Line 3 is completed. Now help us make it the last new oil pipeline in the Midwest.

Enbridge’s new Line 3 is the last gasp of a dying industry, an expansion meant to replace an aging pipeline that was operating at reduced capacity. The construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure runs directly counter to the urgent need to shift to renewable energy. Worse, Line 3 carries tar sands oil, which contributes more to climate change than conventional oil. Halting pipelines like Line 3 is necessary to quickly curb carbon emissions by eliminating the ability to  extract fossil fuels. Enbridge has shown itself to be indifferent to the environment countless times, including the July 2010 rupture of their Line 6b, which dumped around a million gallons of toxic oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  Recently it came out that Enbridge has been unable or unwilling to secure adequate “environmental impairment liability” insurance, making the aftermath of a potential major spill even more worrying.

Despite this, the Canadian company Enbridge Energy won the bitterly contested battle over whether Line 3 construction would take place at all, and the pipeline is now finished and transporting tar sands oil. This is a big blow to the Tribes, landowners, environmentalists, and climate activists that so tenaciously  fought the pipeline.  For over 8  years, water protectors fought in the courts, in the streets, and then in the pipeline’s construction zone. 

Enbridge Energy’s route runs from Canada through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin, crossing land where indigenous peoples have hunting,fishing, and gathering rights granted by the 1854 Treaty between the U.S. and Chippewa Tribes.. Foreseeing the environmental destruction the pipeline would cause, Indigenous water protectors resisted and protested at every turn. In response, Enbridge deputized Minnesota police forces, leading to arrests and criminal charges against more than 1000 Water Protectors.

Throughout construction, Enbridge demonstrated how irresponsible they can be, as they neglect their obligation to protect our water, wetlands, and other natural resources.  Winona La Duke (Executive Director of Honor the Earth) wrote this excellent summary of the construction, including the multiple frac-outs. (This is a term for when toxic drilling fluids and suffocating clay break out of the tunnel being bored under a waterway, and get into surface waters and groundwater.) 

LaDuke wrote, “During the hottest summer since the Dust Bowl, Enbridge burned our rivers and wetlands with 28 separate known frac outs of toxic chemicals, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency stood by and pretty much watched it all. Then it took water from municipal water supplies. No one has any idea when those deep aquifers will be replenished, or when Park Rapids might just run out of water.”

One of the most egregious examples of Enbridge’s carelessness was the aquifer breach in which Enbridge willfully violated their permit  to dig 8-10 feet deep. Instead they dug a trench 18 feet deep and then drove pilings 28 feet down, punching into an artesian aquifer in a wetland that relies on that groundwater.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fined Enbridge $32 million for the violation, but most of that was to pay for the aquifer repair, which has so far not been successful.  Only $40,000 was a punitive fine.  Unfortunately, this indifference by Enbridge isn’t new, it’s similar to the landowner stories we have heard about their work here in Wisconsin.  

There is no way to sugarcoat how harmful this will be for our climate, wild rice, and waters.  It requires us to double our efforts to stop Enbridge’s other proposals to build more pipeline infrastructure. 

Enbridge’s success in getting construction on Line 3 off the ground was a discouraging development, but the campaign against it has had some notable victories:

·       Fossil fuels are on the way out, and the tar sands industry is dying. Finance for tar sands extraction and transportation has begun to dry up, thanks in part to the costly opposition that pipelines like Line 3 have faced. The tar sands industry looks more and more financially unrewarding to investors, as well as the source of plenty of bad press. Water Protectors have helped to make tar sands a risky bet as renewables have become increasingly attractive.

·       Line 3 was originally meant to be operational by 2017. The work of activists and Water Protectors forced major delays that cost Enbridge money and bought time for the planet. Forcing Enbridge to rely on the older pipeline forced them to operate at reduced capacity, costing them millions.

