Walker Sides with Enbridge Over Communities, Private Property Owners

July 17, 2015

Two provisions in the new state budget approved by Republican Gov. Scott Walker help one company: Enbridge Energy. They prevent local governments from imposing added insurance requirements on interstate pipeline operators that transport hazardous material, and make it easier to take private property for such projects.

The insurance measure was aimed at hamstringing Dane County’s effort to require Enbridge, a Canadian oil pipeline company, to carry $25 million in pollution insurance for environmental spills in addition to the company’s $100 million in general liability insurance.

The insurance measure prohibits all local governments from requiring pipeline companies to carry additional insurance beyond their general liability coverage. Walker’s approval of the budget last weekend prompted the Dane County Board to drop plans Thursday to hear an appeal by Enbridge to carry the additional insurance.

The private property provision in the budget gives oil pipeline businesses that are not based in Wisconsin the authority to condemn real estate and personal property for state-approved projects. Until now, Wisconsin statutes said, “Any Wisconsin corporation transmitting gas, oil or related products in pipelines….” had condemnation authority. That wording was changed to “any Wisconsin business entity.”

The two budget provisions benefiting Enbridge were among dozens of special interest, non-spending, policy items hastily added by majority Republican legislators before they approved the budget and sent it to Walker.

Enbridge operates a pipeline called Line 61 that carries Canadian tar sands crude across Wisconsin from Superior to Flanagan, Ill. Dane County sought to require the additional insurance in exchange for permitting the company to triple the amount of crude it pumps through the line, from 400,000 barrels to 1.2 million barrels a day.

Enbridge was responsible for more than 800 oil spills between 1999 and 2010, according to a report by the Polaris Institute, including a 2010 pipe burst in Michigan that spewed more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands crude. The event, which is the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, polluted 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River, required residential evacuations, and took four years and $1.2 billion to clean up.

Enbridge Energy executives contributed $1,150 between January 2010 and December 2014 to state policymakers, including $850 to Walker, and $100 each to GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau; Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills; and GOP Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, of River Falls. Darling and Harsdorf are members of the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, which inserted the pro-Enbridge measures into the budget.