On Saturday, the newly formed Rusk County WiSE hosted a forum in Ladysmith to describe concerns around the potential new Line 66 pipeline. Most concerns center on the potential for eminent domain abuse and the local impacts of a spill.
The event kicked off with a viewing of one of the videos from the new series People Over Pipelines: Wisconsin Families Working to Protect Our Homes and Communities. The series features a different family each week through the end of the year telling their story about their experiences living with the current pipeline corridor (some have had difficult negotiations with Enbridge in the past; others living near pipeline spills), and their concerns about another pipeline. The video that was shown featured Jule and Lorene Reisner, of Ladysmith, telling their story. The video can be viewed online here.
Following the video that captured the Reisners’ story of Enbridge playing games and trying to take advantage of them, Lorene explained why, this time, they are looking towards working together with other landowners throughout the state:
We were young, we were stubborn, and we were willing to stand up to Enbridge. Not everyone is in that same boat. That’s why we all have to come together to fight a new pipeline or land taking
One of the big differences if Enbridge plans another pipeline through Wisconsin this time, is they will need to get more land in order to do it. When Lakehead (the company acquired by Enbridge) put in the first pipeline, they obtained an 80-foot easement. This allowed them to add three more pipelines to the easement since then in land they already owned (they needed to get permission for workspace, the struggle that the Reisner’s explain). Now, however, that 80-feet is full. For the next pipeline, they would need to obtain more land. Keith Merkel, of 80 Feet is Enough! explained the concerns of Enbridge using eminent domain to take this land, and the history of the legalization of eminent domain for private gain:
Some states have moved to protect property rights from oil companies. In Wisconsin, we haven’t seen that leadership here. Instead, the legislature made it easier for Enbridge to take our land. Hopefully that changes.
He touched on the five counties that have passed resolutions calling for eminent domain reform. There were questions and information about why we believe that Enbridge will start moving forward on another pipeline, despite their denial. In addition to their statements to their investors about a new pipeline, Enbridge’s work to change our eminent domain laws for their benefit, and the surveying done in 2014, the biggest indicator is Enbridge’s plans to build the Line 3 Replacement project in Northern Minnesota. This project will bring more oil into Superior, creating the need for another pipeline to move that oil. Winona LaDuke, Paul DeMain, and Paul Blackburn founder, chair, and attorney (respectively) of Honor the Earth called into the meeting to give an update about the process the plans moving forward in Minnesota.
Despite unprecedented opposition to the pipeline, ten intervenors, and over 1,000 pages of opposition briefs, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted in June to grant Enbridge permission to move forward on the pipeline. Winona explained their plans to appeal and try to change the decision through the appeals process, but ultimately feel let-down by the system-in-place. Camps on the pipeline route have already been formed and Winona described that the City of Duluth is looking at purchasing riot gear (even though there have been no threats or indication in any way of violence). They concluded with a reminder to us that stopping Line 3 will stop Line 66 and vice-versa.
The event concluded with scientist, canoer, author, and river enthusiast, Jim Kurz, describing what we know about tar sands oil spills. He explained what we learned from the Kalamazoo Spill and the recent National Academies of Sciences report about what happens when a spill occurs:
What first happens when a spill exposes dilbit to air is that, because the diluent part is more like gasoline, it evaporates as a toxic plume; just the benzene part of the diluent can cause cancer and birth defects and rose to 500 times the hazardous limit above the Kalamazoo. The residue, the tarlike bitumen will never evaporate and, if in one of our rivers, sinks, coating plants and animals as it moves down. We have no good ways of removing this tar from a river and may not be able to develop them.
Sawyer County near Exeland had a tar sands pipeline rupture on dry land in 2007. This was caused by a construction error, not pipeline corrosion. We were lucky that it did not happen closer to the Weirgor River.
He reminded us of the importance of some of the rivers crossed by the pipeline in Ladysmith (the Yellow, Thornapple, Chippewa, Flambeau, and Jump Rivers) and how much a permanent spill like the Kalamazoo could impact the local economy. The panel was dynamic and covered a wealth of information. At the end, there was a call for people to get involved to work together to stop the pipeline and eminent domain abuse.