During the time that I have been representing downtown Madison residents on the Dane County Board, there have been only a few county issues that have led constituents to communicate with me. One topic that I heard about from many downtown residents was the Enbridge pipeline that passes through 12 miles of northeast Dane County. The pipeline has been there for nearly 10 years, but last year Enbridge asked to increase the pumping capacity to a level even greater than that of the proposed Keystone pipeline, which continues to be debated nationally.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need a pipeline, but we, downtown, in Dane County, and in our nation, continue to be dependent on fossil fuels. We have literally gone to war, more than once, to ensure that we have access to oil. Oil producers and oil pipeline corporations know this and continue to find ways to pump and ship oil. One of those ways is through Enbridge’s Line 61, which passes through Wisconsin from Canada and continues down to Illinois.
With this reality, the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee, of which I am a member, worked for nearly a year to be able to make the best possible decision for Dane County residents.
During our ZLR deliberations, we listened to a multitude of testimony both for and against Enbridge’s request to expand the capacity of the Line 61 pumping station, located in Marshall. Foremost in my mind was the environmental damage caused by the 2010 rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan. An estimated 843,000 gallons of tar sands oil flowed into a nearby creek and on into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup continues and has cost over $1 billion. The cleanup costs far exceeded Enbridge’s insurance coverage and will continue to be a financial and environmental burden for Michigan communities. While federal regulations prevented us from stopping the Wisconsin expansion, we believed we could require Enbridge to obtain additional insurance coverage. This is why, after receiving insurance expert advice, the committee approved the pipeline expansion with multiple conditions including that Enbridge obtain $25 million of environmental impact liability insurance. This was a compromise between the reality of the need for the pipeline and the concern for the damage to health and property of a potential spill in Dane County.
Enbridge appealed our decision to the full Dane County Board. Before the appeal could be heard, and with no public input, Wisconsin legislative Republicans put an item in the state budget that prohibits Dane County from requiring the environmental liability impact insurance. The budget was signed by Gov. Scott Walker. The budget takes away the county’s ability to require insurance that would help protect Dane County’s citizens and our environment from the devastating consequences of an oil spill. Local control was usurped by a Canadian pipeline corporation that has had more influence over legislative Republicans and our governor than Wisconsin citizens.
Mary M. Kolar, of Madison, represents District 1 on the Dane County Board.
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