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DNR to hold public hearing on Enbridge Line 5 pipeline project

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Enbridge Energy tank

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will hold an online hearing next month to gather comments on its preliminary environmental review of Enbridge Energy’s plans to reroute a contested oil pipeline through northern Wisconsin.

As a result of a lawsuit, the Canadian pipeline company wants to remove a 12-mile segment of its Line 5 pipeline from the Bad River Reservation and bypass the reservation with about 41 miles of new pipe through Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties.

Enbridge Line 5 reroute map

A draft environmental review released last month has drawn criticism from individuals, tribal governments and environmental advocates who Wednesday delivered more than 1,300 signatures opposing the pipeline.

According to the draft review, the $450 million project would cross some 185 waterways, including the Bad River, and temporarily disturb about 135 acres of wetlands.

Because the project would replace an existing pipeline without increasing capacity, the DNR concluded it would not result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

The Sierra Club argues the project could endanger waters, including Lake Superior, and goes against calls from international scientists and a state climate change task force to halt new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure.

“Enbridge’s proposed Line 5 expansion risks Wisconsin waters and wetlands, locks in fossil fuel infrastructure, and violates the treaty rights of Wisconsin’s tribes,” said Elizabeth Ward, director of the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin chapter.

The company says the line, which transports an average of 540,000 barrels a day between Superior and southwestern Ontario, is a key piece of energy infrastructure, delivering crude oil and natural gas liquids to terminals in Michigan.

Opponents point to dozens of past spills on Enbridge pipelines, including a 2010 rupture in Michigan that cost $1.2 billion to clean up. According to the environmental review, Enbridge spilled about 1.4 million gallons of oil over the previous decade, which amounts to less than one-thousandth of a percent of the oil transported.

While safety protocols have reduced the frequency of spills, the DNR concluded that pipeline spills are still likely to happen every year.

Both the Bad River and Red Cliff bands of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission say the draft permit is incomplete and riddled with errors, including inadequate data, incorrect route information, exclusion of alternatives and misrepresentation of indigenous treaty rights that could be affected.

Out of hundreds of comments submitted in December, just two have voiced support for the project.

Enbridge pipeline routes

The DNR will hold a public hearing on the project at 4 p.m. Feb. 2 using the online platform Zoom. Participants are asked to register in advance to make comments. Those who don’t want to comment can view the hearing live on the DNR’s YouTube channel.

Written comments on the environmental review can be submitted through March 4.

Environmental reporter Chris Hubbuch's favorite stories of 2021

Stories are a bit like children when it comes to picking favorites. But then who has room in their wallet for pictures of 278 kids? So here are five that kind of stand out in my mind. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them. 


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