Most people have heard of the Keystone XL pipeline and the threat it would have posed to the climate and the environment. Much less well known is the fact that the world’s largest pipeline carries toxic tar sands oil right through Wisconsin, including Dane County. 350 Madison invites you to join the fight against tar sands expansion in Wisconsin!
Enbridge, a $42 billion Canadian company, wants to expand its pipeline network throughout the Midwest to transport tar sands from the Canadian boreal forests to the Gulf Coast, likely for export. With aggressive campaigns on the East and West Coasts opposing export plans, Enbridge is seeking to make the Midwest a tar sands freeway to get the oil south.
Enbridge Line 61 travels through Wisconsin from Superior to Delavan (click here for map), then crosses the Illinois state line and continues south to refineries. Enbridge is currently tripling the capacity of Line 61 from the original 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million barrels per day—45% more than the Keystone XL would have carried.
And Enbridge’s plans don’t stop with Line 61. Initial work is under way to “twin” Line 61, creating a new Line 66 in the same corridor that would carry an additional 800,000 bpd. With Line 61 and new Line 66 at full capacity, 2 million barrels of tar sands oil would flow through Wisconsin each day.
While the overseas oil markets will see the benefits, Wisconsin and other Midwestern states will take all the risks. Enbridge has been responsible for more than 800 spills since 1999, including the largest inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history— the 2010 Kalamazoo River disaster. As Kalamazoo made clear, tar sands spills are even more devastating than classic crude oil spills. Tar sands oil must be diluted with toxic chemicals to allow it to flow through a pipeline. With a spill, these chemicals evaporate, sickening people in surrounding areas. Meanwhile, the heavy tar sands oil sinks to the bottom of waterways, making cleanup nearly impossible and exceedingly expensive (for Kalamazoo, $1.2 billion and counting in cleanup costs, a $176 million settlement with the federal government, a $75 million settlement with the state of Michigan, and $5.4 million in reimbursement for federal costs).
Tar sands oil is also far more carbon-polluting than conventional fossil fuels. Top climate scientist James Hansen has said that continued expansion of tar sands extraction means “game over for the climate.”
350 Madison has played a key role in the fight against the Midwest tar sands invasion. In Dane County, our determined intervention convinced the county Zoning and Land Regulation Committee to require Enbridge to obtain special environmental cleanup insurance as a condition for approval of the zoning permit needed to expand Line 61. Shortly thereafter, a new law prohibiting counties from imposing environmental insurance requirements on a pipeline company was inserted into the state budget, passed by the right-wing legislature, and signed into law by Governor Scott Walker. However, 350 Madison’s efforts delayed the Line 61 expansion for 2 years, preventing transport of 1 billion gallons of tar sands at a cost to Enbridge of $1+ billion. Going forward, we’ll continue working to mobilize citizens up and down Line 61 and new Line 66 to say NO to Enbridge’s “all risk—no benefit” plans for Wisconsin and the entire Great Lakes region.
The rejection of the Keystone XL shows the power of the climate movement. Please join us in standing up and saying NO to tar sands!
To learn more…
If you want a quick overview of the Wisconsin tar sands fight, check out this excellent webinar, Wisconsin Pipeline Invasion 101…
… and this outstanding video, Enbridge Tar Sands Pipelines of Wisconsin.
Dan Egan puts Enbridge’s expansion plans for Wisconsin in the context of North American fossil fuel transport and resistance in Part One of an outstanding Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series; Part Two is an in-depth look at the threat Enbridge’s Line 5 poses to the Great Lakes; the series introduction shows pipeline expansion on a map of the continent.
A superb primer on Enbridge and tar sands can be found here. You can learn more about the threat posed by the entire Enbridge system of pipelines (the Enbridge “GXL System”) here. For more on the Kalamazoo River disaster and the hazards of diluted bitumen, see the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of and a 2013 update, The Dilbit Disaster 3 Years Later: Sunken Oil Is Looming Threat to Kalamazoo River.
The map below gives a sense of the grave risks involved in transporting oil. The map shows the 1,000+ crude oil leaks and ruptures reported to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) from January 2010 to May 2015. Not included are spills unrelated to pipelines, such as the catastrophic BP Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010. Click the icon at top left for an explanatory legend.
Source: Jonathan Thompson, “Mapping 7 million gallons of crude oil spills,” High Country News, June 15, 2015.