·       The bitter fight over Line 3 has been a boon for ongoing divestment campaigns, which has resulted in over $14 billion withdrawn from fossil fuel projects! In some cases, major investors like Harvard University have promised to divest from fossil fuels entirely. This is partly attributable to the high profile of environmental campaigns like the one against Line 3, which have shown fossil fuel companies to be greedy corporate bullies.

All in all, the resistance campaign has led to millions of barrels of oil staying in the ground. Line 3 may be the last of its kind, and we have Water Protectors to thank for that. We now need to work to make sure Enbridge is not allowed to build any new pipelines in Wisconsin.  We know that Enbridge intends to build a twin to Line 61, which cuts diagonally through Wisconsin, from Superior to Delevan.  We depend on supporters to inform us if they learn of any preliminary activities such as seeking new easements or moving pipes into the area.

We also need to help the people of northern Wisconsin solidify resistance, as Enbridge seeks permits for their proposed expansion of their Line 5 pipeline.  This area, rich with water, wetlands, and wild rice, is very much akin to northern Minnesota. The ecological devastation that Enbridge has caused there is a warning and a challenge to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and to our movement.

Hands Across the Sand event targets tar sands threat to the Rock River

Hands Across The Sand offers people a way to link together in their determination to stop the contamination of our waters.  Every year they post pictures of actions across the globe where people line up and hold hands in front of a beloved body of water.  This year, there were nearly 100 events in 6 different countries.  For the past two years, the Rock County chapter of the Wisconsin Safe Energy Alliance (WiSE Alliance) has held an event on the banks of the Rock River. The day kicked-off meeting people at the Farmer’s Market before the event in the afternoon.

190518_TKaiser-tabling-PH, Wes, Mr Farrell,Kate,Paula

The WiSE Alliance crew made scores of new contacts at the Janesville Farmers Market before the event.

Aaron Aegerter, the main speakers and emcee, was born in Janesville, WI, and spent his childhood summer days fishing, catching crayfish in a can, and swimming in the Rock River.  Now he’s concerned about a grave threat to that river, and he’s speaking out.

On Saturday, May 18, Aegerter spoke to a couple dozen people who gathered midday in Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville to call attention to the danger posed by a planned tar sands pipeline that Enbridge wants to route through Wisconsin and Illinois.  He read his guest editorial that was published in the Janesville Gazette before last year’s Hands Across the Sand event. Here are some highlights from it.

Janesville’s Arise Plan and the Arise Now group are investing over $42 million in public and private money to revitalize Janesville’s downtown and riverfront. The car park has been removed, Town Square Park is nearly done, and this year Festival Street will take form, creating huge opportunities for cultural events, fun, jobs and profits.

 But who would come if the Rock River were filled with tar sands oil? Think it can’t happen? Ask the folks along Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, which was fouled by the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history in 2010, when an Enbridge pipeline burst. Tar sands, mixed with toxic chemicals like benzene and hydrogen sulfide, gushed out of a huge gash in the pipe for 17 hours before Enbridge turned it off. The immediate aftermath was horrible; the cleanup took years….

 Who would use the new Outdoor Amphitheater, Fitness Court, Pedestrian Bridge, Water Feature or Riverwalk, if they afforded a view of a blasted, lifeless river with a strong petroleum odor?

Janesville needs to say no to this dangerous pipeline. Across our country, the mood is turning against extreme fossil fuel projects like tar sands and fracking. Pipelines are being delayed and canceled as companies see the public and their investors rejecting these dangerous energy sources and embracing renewables.”

190518_TKaiser-risk banner w casino in background

This photo shows the risk to riverside businesses posed by a new tar sands pipeline that would cross the Rock River.

Rock County Supervisor Wes Davis also spoke about his resolution that the Rock County Board will vote on this Thursday, May 23. The resolution (Page 63 of this document) calls on the WI Legislature to establish a commission to look at the use of eminent domain around the state.  Enbridge worked behind the scenes with the WI State Legislature in 2015 to change the eminent domain laws to make sure they would be eligible to use them, so this is directly related to pipelines.   Please attend if you can.  We’ll have stickers there to identify you as a supporter of the resolution.  Public attendance makes a huge difference in the outcome of County Board votes!

