Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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MEA to DNR: Enbridge Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement Needed

May 19, 2014

Today is the last day for citizens and advocacy groups to submit comments to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regarding concerns about the environmental and safety impacts of a proposal to expand the amount of crude oil being pumped by Enbridge Energy through pipelines between Superior, Wisconsin and Flanagan, Illinois. Organizations like the Sierra Club and 350.org have asked for a complete inventory of air, water and climate effects of a pipeline capactity expansion.

Midwest Environmental Advocates sent the letter below to the DNR to request that the Department conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to assess what tripling the amount of tar sands crude oil pipeline capacity would do to the health and safety of the people and the environment in communities along the pipeline. MEA staff have heard citizens' concerns and unanswered questions about many aspects of our overdependence on fossil fuels - from coal-burning energy plants to trains carrying flammable crude oil to mining for the frac sand used in hydrofracturing for oil and gas.

These concerns and unanswered questions need to be addressed before policy decisions are made. And our government should be using sound science to guide policy decisions. Especially in this example, with the dubious track record of Enbridge Energy's many oil spills and sluggish clean up response, we all must insist on informed caution.

Cathy Stepp, Secretary
101 S. Webster Street, P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707

RE: Enbridge Line 61

Dear Secretary Stepp:

I’m writing to request the Department conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and hold public hearings in communities potentially in harms’ way for the proposed expansion of Enbridge Energy’s (Enbridge) Line 61 tar sands pipeline in accordance with the Wisconsin Environmental Protection Act (WEPA). In a time of shrinking governmental resources, local jurisdictions rely more than ever on the Department providing sound science reviews of proposed activities with the potential to harm people, property and the environment. Most communities through which Line 61 runs don’t have adequate local capacity for emergency management and even fewer resources to influence the practices of a corporation of Enbridge’s size.

The proposed increase in capacity for pumping tar sand oil through Line 61, from 400,000 million barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million bpd, is triple the current volume. Enbridge has a terrible track record with regard to spills, discharging nearly seven million gallons of oil into the environment since 1999. The citizens of Wisconsin are being subjected to significant and growing threats from the fossil fuel industry, from frac sand mining to rail transport of large volumes of volatile crude oil to the proposed expansion of Line 61, and they rely on their government to act on their behalf in holding companies to the highest standards to protect their health. Line 61 could impact 15 Wisconsin counties and many wetlands, streams, lakes and conservation lands protected with public and private resources. An analysis of the potential for significant harm from the activities related to the proposed expansion is required to look at the potential problems in a project of this scope.

It is critically important that a thorough review of the whole project be conducted with the opportunity for meaningful participation by people living in harms’ way. Citizens are increasingly bearing the costs and burdens of unprecedented growth in extractive industries when their government can’t or won’t. It is economically and environmentally prudent to provide the public, and Enbridge, with comprehensive, science-based information that an EIS would result in. The scope of the EIS must include costs, burdens and threats to people and their local governments of oil spills from Line 61.

A properly scoped EIS, coupled with public hearings is needed to conduct a proper review of a proposed expansion of Line 61 and is essential to protect our natural heritage and the safety of communities through which the pipeline passes.

The list of Enbridge oil spills is long and their response to disastrous discharges less than stellar. None of the communities, conservation lands and waters threatened by the tripling of volume through Line 61 should be in danger of harm that could be lessened by a comprehensive review in an EIS. Public hearings held in locations at times citizens and local officials can attend are also essential to protecting public health and the environment. All those potentially impacted from the tripling of the capacity of Line 61 deserve the kind of review an EIS represents and they deserve full information of potential threats and instruction on how to respond should a spill occur. The Department has a responsibility to all the communities potentially impacted by Line 61 that can only be met with a thorough and appropriately scaled EIS.

Thank you for your consideration and time attending to the significant issues associated with the proposed tripling of capacity of Line 61. In addition to the request for an EIS, we’d like to be added to all future public notices related to the proposed expansion of Line 61.

Kimberlee Wright
Executive Director

Letter: Enbridge Pipeline Expansion

/ tagged: frac sand, government, coal, enbridge, crude oil