By Dylan Deprey
It used to be peaceful on Harry Bennett’s organic farm.
It was 2004, and he had just returned from a two-year gig with the Peace Corp in an electricity-free village in Belize with his wife. Three years later he was approached by Trans- Canada, about an easement for a new oil pipeline. It was later decided that the pipeline would be installed fifty yards away from his property.
In 2010, the trucks and heavy machinery rolled past his house, and he knew it was going to be more then he bargained for.
“Being adjacent to one of these things does not mean you don’t get the effects, you just don’t get the easement money,” Bennett said.
Dust and noise polluted the air. Large amounts of water drained across his land and a temporary bridge washed away during a rainstorm, which littered pieces throughout the stream.
“I was like a crazy man emailing and calling people,” Bennett said. “I got to find out first hand how powerless you are.”
When the whole ordeal was over he sold his farm and moved to Madison to be near his grandchildren. Even when thought he moved away from it all the issues were just beginning.
Recent arrests of peaceful protestors for the protection of Native American drinking water at Standing Rock, ND has had the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in National News. According to Bennett, a member of the environmental group 350Madison, the same thing must happen to prevent environmental casualties in Wisconsin.
The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge owns the five oil pipelines running through Wisconsin. Line 5 runs 645 miles from Superior through the Upper Peninsula to its final destination in Sarnia, Ont. The other four: Line 14, Line 6a, Line 13 and Line 61 travel around 450 miles southeast through the middle of the state.
The Enbridge Line 61 Upgrade Project (Phase 2) is currently adding 12 pump stations along the 454-mile pipeline to increase the average annual capacity from 560,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million bpd.
“This would be like the Keystone pipeline on steroids,” Bennett said.
At 1.2 million bpd that would be 45 percent greater then the Keystone XL pipeline, which Obama rejected back in Nov. 2015
According to an Embridge spokesperson Shannon Gustafson, there is no added risk to the pipeline by adding more pumping stations.
“Line 61 was designed and engineered to be operated with all pump stations constructed originally or added subsequently,” Gustafson said.
The Environmental Risk The oil flowing through the pipeline is not exactly the same engine oil flowing through your car.
Tar Sand is mined in Alberta, Canada. The sand pits were once a coniferous boreal forest and are now shadowed in a desolate wasteland.
The Tar sand is a mixture of water, clay and Bitumen, a heavy peanut butter textured oil, which is extracted through mining. Because of its viscous nature, it needs a diluent to help send it on its way to be refined. This mixture is called dilbit,
This toxic sludge proved how hard it was to clean after a spill in Kalamazoo, MI. In 2010, a burst pipe leaked into the Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, and spilled for around 18 hours. Flash-forward to now and around $1 billion later its still not one hundred percent cleaned.
Impending Lawsuits on Both Sides
In plight of the pump station expansions Dane County and Embridge have two lawsuits involving building a pump station in Waterloo, WI.
In April 2015, Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee required that Enbridge obtain spill cleanup insurance for the pumping station in Waterloo.
In Embridge V. Dane County, Embridge required that Dane County remove the insurance stipulation because of a provision in the State 2015-17 budget, which nullified Embridge from needing spill insurance.
The second lawsuit, Campbell v. Enbridge involves seven landowners with adjacent properties to the pump station, claiming that the provision added to the budget was added in Embridge’s best interests. They still want Embridge to take out spill insurance if something like Kalamazoo were to happen again.
The lawsuits have been consolidated and are still ongoing.
Susan Simensky Bietila is a member of the Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, an organization in stopping oil trains with Baaken crude oil, which travel through Milwaukee. She said that it was a disturbing feeling knowing the risk oil-transporting companies were taking.
“It seems pretty shaky that a foreign corporation shipping oil that’s not even going to the US, seems corrupt and the opposite of democracy,” Simensky said.