Rock County Board of Supervisors
THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2019-6:00 P.M.
County Board Room/Courtroom H
Fourth Floor/Courthouse East
51 S. Main Street
Janesville, WI 5354

After his talk, Aaron gave a stirring rendition of his original rock anthem “Don’t Risk the Rock,” with help from the crowd.  We are now working to make a studio recording of this great song!

190518_TKaiser-full line-up-cropped

The group lining up along the river in support of protecting it

After lining up along the river, the day ended with participants walking in a circle as Mark Welch drummed and sang an Ojibwe song about the need to honor and protect both water and women.

Thanks to everyone who attended this event or others around the state, country, and globe!

Tar Sands Storytelling Tour

The Clark County Cultural Art Center (CART) is sponsoring an exhibit that demonstrates the story of tar sands from the beginning to the end.  The art exhibit is comprised of ten, 2ft .x 4ft. mixed media panels completed by ten different visual artists from across the state of Wisconsin. Each artist has researched and reflected on one aspect of the often unknown oil pipeline which pumps over 1.2 million barrels of tar sands oil through the state each day. The result is a diverse, powerful, and nuanced look at the oil pipeline story which affects each and every Wisconsinite.

Topics include:

  • Tar sands oil’s difference from traditional oil in the difficulty (possibly impossibility) of cleaning it up, putting the St Croix River, the Namekagon River, the Wisconsin River, the Rock River, and others crossed by pipelines are at risk.
  • Eminent domain for these pipelines force people to give up their land or homes to make room for these pipelines.
  • Recent pipeline approval processes with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Line 3 Pipeline have shown how pipelines jeopardize treaty-protected resources and sacred sites, while regulators fail to include tribal governments in permitting processes.

Artists include: Marjorie Steele Halverson | Anne Jensen | Laura Donovan | Paul Hinsa | Donna Post | Lorenzo Lee Backhaus | Joan Walker | Daniel Torres | Christine Keller | Helen Klebesadel

After opening night, the Wisconsin Youth Network and Sierra Club are sponsoring a tour of the project throughout Wisconsin.People on the Pipeline

Tour Schedule: (click on the link to learn more from each Facebook event)

Opening Day | April 26 | Neillsville | 6:00 PM
Lac Courtes Oreilles College|April 29|10:00 AM
UW- Stevens Point | April 30 | 1:00 PM
UW-Marshfield | April 30 | 5:30 PM
UW-Platteville Baraboo | May 1 | 9:00 AM
UW-Madison | May 2 | 3:00 PM
Gaia Gathering | Madison | May 2
UW-Whitewater | May 3 | 6:30 PM
UW-Green Bay | May 5 | 10:00 AM
UW-Milwaukee | May 6 | 6:30 PM


2018 Year in Review

What a year! We in the Midwest have been organizing against a potential Line 61-Twin, known as the Line 66 Pipeline.  Right after the New Year, landowners met to strategize how they could get their county leaders to speak out about eminent domain abuse.  That kicked off an exciting and impressive year – check out all the incredible work and victories that happened in 2018!

Check out the 2018 Year in Review to see some of the best highlights from last year!  This includes six county boards passed eminent domain resolutions, an incredibly successful video series with over 29,000 views, a precedent-setting Court of Appeals ruling, uniting Wisconsin and Illinois groups into one network, and more.  Read the 2018 Year in Review here. 

2018 Year in Review


Imagine was 2019 will bring!  Contact us if you want to get involved and be part of all the great work!



Seven County Boards have now called for eminent domain reform!

