This week’s People Over Pipelines video features Keith Merkel.
Keith Merkel is a prairie enthusiast and birdwatcher who lives with his family outside of Marshfield, WI. They found out the hard way that even a tiny spill can have bad consequences, when Enbridge Line 61 spilled just one barrel of oil on a neighbor’s land. As a result, another neighbor family had to move out of their home permanently. The engineer who oversaw the cleanup of that small spill told Keith that it was one of his most difficult cases ever, because the severely fractured bedrock meant that the oil could travel in any direction.
Keith points out that the many dairy farms in the area are in danger because a leak could taint the milk, which couldn’t then be sold. He says,
So that’s one thing that’s always on our mind. Where is the next leak going to occur? When will it occur? Is it going to affect us?
Should these families have to live with that level of uncertainty about their future?
When he heard that a new pipeline had been proposed, faced with lowered property values, diminished property rights, and just a one-time payment for a perpetual easement, Keith joined with other landowners to form WEAT, the Wisconsin Easement Action Team. In his words,
We started WEAT to get people to band together, to hopefully have more clout working as a group instead of individuals…to try and secure better terms if and when this new pipeline has to come through.