The 350 Madison Tar Sands Team mobilizes to stop new oil pipelines from being built in Wisconsin and to get existing pipelines decommissioned and removed. We work with landowners, environmentalists, tribes, and anyone who shares our goals. We oppose the use of eminent domain for private gain and laws that criminalize peaceful protest.
Our aim is to stop the flow of tar sands oil through the Midwest by denying extractive industries a means to get the oil to markets via pipelines. In this way, we are helping to defuse the “carbon bomb” that climate scientist James Hansen stated would mean “game over for the climate.” Our current priority is to #ShutDownLine5.
Line 5: Moving Oil from Canada back to Canada, via Wisconsin
The Line 5 pipeline transports synthetic crude oil from Superior, Wisconsin, through Michigan and ultimately to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. Built in 1953, this aging pipeline is owned by Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company. Much of the oil originates in the oil sands of Alberta, transported from there to Superior via Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper pipeline. Thus, despite the company’s penchant for giving different pipeline segments different names, Line 5 and the Alberta Clipper are in actuality one pipeline that carries oil from Edmonton to Sarnia. Wisconsin is just a shortcut Enbridge uses to move Canadian oil from Canada back to Canada. For our state, it’s all risk—no reward.
A 12-mile portion of the pipeline bisects the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which borders Lake Superior. Several of the easements that allowed Enbridge to use the tribal territory expired in 2013, and the tribe demanded that the company remove the pipeline—not just from their territory, but from the entire watershed. Enbridge refused, and the Bad River Band filed a federal lawsuit.
Understanding that it will likely lose this legal challenge, Enbridge is seeking state approval of an alternative route. But the company’s proposed course just barely skirts the edge of the Bad River Reservation, such that any spill would contaminate the watershed that feeds into the area’s many rivers. The health and livelihoods of tribal members, the region’s wildlife and wetlands, and Lake Superior’s coastline are all at risk as long as Line 5 is allowed to continue operating in the area.
Why We Must #ShutDownLine5
Enbridge’s plan to reroute Line 5 around the Bad River Reservation raises issues of tribal sovereignty, environmental racism, climate change, eminent domain, and disaster prevention.
- Tribal sovereignty and environmental racism. We find it appalling that Enbridge is seeking to override the treaty rights and the wishes of the Bad River Band and put its water, land, and wild rice beds at risk even as we’re witnessing the largest movement for racial justice in our history. We #StandWithBadRiver.
- Climate change. With the IPCC telling us we have barely a decade in which to maybe, just maybe, avoid the very worst impacts of climate change, it’s nothing short of mad to be investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure. We say #NoNewPipelines!
- Eminent domain. Enbridge is asking the Public Service Commission to grant it the authority to appropriate private land for the new segment of Line 5. We say #NoEminentDomainForPrivateGain!
- Spills—not a question of if, but when. 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. Line 5 is estimated to have spilled at least 1.13 million gallons of oil in 29 incidents since 1968. A rupture of the proposed new Line 5 segment at the crossing of the Bad River would shoot toxic oil down the waterfalls of Copper Falls State Park, into the Bad River Reservation and the Kakagon Sloughs, the source of wild rice for the Bad River Band. From there, it would pour into Lake Superior. Enbridge is asking us to prioritize the continuing transport of oil through our state over the protection and preservation of the largest freshwater lake on the planet. We say no! We must protect our water — #WaterIsLife!
Calls to decommission Line 5 are also coming from Michigan, where the pipeline crosses the Straits of Mackinac, creating a risk of a catastrophic spill into the Great Lakes. Environmental groups, tribes, and Michigan’s governor and attorney general are locked in a protracted battle with Enbridge, demanding that the company remove the pipeline from the Straits. This spill simulation shows how an oil spill beneath the Straits could devastate Great Lakes ecology, wildlife, and coastal communities.
Video: University of Michigan Water Center
In the words of Beth Wallace, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Campaigns Manager, we can’t continue to play Russian Roulette with the Great Lakes. It’s time to #ShutDownLine5!
The 350 Madison Tar Sands Team has been working to block Enbridge’s Midwest tar sands invasion for more than five years, with outsized success:
- We played a decisive role in Dane County’s epic battle with Enbridge over the permitting of a pump station to triple the capacity of Line 61. We persuaded the county to impose a precedent-setting cleanup insurance requirement. Enbridge sued, and the case went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The case broke new ground, and the lessons learned informed similar struggles elsewhere.
- Our campaign against the expansion of Line 61 kept that pipeline below full capacity for three years at great cost to Enbridge.
- We were one of the founding members of the Wisconsin Safe Energy (WiSE) Alliance, which was established to provide a “big tent” under which people could come together to fight pipelines.
- We promote the Wisconsin Easement Action Team, which provides legal support to landowners anticipating the loss of land to eminent domain for Enbridge’s private gain.
- We collaborate with allies across the Midwest to meet Enbridge’s regional ambitions with regional resistance.
We’re at a critical and promising point in our movement to rid the Midwest of oil pipelines. Tribal leaders, rural landowners, farmers, climate activists, environmentalists, youth activists, and other concerned citizens are coming together and finding common ground. To take a stunning example, more than 500 people attended the Department of Natural Resource’s July 2020 online public hearing on a wetlands permit for Enbridge’s Line 5 reroute. The hearing lasted more than five hours, as 73 citizens spoke with passion and eloquence in opposition to the pipeline, while only 6 spoke in favor.
The struggle to move from our fossil fuel past to a just and green future is playing out right in our own backyard. Please join us! There’s a place on our team for anyone with an interest in making a difference; no contribution is too small. Email Phyllis Hasbrouck or click here to get involved.
Photo: Monika Blazs