Enbridge asks Wisconsin to Approve Another Segment for Oil Pipeline

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According to BismarckTribune.com, a 14-mile section of Enbridge Energy company’s “sandpiper” oil pipeline project could be built in northern Wisconsin. Enbridge Energy have reportedly asked Wisconsin officials to approve the final piece of its 610-mile project.

The company said the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline stretching from North Dakota to northwestern Wisconsin will give Midwest refiners greater access to domestic oil. Enbridge has said it needs approval for a 30-inch underground pipeline and that it wants to begin construction on it in 2016. The proposed project would transport 375,000 barrels of crude each day.

North Dakota officials have already approved their state’s section of the pipeline, while officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin are still reviewing the proposal. County boards in Dane, Jefferson and Wood counties have voted in opposition to the project, or have asked the Department of Natural Resources to conduct a full environmental analysis.

Enbridge’s preferred route would affect nearly 120 acres of wetlands in a region that’s vital for migrating birds and animals around the western tip of Lake Superior.

Several groups have expressed concern about Enbridge’s track record, which includes spills in Michigan and Wisconsin. A ruptured Enbridge line spilled nearly 850,000 barrels of oil in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Two years later, 1,200 barrels spilled near Grand Marsh in Adams County. A barrel is 42 gallons.

Jeffrey Wise, assistant administrator for pipeline safety at the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said the pipeline was “hazardous to life, property and the environment” because of Enbridge’s failure to take corrective measures to ensure safety.

An Enbridge spokeswoman said the company has spent $4 billion to improve prevention, detection, emergency response and new technologies within the past two years.

The Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing on Aug. 25 to discuss potential environmental consequences of the pipeline. A second hearing will be held after the department conducts an analysis.

Meanwhile, Minnesota regulators opened the door Thursday to considering an all-new route for Enbridge Energy’s proposed Sandpiper crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

Over the objections of the Calgary-based pipeline company, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously agreed to study a southern route proposed by a state agency to avoid the headwaters of the Mississippi River and a large swath of lakes, wetlands and wild rice areas.

The $2.6 billion project is designed to bring North Dakota crude oil to Enbridge’s terminals at Clearbrook, Minn., and Superior, Wis., and promises more than 1,500 temporary construction jobs and the potential to reduce the amount of oil moving on trains.

Regulators didn’t toss out Enbridge’s original plan, but decided that one suggested by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency deserved to be studied as a potential alternative. That review will take months, and the final choice of routes won’t happen until next year.

The decision on Thursday came after five hours of testimony from various interests, including environmental groups who oppose Enbridge’s plans and unions who wanted no further delay. About 45 anti-pipeline activists protested outside the commission’s office in St. Paul before the hearing began.

“It has highlighted some serious environmental, human, socioeconomic and cultural as well as legal issues,’’ said Commissioner Dan Lipschultz.

The commission left the door slightly open on seven other alternative routes that Enbridge opposed, some of which don’t go where the company intends to deliver crude oil. Regulators plan to collect more information and public comments about those routes, and decide later whether they could meet the need to transport oil to market.

“We are reasonably pleased,” said Richard Smith, president of the Friends of the Headwaters, a Park Rapids-based group formed last year to oppose the pipeline through that area.

It was a setback for Enbridge, which said all the alternate routes would be longer and more costly and considering them could delay the pipeline by three years. The company had hoped to have it in operation in 2016.

“We need more time to digest the outcome of the proceedings,” Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little said after the decision. “We are open to a process that is efficient and transparent but at the same time keeps the need and purpose of the project at the forefront.”

Enbridge agreed to submit a report on its safety record to an administrative judge who is reviewing the project.

Besides the controversial all-new routes, the commission agreed to study 53 modifications proposed by landowners, environmental groups and others to Enbridge’s preferred route. Enbridge didn’t oppose that process, which is standard in pipeline and transmission projects.

Potentially thousands of people along the alternative southern route now will be contacted, so they know the study is underway and their property might be affected. That route would parallel existing natural gas and petroleum pipelines.

Enbridge’s proposed route for the Sandpiper project takes a Z-shaped path through northern Minnesota. From North Dakota, it runs into Clearbrook, Minn., turns south toward Park Rapids along existing crude oil pipelines, and then east to Superior.

That route has been criticized by environmental groups and two state environmental agencies.

Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, an environmental group that opposes Enbridge’s planned route, said it puts at risk her organic wild rice operation on Lower Rice Lake in Clearwater County. “Our water is worth more than their oil,” LaDuke said.

But Kevin Pranis of the Minnesota/North Dakota Laborers’ Union, whose members stand to get jobs on the project, spoke against studying alternatives that “don’t make a lot of sense” because they don’t take oil where Enbridge intends to deliver it.

Pranis said North Dakota oil already is moving through Minnesota — on trains every day.

“That poses in my mind significantly greater risks,” he said. “The standards in place for rail lines, even the new ones being put in place for tank cars, are nowhere near the standards in place for pipelines.”

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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