Resistance to the fossil fuel industry is growing as never before. Standing Rock transfixed the world with its inspiring example of what can happen when people come together to protect land, water, and future generations. Climate deniers may be in power, but thousands of mayors, governors, tribal leaders, CEOs, and university presidents across the U.S. are declaring “We are still in!” on the Paris Climate Agreement. And young people are on the move. One young activist leading the fight against Enbridge’s Line 3 put it this way: “We are leaders of today because we have to be, the world has given us no other option.”
Here in Wisconsin, we’re joining with local, state, and regional allies to block Enbridge’s tar sands expansion.
The Enbridge Octopus
Enbridge, a $130 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, primarily 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’s 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 will soon complete its tripling of Line 61’s capacity from the original 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million bpd—45% more than the Keystone XL and 155% more than the Dakota Access Pipeline.
But Enbridge’s plans don’t stop with Line 61. The company has conducted surveys for a Line 61 “Twin” (aka Line 66) that would carry an additional 800,000 bpd through the same corridor. Plans for a Line 61 Twin appeared in Enbridge’s 2015 and 2016 investor reports.
Enbridge currently denies any intention to build a new pipeline and has removed mention of the “Twin” from its reports, but astute observers can see that without a “Twin,” a glut of oil will back up in Superior, Wisconsin. Upgrades to existing pipelines will increase the flow of oil into Superior by 350,000 bpd. Enbridge’s so-called Line 3 “replacement,” currently under review in Minnesota, would add an additional 535,000 bpd. This means a total of 885,000 bpd of additional oil seeking a way through Wisconsin on its way south. As one observer put it, “They may have deleted the slide [in their investor presentations] that talks about the pipeline, but you can’t delete the basic arithmetic.” What’s more, the fate of Enbridge’s Line 5 is uncertain. Line 5 crosses the Straits of Mackinac—narrow waterways connecting Lakes Michigan and Huron—and as people grasp the implications of a possible spill into the Great Lakes, outcry is growing. One of the alternatives to Line 5 suggested by a recent study would reroute the oil through Wisconsin. So it looks overwhelmingly likely that a new Line 66 is coming.
Were the existing Line 61 and the proposed Line 66 to reach full capacity, 2 million barrels of tar sands oil would flow through Wisconsin each day. While the overseas oil markets would see the benefits, Wisconsin and other Midwestern states would take all the risks. Enbridge was responsible for more than 800 spills between 1999 and 2010, 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).
350 Madison vs. Enbridge
350 Madison has played a pivotal 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 nearly three years, reducing tar sands transport through Wisconsin by approximately 350 million barrels (14 billion gallons), at a cost to Enbridge of approximately $850 million.
The Way Forward
We are working with key grassroots partners to mobilize resistance to Enbridge’s “all risk—no reward” plans for Wisconsin and the entire Great Lakes region. Our goal is to build this resistance into a broad, sustainable coalition determined to stand in the way of Line 66 and any further Enbridge expansion. The movement is growing: Rural landowners, farmers, tribal leaders, climate activists, environmentalists, youth activists, and other concerned citizens are coming together and finding common ground.
Click here to learn more.