Landowners team up and get ready

The second half of April and all of May were with building a strong resistance to a new tar sands pipeline.  Enbridge continued laying the groundwork for their Line 61-twin or Line 66pipeline.  While they continue to deny any “immediate plans” to build the pipeline, landowners throughout the state have been receiving calls and letters for ‘surveys’.  As the Wisconsin Easement Action Team explains:

It is clear the survey is targeting landowners along the pipeline route, even new landowners who would be in the next pipeline path.  Though the phone surveyors say they don’t know who is funding it, a survey specific to landowners along the line only benefits Enbridge, so they are likely behind it.  This is yet another sign that they are continuing to move forward on the new Line 66 Pipeline.  You’ve probably gotten the survey, but if you haven’t yet, the questions ask about your thoughts on the pipeline, on Enbridge, and on groups like WEAT.

Enbridge’s questions appear to be geared for three goals:

  1. Determine our strengthby finding out how many landowners belong to pipeline opposition groups in Wisconsin
  2. Learn what kinds of messages will workin advertising to turn public opinion in favor of Enbridge and against “selfish” landowners who are NIMBYs (Not In MY Backyard) or “radical” environmentalists.
  3. Collect information on each landowner for their files. As our attorney, Brian Jorde, reminds us pipeline companies divide landowners into groups and go after the ‘easy ones’ first. They also pre-determine the amount of money they can offer to distract us from the fine-print.  Knowing each landowner’s opinions will help Enbridge the next time they need to negotiate for more land.

Despite their plans to figure out the best way to take advantage of landowners and to divide and conquer communities, people in Wisconsin and Illinois have taken a different approach—landowners and community members are teaming up and building partnerships that will stop the pipeline.

Here are some of the highlights from the last month:

WEAT Tour Engages throughout Wisconsin AND Illinois:

At the end of April, WEAT’s attorney, Brian Jorde, flew in from Nebraska for a series of meetings with landowners.  He and WEAT Board Members, (Keith Merkel, Gwen Stone, and Mark Borchardt) spoke about WEAT and the things landowners should be concerned about during negotiations with Enbridge.  This includes things like: 1.) Liability (who is responsible if something happens? Landowners? Enbridge? The Construction workers putting in the pipeline?), 2.) Annual payments instead of a one-time payment, and 3.) How much temporary work space they’ll be allowed to take.

Events were held in Ladysmith, Spencer, Nekoosa, Fort Atkinson, Clinton, and DeKalb.  It was the first WEAT Tour that included Illinois, and WEAT has formally expanded to allow Illinois landowners to join.  Throughout the weekend landowners met each other, recognized similarities in each other’s stories, and began discussing ways they can get their stories out there.

Throughout May, groups met in Rusk and Clark Counties to build on this and start making plans of how they can work together to protect their homes and property rights.


Columbia County Planning and Zoning Committee

In early April, the Columbia County Planning and Zoning Committee proposed changing the permitting requirements in a way that would eliminate all local permitting for pipelines.  If passed, Columbia County would not have a say when Enbridge wants to build the Line 66 pipeline.  It could not ensure that if the pipeline were built, the community and tax payers would be protected from negative impacts.  The proposal was delayed and was on the agenda again the first week of May.

As a result, dozens of landowners called and wrote to their supervisors and many attended the Planning and Zoning Committee hearings. They spoke about their concerns and called on the committee to strengthen, instead of weaken the safeguards in place.  Luckily, the calls, letters, and attendance at the meeting worked!20180501_160350.jpg

The Committee decided to keep the laws the way they are for now and to work later to change them.  Columbia County WiSE is committed to working with the committee to come up with ways to ensure that the residents of Columbia County are protected.

Dane County landowners win their lawsuit

In 2014 Enbridge applied for a permit to build a pumping station in Dane County that would allow their Line 61 pipeline to triple the amount of oil flowing through it.  This was a huge concern for many residents and for the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation (ZLR) Committee, because it’s unprecedented in the U.S. for a tar sands oil pipeline to flow at such a high pressure and with such a high volume.

Given the heightened concerns about a potential spill and the impact on the community (as demonstrated by the Kalamazoo Spill in 2010), the Dane County Zoning Committee required that Enbridge purchase additional insurance that ensures that if there is a spill, Dane County residents won’t be on the hook for paying to clean it up.

An eleventh hour budget change tried to block Dane County from requiring insurance.  Enbridge denies any responsibility for the law change, but they are the only beneficiary of it. Enbridge sued the County for requiring insurance and seven landowners from the impacted region also filed expressing their desire for the spill insurance.  A long court battle ensued.  In February, the Court of Appeals agreed to listen to both sides and weigh in.

On May 24, the Court agreed with the landowners and the county, ruling that they have a right to know they will be protected if and when a spill occurs.


These are just a few of the highlights from the last couple months.

With Enbridge moving forward and possibly getting the greenlight from Minnesota next week, now is the time to continue to build on our momentum.

Now, for the first time, you can show your support for our work by getting a lawn sign that will educate the public and show the strength of our movement!  Learn more here.


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