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Catching Up: Disputed Enbridge permit language

Catching Up: Disputed Enbridge permit language


Enbridge Energy is deciding how it will respond to the Dane County Board’s refusal to remove permit language the state Legislature took action to invalidate in July.

“Enbridge is still evaluating potential next steps,” spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Tuesday.

The Canadian oil pipeline giant has insisted a county zoning committee exceeded its authority by preserving permit wording that would have required Enbridge to purchase spill insurance if lawmakers hadn’t acted to forbid such requirements.

Even though the permit includes a note explaining the effect of the state legislation, Smith said, failing to remove the insurance language “creates confusion, regulatory uncertainty and unpredictability.”

County Board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan said the board chose to leave the language in the permit in case a future legislature changes the law.

Corrigan said there are many examples of laws that remain on the books even though they have been rendered unenforceable by actions of other government bodies that take precedence.

The permit allows Enbridge to build a new pumping station in the town of Medina. The station is part of a project that has sharply increased the flow of tar sands crude through the state.

The zoning board hired a consultant who recommended the insurance in response to concerns about the lengthy and expensive cleanup of Enbridge’s 2010 spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

On Dec. 3, the board voted 27-2 against changing the permit. Four board members recused themselves from the vote, three others were excused and one was absent.

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Steven Verburg is a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal covering state politics with a focus on science and the environment as well as military and veterans issues.

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