WHITEWATER — Environmental activists are set to speak out against the Enbridge’s pipeline expansion plan that would cut across portions of southeastern Wisconsin.
A protest has been planned for 2 p.m. today, near the fountain on the campus mall in front of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater University Center, 800 W. Main St. A march will follow the gathering to the Cravath Lakefront, followed by an additional rally and press conference, from 3:30-5 p.m., according to a news release from Wisconsin Youth Network and 350 Madison Climate Action Team.
The new pipeline extension, Line 66, would branch off from the 645-mile-long Line 5 pipeline through which 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas move daily between Superior and Sarnia, Ontario. Line 66 could be built next to the existing, Line 61 on the same easement.
Wisconsin Youth Network organizer Cassie Steiner said the extension of the pipeline could severely harm the environment, placing state residents and business owners at risk, rather than corporate shareholders of Enbridge.
“A lot of people are concerned about this pipeline,” Steiner said. “Some property owners were not given enough information regarding the plan, and the threat of imminent domain worries people and ultimately ends up leaving people feeling betrayed.”
Steiner said the protest movement over pipelines was pushed into the national landscape by the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects. The two related protest movements helped organize support against harming the environment for corporate gain, she added.
“There’s a lot of shared language that has brought these movements together and it’s given people a common understanding of the threats that these types of projects pose,” Steiner said. “For some people, it’s about the environmental hazards. For others, it’s about the rights of land-owning, private citizens.”
She said the nature of pipeline projects also makes the issue hard to organize around since they are multi-year efforts, and involve complicated logistical, state and federal requirements.
“It’s hard to explain all of the aspects of a technologically complicated plan sometimes,” Steiner said.
Steiner is a part of a larger effort to raise awareness to projects that pose environmental risk to the state, which has been involved for over three years that she can recall, through 350-Madison Climate Action and WYN.
Activists said 800 spills occurred from 1999 to 2010 at Enbridge pipelines, with an average spill roughly every five days. Three weeks ago, an Enbridge pipeline in Texas spilled 600,000 barrels of oil.
Last month, the Bad River Chippewa Band decided to not renew its easements with the Enbridge Line 5 project because of the risk of spills.
“Wisconsin is already bisected by five existing pipelines, and now Enbridge, a $57 billion Canadian company, has announced plans via shareholder letters to construct Line 66, a pipeline which would run parallel to the existing Line 61,” the release reads. “Together, these two pipelines would carry 2 million barrels of oil per day from Superior, Wisconsin, diagonally through the heart of the state and across many vital waterways. The oil transported by Line 61 and that would be transported by Line 66 is tar sands oil, perhaps the most environmentally destructive source of energy on the planet, requiring clear-cutting of pristine Alberta Boreal forest, and releasing a slew of different environmental toxins.”
Steiner said she estimated around 100 protesters could show up for the gathering and march, and urged state residents to get involved.
Activists have repeatedly called for Line 5, a 68-year-old pipeline, to be replaced. Activists hope the protest will lead to public commitment against the pipeline, preventing its construction and prompting the company to halt the project, according to the news release.
Calls to Enbridge for comment were not returned by presstime.
The current series of five pipelines run through the central part of the state, and branch off and head across the northwest corridor of the state and span along the northern border to Lake Superior. The nearest section to Beloit is Line 61 near Sharon, which branches to a refinery in Flanagan, Illinois. To view a map of the pipeline extension, visit bit.ly/2lyQEKg.