In an incredible week to end the year, TWO more counties have called for eminent domain reform!  This week the Rusk County Board and Columbia County Board called for the prohibition of eminent domain for private gain for oil pipelines. The advisory referendum reads:

NOW, THEREFORE THE ____ COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS HEREBY RESOLVES to express their desire to the Wisconsin State Legislature and Governor to reform eminent domain laws to protect the property rights of Wisconsin citizens and prohibit the state from granting the power of eminent domain to for-profit oil pipeline companies.

First, on Tuesday, December 18, the Rusk County Board UNANIMOUSLY passed the resolution with 20 people in attendance and six eloquent speakers from around the area.


Speakers testified about their experiences with Enbridge, their concerns about what they could lose, and the unfairness of a private company taking their land without their consent:

Check out the press release here

The next day, the Columbia County Board passed the same resolution! 


Speakers all spoke so eloquently and movingly that most of the Board could not vote against them:


Mary Jo Wentz thanked the board for being so open and willing to listen to their constituents. Check out this great letter-to-the-editor she wrote here.  Check out this other great letter-to-the-editor here.

The only spoken concern about the resolution came from Portage Supervisor Rohrbeck who seemed confused about the resolution; he misconstrued a lot of different things and brought up an unrelated Supreme Court case, federal laws, and even whether or not we should ban pipelines.  Other supervisors spoke to the resolution and directed the board back to the real issue at hand.

Supervisor Pufahl (who moved for approval) stated, “We can sit on our hands and not do anything, or we can vote on this and push the state and the federal government.”

Ultimately, the resolution passed 20 – 5.

That makes seven County Boards who have supported eminent domain reform!

3If your county isn’t one of those seven, but you’d like to see it added to the list, contact us.



WiSE Alliance and 80 Feet is Enough! launch new video series!

People Over Pipelines: Wisconsin Families Working to Protect Our Homes and Communities

Today, the WiSE Alliance and 80 Feet is Enough! launched a series of short videos that feature Wisconsin landowners along the Line 61 corridor.  The series, People Over Pipelines: Wisconsin Families Working to Protect Our Homes and Communities shows people working to save their homes and property from the proposed new Enbridge tar sands pipeline, known as Line 66. The twelve short videos in the series are filled with these stories – from previous damage done by Enbridge to the potential destruction of homes, land, and water resources.  Viewers will see what these families cherish and what they stand to lose.  

The series features stories from across Wisconsin, depicting how Wisconsin families are working to save their homes and property from the threat of the potential new Line 66 pipeline.  Enbridge sought and received a legislative change making them eligible to use eminent domain. Families throughout Wisconsin are now threatened with the loss of their property and homes through the use of eminent domain for private gain.  

“We want the public to understand the double whammy that all Wisconsin residents are threatened by. First, the policy of eminent domain for private gain means that all of us could lose our homes to companies that decide it would enhance their business. And another huge pipeline pumping tar sands mixed with toxic chemicals at tremendous pressure, crossing 200+ Wisconsin streams and rivers, puts us all at risk in the case of leaks and ruptures,” explained Keith Merkel with 80 Feet is Enough! “These videos demonstrate this unexpected and unfair threat that we are facing,” concluded Merkel.  

Starting today, there will be a video published weekly here and on our Facebook and YouTube pages.  

Take Action
At the end of every video, viewers are invited to sign a petition to the Public Service Commission (the state agency that could grant Enbridge the power of eminent domain for this project), asking them to hold a hearing in every county crossed by the proposed pipeline before ruling on the issue.  

tell the PSC

Credits and thank you’s
These videos are the product of hundreds of hours of work by volunteers, and a generous gift from the Property Rights and Pipeline Center, and the kindness of landowners to let us into their lives.  Our professional videographer who spent his time to do the interviews, and did the first round of editing was Michael O’Rourke.  Second video editors were Bob Minceberg (also Music Editor) and Katie O’Connell, who volunteered countless hours implementing the changes proposed by Phyllis Hasbrouck, WiSE organizer.  Elizabeth  Ward, Keith Merkel, Mark Borchardt, Mary Beth Elliott, and Cathy Loeb helped create the idea, find video subjects, and organize the launch of this series.  This project and the love and sweat that went into it demonstrates the power behind the coalition that will stop the Line 66 Pipeline.

