Posted by: JanF | January 25, 2015

Thank you, Washington State!!

Wisconsin’s Dane County has been reviewing a tar sands oil pumping station permit from Enbridge Energy, the people who gifted Michigan with the $1.2 billion oil spill into the Kalamazoo River.

The county wants Enbridge to provide additional insurance to cover any spills so that Dane County and Wisconsin taxpayers are not left holding the bag as taxpayers were in Michigan. Enbridge is resisting because … free enterprise should be free!!: “Enbridge has said that its $700 million in system-wide insurance is sufficient, along with state and federal cleanup funds“. There you have it, vulture capitalism in a nutshell: privatize profits and socialize costs.

However, thanks to Washington State, who managed to extract an insurance concession from Enbridge, the Good Government people on the County Board may be convincing them to relent:

Enbridge has maintained that the federal law forbids local pipeline safety regulation. [County Board member and chairman of the zoning committee Patrick] Miles and others have expressed concerns about a costly court battle. But attorneys from the Environmental Law & Policy Center provided the county with a Jan. 9 opinion indicating it was unlikely a court would block a cleanup requirement.

“Financial requirements are not safety requirements,” the center said. “Such (cleanup) requirements are economic requirements, and well-justified ones in light of Enbridge’s track record of costly spills in the Midwest.”

Miles said he shares environmentalists’ concerns about high energy consumption and impact on climate change associated with extraction of tar sands crude, but the county doesn’t have authority to deny the permit based on those considerations – or based on worries that the pipeline can’t handle an increase in flow. But he said the county can act to protect residents’ welfare after a spill.

“That is an area where we do have some latitude in terms of what we can do in the interest of the public,” Miles said.

Kirkland, Washington, enacted an ordinance in 2011 requiring the Enbridge-owned Olympic line to purchase $100 million in general liability insurance and $50 million for pollution liability. The law is modeled on one enacted in Bellingham in 2001, two years after a 16-inch gasoline pipeline broke, spilling 237,000 gallons, which ignited, killing three teenagers and causing $45 million in property damage.

The final decision is expected this Tuesday. Will Enbridge blink? If not, I hope that the County Board spends my money to battle them in the courts: it is time to draw the line.

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