By 350 Madison — Partnering with local landowners, climate change organization 350 Madison continues leading opposition to Enbridge Corporation’s plans to ship more dirty tar sands oil in pipelines through Dane County. Tuesday, Dec. 1, the group filed a brief with the Dane County Board opposing the company’s latest demand that the County remove all references to the need to buy cleanup insurance in case of an oil spill from zoning permits. The Board will hear 350 Madison’s objections to the appeal taken by Enbridge, which is objecting to the County's efforts to head off a future taxpayer bailout to clean up oil spills by the Canadian behemoth at their Dec. 3 meeting at 7pm in room 201 of the City–County Building on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Madison.

Enbridge plans to triple its originally approved Pipeline 61 volume of 400,000 barrels per day to more than 1.2 million barrels per day — nearly 50% more than the failed Keystone XL pipeline was to transport before the Obama administration pulled the plug last month. Enbridge sought and quickly received approval to upgrade pipeline pumping capacity in all other Wisconsin counties through which Line 61 runs on its path from Superior to the Illinois border, but Dane County landowners and environmentalists halted progress here last year, when Enbridge was held to compliance with County zoning restrictions for prime agricultural land.

In April of this year, following several packed preliminary hearings, the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee voted to support 350 Madison’s proposal that Enbridge should be liable for carrying extra insurance to help cover cleanup costs in event of a spill. In May, Enbridge appealed the Committee’s decision requiring $25 million in clean up insurance as a permitting condition, but before the matter could be taken up by the full County Board, high powered lobbyists who only would have been paid by Enbridge cajoled GOP lawmakers to add a rider to the budget bill in July containing a provision barring counties from requiring insurance from pipeline companies.

Meanwhile, in late July, Zoning Committee administrator Roger Lane, without instruction or approval, or even the knowledge of the Zoning Committee, removed the insurance requirement and issued Enbridge the pumping expansion permit. However, according to a brief filed by 350 Madison on behalf of two Town of Medina residents whose property abuts the Dane County pumping station, “... By ordinance, only the Zoning Committee can issue, or modify, a conditional use permit by a majority vote of its members, among whom the Administrator does not number, and ... only after consultation with the town, notice and public hearing.”

The environmental group believes the permit issued by Administrator lane has no legal effect and the Zoning Committee's original requirement for Enbridge to maintain clean up insurance remains on the books, even though the County can no longer enforce the provision due to the budget rider.

“It is not enough that Enbridge can go ahead and build its pump station in Dane County. Now, their appeal to the County Board to strike language from the Conditional Use Permit for environmental cleanup insurance is insulting taxpaying citizens of Dane County and members of the Zoning and Land Regulation Committee who exercised their duty to constituents,” said Mary Beth Elliott, Tar Sands Team Leader for 350 Madison.

“Zoning committee members worked extensively to grapple with the potential horrific effects of a tar sands spill here from a pipeline to flow at an unprecedented 1.2 million barrels daily — 2.1 million gallons per hour!” according to Elliott. “They knew what they were doing in requiring environmental insurance, based on the testimony of an internationally recognized insurance expert. The environmental insurance requirement needs to remain on the permit, not be struck because a foreign pipeline giant can afford high paid lobbyists to influence legislation.”

Enbridge had a staff of four lobbyists in Madison during the run up to the budget bill, but they claim their lobbyists never met with lawmakers. 

In the past eight months, during which the pipeline’s pumping capacity has been delayed, more than 100 million barrels of Alberta Tar Sands oil pumping capacity has been denied access to line 61, assuming Enbridge would have been pumping at fully-upgraded capacity during that stretch.

Contact Mary Beth Elliott at (608) 695-7501 for 350 Madison.