President Barack Obama is expected to visit Wisconsin to campaign for Hillary Clinton in the coming days, and while he is in our state he needs to recognize a major threat to Wisconsin's well-being: plans to expand a dangerous and unnecessary tar sands crude oil pipeline network through the state.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in the middle of a historic blunder. The State Department's behind-closed-doors cooperation with a Canadian oil pipeline company's proposals risks squandering a fortune in fresh water: the public waters of Lake Superior, the upper Great Lakes and other Wisconsin waters.
Obama should get the State Department to question and veto these tar sands crude oil pipeline plans now — as he did with the Keystone XL pipeline.
Whether you perceive Lake Superior (one-tenth of Earth's fresh water) and other Wisconsin waters as poetry or commodity, proposals for a massive expansion of tar sands crude oil pipelines near and under those waters does not make sense.
Incredibly, the State Department is acting as an enabler for those plans. The State Department signed off on an agreement with the Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge to quietly approve an increase in oil crossing the border.
That agreement became known as the "double cross" — a brazen attempt to avoid public review, a convoluted pipeline arrangement at the border that offered a pretense that a new permit was not needed and a doubling of oil flow across the border.
Connect the dots on Enbridge's pipeline plans, a stealth version of the Keystone XL pipeline that would lock in Wisconsin as a major transportation corridor to ship tar sands to the world market for decades to come, and State Department cooperation with those plans, and a reasonable citizen would be outraged.
Threatened: Lake Superior and the Namekagon, St. Croix, Chippewa, Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers.
Also endangered: the sacred wild rice beds of Ojibwe nations, the health and safety of numerous landowners near the pipeline facing eminent domain procedures, as well as rural first responders who would face the chemical cocktail of the spills and leaks that are sure to come.
Question: Why should Wisconsin put up with what Nebraska and British Columbia will not: a tar sands pipeline export scheme that is all risk and no reward for local citizens?
Key fact: Tar sands promoters need a route to saltwater to get their product to the world market. Stymied by the ferocious resistance of ranchers and tribes in Nebraska and British Columbia, they now want to create a tar sands superhighway through Minnesota and Wisconsin (from Superior to Delavan) and on to the Gulf Coast.
Due diligence is in order. Tars sands oil is notably dangerous to the planet's climate.
Enbridge's safety record is alarming. A massive July 25, 2010, Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River required $1.2 billion to clean up.
That spill also revealed that tar sands oil sinks in water, making cleanup difficult.
Federal regulators described Enbridge's spill response as "Keystone Kops."
"It will be very difficult to give Enbridge credibility going forward on any pipeline project," the Detroit Free Press editorial board noted on July 11, 2012.
Now is the time to stand up for common sense, clean water, open public discussion and no permits for expanded tar sands oil pipelines.
Obama and Kerry should join these common sense citizen efforts.
There is no room for dangerous and unnecessary tar sands crude oil pipelines in Wisconsin's clean energy future.
Future generations will thank you.
Milwaukee-based Eric Hansen is an award-winning conservation essayist and commentator. This column ran first in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. For more information see the report "Enbridge Over Troubled Water," and the website of "Eighty Feet is Enough," an organization of landowners concerned about Enbridge pipeline expansion: http://80feetisenough.org.
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