Oil Pipeline Owner Contributed Nearly $1,500 To State Candidates

January 21, 2015

Executives of a Canadian energy distributor that wants to triple the amount of crude oil it transports through Wisconsin have contributed $1,475 since 2007 to candidates for statewide office and the legislature, including $950 to Republican Governor Scott Walker.

A Dane County zoning committee is expected decide Jan. 27 whether to require Enbridge Energy, which was responsible for hundreds of oil spills between 1999 and 2010, to increase its liability insurance to pay for expensive oil spills in order to get a permit from the county. There were no Enbridge contributions in 2014 to zoning committee members.

Enbridge’s Wisconsin pipeline now sends 400,000 gallons of tar sands crude a day from Superior to Chicago-area refineries, and the company needs new pumping station permits to increase pumping capacity to 1.2 million gallons a day.

In 2010, one of the company’s pipelines in Michigan burst and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands crude. The event polluted 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River and required the evacuation of nearby homes because of the hazardous chemicals mixed with the thick crude to move it through the pipeline.

Although Enbridge’s campaign contributions to Wisconsin candidates have been relatively small so far, the influence of the oil and gas industry in Wisconsin has grown in recent years. Enbridge is among more than two dozen energy distributors whose executives have contributed $78,428 since 2007 to Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates.

Individual and political action committee contributions to the Badger State from the entire oil and gas industry, totaling about $1.7 million since 2007, have sharply increased in recent years to coincide with the jump in oil and natural gas exploration in parts of the U.S. as well as the high demand for frac sand . Frac sand is mined, processed or shipped from more than 100 sites in western and northwestern Wisconsin and is used to dig deep oil and natural gas wells.

The top recipients of oil and gas industry money include Walker at $946,704, Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett at $54,591 and Republican Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills at $42,695.