed Trempealeau County in Wisconsin. It’s all a great resource heist. Something the US has been doing for decades.

  2. Adrian Shiner

    You people in the USA need to understand that Employees of Companies are not law enforcement officers to be obeyed or followed blindly……. More of this sort of action is needed in the absence of effective environment controls.

  3. Jared Howe

    Well done, residents of Jefferson county. We really need to get the word out that this is bigger than Keystone XL. Power to the people!

  4. Jennifer Davis

    I agree with everything you’re saying, Susan, except it is not the US that has been doing this. The government might be allowing it to happen, but it is foreign corporations that are doing most of the “heisting”. Enbridge, for example, Is Canadian. The problem seems to be that little of the money these corporations make, go to the government so they are not reinvested in this country. If any goes to the government, it is in the form of campaign contributions which then makes the politician beholden to the corporation for favors…. and the cycle embeds itself deeper. You are so right about divide and conquer, though. It is working on every front right now as we tear our country apart. So sad.

  5. Gracie

    We’re fighting Enbridge here in BC too. We had a panel hearing that traveled around the province and listened to well over 1000 submissions, only a very few maybe a dozen were in favour of the pipeline. In spite of that the panel deemed the pipeline good to go. Of course the whole panel exercise was a waste of money because it was pre-arranged to come out in favour of Enbridge. There are thousands of us that are willing to get on the line with our first nations brothers and sisters to stop this thing. Yes Enbridge is kind of a Canadian company, but I think its also owned by the Chinese who want the BC pipeline to go through. Please don’t blame the Canadian people we are in the same situation as Jefferson County and Kalamazoo and the people on the Gulf of Mexico, we all have to get together to fight these companies and the governments that support them.

  6. nonquixote

    Thanks for this piece, first noticed it at Popular Resistance site.

    1. Dilbit is heading for refining to be shipped overseas. This is not making us any more energy independent. Renewables of the highest order of prioitization are the only way to begin reaching that goal or having a chance of reducing the negative effects of our carbon footprint.
    2. Walker appointee DNR Secretary Stepp should be called on to resign immediately and forfeit all current wages and future benefits. Walker>Stepp>Environmental destruction for privateer profits.
    3. The DNR is not a business partner, it is supposed to be a business regulator. WEDC is supposed to be a business partner. Walker FAILURES and LIES.

    Shout it out people. Citizen Action in Albuquerque worth studying. 40 citizens shot by out-of-control police since 2010. Citizens take over a City Counsel meeting and a week later sit-in demanding to speak with the mayor. A lot covered and a lot to learn from.

    Peace and Resolve

  7. Janice Redford

    I attended the meeting in Jefferson in 2014, now we all need to attend the March 19 meeting in Lake Mills. At least we can tell Enbridge that we are still here watching them.

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