350 Madison 350 Madison, August 17, 2017

By Elizabeth Ward, Sierra Club, Wisconsin Safe Energy (WiSE) Alliance

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Two weeks ago, Enbridge worked behind the scenes to get a resolution opposing eminent domain for private gain for oil pipelines tabled within a committee of the Wood County Board of Supervisors. Landowners in Marshfield got together to strategize and organize and attended the committee that had tabled the resolution to ask them to reconsider. When they wouldn’t, a county board supervisor who was in the audience stood up and declared if that committee wouldn’t take up the resolution, his committee would! In 36 hours, 80 Feet Is Enough!‘s Mark Borchardt and Keith Merkel turned out a half-dozen landowners to tell their stories. The committee unanimously approved the resolution, and it moved on to the full Board of Supervisors.

Over the weekend, we  got word that Enbridge was working around the clock to stop this resolution. We even heard rumors that they had threatened to stop donating to programs in the county. On Tuesday, with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, nine landowners (with an additional 10 cheering them on from the audience), two veterans, and three other concerned community members spoke. Despite attempts by board members to table the question, send it back to committee, and or make other parliamentary moves to stop the resolution, the board voted 10-8 to support the resolution!

 

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On the surface, this may seem like a small victory, but it’s a MONUMENTAL win for the landowners who came out in force and told their stories succinctly and powerfully, and an ENORMOUS defeat for Enbridge in its attempt to simultaneously block an effort to protect landowners and deny any plans for future pipelines. This was the first time in over a year that Enbridge has pulled out all the stops, and they lost!

The Back Story

While Enbridge continues to deny any intention to build a new pipeline through Wisconsin, calculations of an increasing glut of oil flowing into Superior, Wisconsin, tell a different story. What’s more, up until January of this year, the company’s presentations to investors included a slide of a map showing a Line 61 “Twin” (see page 13 of this Enbridge investor report). According to 80 Feet Is Enough! founder Mark Borchardt, “Once we learned of that slide, once we started sharing it, that slide got pulled from the presentation.”

The power to exercise eminent domain in Wisconsin, formerly reserved to “corporations,” was granted to “business entities” – a category that includes Enbridge – as an 11th-hour insertion in the 2015 Wisconsin budget. Enbridge has been shown to have had a hand in crafting the change.

“What we want is reform of eminent domain law so that Enbridge, a privately owned company, does not have this hammer of eminent domain over us,” said Borchardt.

Many supporters of the resolution said they already have four Enbridge pipelines on their property, and one more would take away the use of most of their land. “I really find it strange that a private company from Canada that’s here for profit can run these pipelines through our country,” said Margy Hansen of Marshfield.

Supporters say they’ll continue fighting to get the laws changed.

Celebrate!

HUGE congratulations to everyone, and a special shout-out to Mark Borchardt, who led the effort, calmly responding to accusations of lying and being misinformed with reasoned and researched facts, and to everyone who spoke in favor of the resolution – they were all articulate, passionate, and moving.

Media Coverage

For more, check out these links (and feel free to share!):

  • WAOW
  • WZAW
  • WQOW
  • WPR (“We want the state Legislature to pass and we want the governor to sign a new statute that gives landowners’ property values back,” [Mark Borchardt] said. “Property rights are the foundation of American liberty.”)
  • Wisconsin Rapids Tribune (“I’m not against pipelines,” said Margy Hansen, one of the first to speak. “I am a concerned tax-paying homeowner, not an activist.”)
  • Wisconsin Rapids City Times (“This is a massive move forward to reform property rights in this state,” said 80 Feet is Enough Organizer Mark Borchardt. “Right now throughout the country, state by state, there’s this eminent domain law that allows the forcible taking of someone’s property for private companies.”)

 

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Tar Sands Campaign

The Tar Sands Campaign is fighting Enbridge tar sands pipelines in Wisconsin. Our aims are to block expansion of Line 61 and to halt plans for an adjacent Line 66. We support efforts led by those most impacted, including tribes, landowners, and affected community members.

Divestment Campaign

2016 was the hottest year on record. The Divestment Team focuses on convincing institutions that investments in fossil fuel are not only ethically and fiscally irresponsible, but are literally wrecking the planet we call home—all for profit. Banks are our current focus since without their support, dirty pipeline projects can't get funded.

Community Energy Campaign

The Community Energy Team is focused on taking action on and responsibility for our own fossil fuel use. We work to create and change policies that impact our energy use and nurture a culture of reducing energy use and using clean, renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint.