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Around Half Of Voters In Spring Hearings Oppose Line 5 Reroute

Wisconsin Conservation Congress Polled Voters On Controversial Pipeline Plans

In this June 29, 2018, file photo, pipeline used to carry crude oil is shown at the Superior terminal of Enbridge Energy in Superior
In this June 29, 2018, file photo, pipeline used to carry crude oil is shown at the Superior terminal of Enbridge Energy in Superior. Jim Mone/AP Photo

Roughly half of those who weighed in on a controversial pipeline project say they would oppose construction of a Canadian energy firm’s plans to reroute an oil pipeline across northern Wisconsin.

Enbridge Inc. is looking to reroute a roughly 40-mile stretch of its Line 5 oil pipeline in Ashland and Iron counties after the Bad River tribe filed a lawsuit against the company in 2019 seeking to shut down and remove the line from tribal lands. The line, which carries up to 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids per day from Superior to Sarnia, Ontario, crosses a 12-mile span of the Bad River tribe’s reservation.

Map courtesy of Enbridge

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The Wisconsin Conservation Congress asked voters during its annual spring hearings whether they would support the congress opposing the project. The congress advises the policy-setting board for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on outdoors and environmental issues.

Roughly 49 percent, or 4,951 Wisconsin voters, said they would support opposition to reroute the pipeline in northern Wisconsin. Around 34.5 percent, or 3,489 voters, said they wouldn’t oppose the project while 16.5 percent, or 1,667 voters, didn’t have an opinion on the issue.

The congress also asked voters whether they support the group opposing permits for the project. Enbridge is seeking waterways and wetlands permits from the DNR.

Roughly 47 percent, or 4,735 residents, voted in favor of opposing permits for the project. Around 34 percent, or 3,431 voters, wouldn’t support that stance while almost 19 percent, or 1,882 voters, had no opinion on the matter.

Enbridge has been under fire from tribal and environmental groups in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. They argue the company’s pipelines are unsafe and support expanding use of fossil fuels at a time when the world should be reducing its carbon footprint.

The DNR is in the process of preparing a draft environmental impact statement for Enbridge’s proposed reroute of Line 5. People have submitted more than 2,100 written comments on the project. In a public hearing last summer, residents overwhelmingly spoke in opposition to Enbridge’s plans to reroute Line 5.

Opponents have highlighted a 2010 spill near Marshall, Michigan, from an Enbridge pipeline that cost the company $1.2 billion to clean up more than 1 million gallons of oil released into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. The spill went unchecked for 17 hours. The National Wildlife Federation also released data on 30 spills that occurred on Line 5 on land since 1968.

In its most recent safety report, Enbridge said 214 barrels of oil spilled from the company’s pipelines out of nearly 4 billion barrels transported in 2019.

Supporters of the project have said the pipeline is a vital energy link for the region and would bring around 700 construction jobs to northern Wisconsin. The company has estimated the project would likely cost more than $100 million.

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