The views expressed by the speakers are theirs alone and not necessarily those of the WiSE Alliance.

Clark County becomes 5th County to call for eminent domain reform

On August 16, Clark County became the fifth county in the state to pass a resolution calling on the state legislature to reform our eminent domain laws and prohibit the use of eminent domain for private profit for oil pipelines.  

In 2015, Enbridge worked behind the scenes to change Wisconsin’s eminent domain laws, making them eligible to use eminent domain to build another pipeline through Wisconsin.  In June, Enbridge received approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to build a new pipeline in Minnesota that would bring extra oil into Wisconsin, creating the need for a new pipeline.  In response, current Enbridge easement holders are calling for eminent domain reform to ensure their land can’t be taken by eminent domain, just to let Enbridge boost their profits with no benefit to Wisconsin.  In an effort to show support for stopping this unjust abuse of eminent domain, landowners are asking their County Board Supervisors to stand with them.

On Thursday, landowners in Clark County and throughout Wisconsin called on their County Board to pass a resolution calling for the prohibition of eminent domain for private gain.  Over two dozen landowners and supporters attended the meeting and spoke about their concerns. Testimony included:

  • Bill Leichtnam, Wood County Supervisor (sponsor of the resolution that kicked of this campaign), showed support for the resolution and explained he sponsored the resolution and the board passed it because “we didn’t feel it was right for a foreign company to take land for a pipeline to pass through Wisconsin with no benefit.”

  • Julian Kulinski, a Clark County resident with an Enbridge easement, powerfully stated:
    “We had no problem with Eminent Domain then.  The law was justly wrought and fair. Today, things stand differently, a foreign company is running arrogantly on American soil.  A private foreign interest will profit from the tar sands oil – pumped at higher pressure and more likely to leak – all the way to the Gulf, but not because America needs it.  We have more than enough oil, and are even exporting an amount equal to 20% of what we use. The Eminent Domain law has been corrupted, altered to make this possible. This was done without a public hearing, without proper legislative process.  This is in conflict with the purpose of Eminent Domain law. This is also in conflict with the 5th amendment.”
  • Keith Merkel, of 80 Feet is Enough!, spoke about how Enbridge’s ability to use eminent domain puts landowners at a disadvantage.   He explained, “Landowners don’t receive royalties but we pay taxes on the easement land. We could have to clean up the pipeline in the future so we may want a better deal [to help pay for that]. With eminent domain, Enbridge has no incentive to negotiate fairly.  This is downright un-American.”

  • Supervisor Bryce Luchterhand stated, “When Enbridge was here and we asked if they intended to use eminent domain.  They said they didn’t think so, but were planning to keep it in their pocket. This was a lie.”

Two others also spoke and the board unanimously approved the resolution.  You can watch the full discussion here.

Clark County residents were inspired by the recent passage of a resolution in Jefferson County.  20180710_190218On July 10, Jefferson County passed a resolution calling on the legislature to review our eminent domain laws and disallow any use of eminent domain that wouldn’t have been allowed prior to 2015 (when the laws were changed).  The resolution passed 23-4 after six people eloquently spoke including someone who is under the threat of eminent domain by Enbridge delivered 125 signatures in support of eminent domain reform. There was standing room only with dozens of landowners and concerned citizens present, leading the board to take stronger action than it previously had.  You can learn more here.

Five counties have passed resolutions calling for eminent domain reform: Wood, Walworth, Rock, Jefferson, and Clark.  Additionally, the Town of Rome (Adams County) passed the resolution. Contact us if you’d like to get involved in this effort.  

Line 3 Decision in Minnesota

Last week the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) made their decision on the Line 3 Pipeline.  Unfortunately, the PUC basically granted Enbridge everything they wanted: they get to build their new, bigger pipeline, they get to do it in their new, destructive corridor, and they don’t have to clean up the old pipeline.  You can read more about the decision from Winona La Duke’s article in Indian Country News here.

Groups across Wisconsin recognized how devastating the decision was.  Here is the press release from many groups in Wisconsin.

Landowners in Columbia County and Jefferson County responded to the decision also.  Read their press releases here.

6.28 Columbia County Release
Jefferson County Release

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.


Line 3 Recommendation in Minnesota: What does it mean?

Yesterday was the start of the end of the decision process in Minnesota regarding the Line 3 Replacement project.

All eyes have been on Minnesota and Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 Replacement Pipeline.  Enbridge is asking for permission to build a pipeline through Northern Minnesota that would bring tar sands oil from Alberta to Superior.  Currently, there is a Line 3 Pipeline that travels through the Leech Lake and Fond Du Lac Indian reservations.  Enbridge wants to abandon that pipeline in the ground and build a new pipeline in a different corridor.

This new Line 3 would bring 760,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil into Superior every day. That extra oil being brought into Superior would have to go somewhere, and the only practical solution for Enbridge would be another pipeline through the heart of Wisconsin.

SmallerOil In; Oil Out

Though construction of the Canadian portion of the pipeline has begun, and the small Wisconsin portion has been completed, the process to permit the pipeline in Minnesota has been long and isn’t over yet.  It has included over 1,000 pages of briefs, 17 intervenors, dozens of hearings and public input sessions, and tens of thousands of comments.  Five Ojibwe bands in Minnesota also released their own Cultural Impact Assessment that reflects their concerns and the potential impacts.  This case has had some unprecedented elements, including the inclusion of 13 youth climate intervenors and the Department of Commerce ruling that the pipeline is not needed.

The Minnesota process began in 2014, and is nearing its end.  We’re in the final stages.  Yesterday, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) gave her recommendation based on all of the information that has been presented in the process.

There were two overarching questions in the docket: 1.) Should Enbridge be allowed to build the pipeline, which the process refers to as “need,” and if so, 2.) where should they be allowed to build it.

The Judge recommended that Enbridge should be allowed to build the pipeline, as long as they build it in the existing route. 

There are a number of other notable pieces to the decision including:

  • The Judge affirmed the rights of the Tribes to determine whether they allow the pipeline to travel through their land, stating, “Just like the Commission cannot bind the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] or require the BIA to grant easements for a route, the Commission does not have the authority to require either Leech Lake or Fond du Lac to permit the replacement of Existing Line 3”.
  • The Judge recommended requiring clean-up insurance and securing a written commitment from Enbridge to be fully liable for catastrophic clean-up of the new Line 3, echoing the requirements that Dane County placed on Enbridge in 2015.

All parties to the case will have an opportunity to respond and then the Public Utilities Commission will make its final decision.  The Commission could:

-Confirm the ALJ’s recommendation to allow Enbridge to build the pipeline only in the current route.  All eyes remain on Minnesota: what will Enbridge do?  The Leech Lake Band has been explicit about the fact that they will not allow the pipeline to be rebuilt through their reservation. (The Leech Lake Band was one of 5 sovereign tribal nations that intervened in the process).  Will Enbridge appeal?  Will Enbridge propose a route around the reservation?

Deny Enbridge the ability to build the pipeline: Enbridge will likely appeal, but for the moment, we would breathe a sigh of relief.

-Give Enbridge permission to build the pipeline, in any route: we need to remain as vigilant as ever.  If Enbridge gets the green light, they will move even faster to try to push a pipeline through in Wisconsin.

Keep watching Minnesota.  The decision is expected in late June, but could come out as early as late May.  We’ll keep you updated with things as they arise.  In the meantime, we need to continue to protect ourselves from another pipeline by working together, calling on our local and state governments to enact protections against unfair eminent domain for private gain and the dangers of the pipeline.

Click here to learn about which group is in your community and how you can get involved.