Guides to Oil Pipeline Regulation in Wisconsin

WI Green Fire, April 4, 2020


Updated April 10, 2020

Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF) is partnering with Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) to produce a series of guides on regulatory processes involved with the proposed reroute of Enbridge Line 5 in northern Wisconsin. Line 5 is a hazardous liquid pipeline that conveys light and synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario through northern Wisconsin and both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan.

The MEA – WGF guides will be applicable to pipeline routing, construction, and operation throughout Wisconsin. The purpose of these guides is to provide general legal and technical information about regulatory programs that apply to pipeline construction and operation in Wisconsin and highlight the opportunities for public input into the processes. The first in the series is A Guide to Eminent Domain and Condemnation for Oil Pipelines in Wisconsin (February 2020)

Eminent domain is the power of government to seize private property for public use. Wisconsin law authorizes the Public Service Commission to grant the power of eminent domain to oil pipeline companies that are authorized to do business in the state, transmit oil in pipelines, maintain terminal or product delivery facilities in the state, and engage in interstate or international commerce. This guide explains the steps in the process and the opportunities for parties to intervene.

A Guide to the Environmental Review Process for Oil Pipeline Construction in Wisconsin (March 2020) describes the environmental review required of state and federal agencies under the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

A Guide to Agency Permits & Approvals for Pipeline Construction in Wisconsin (April 2020) summarizes the environmental permits, approvals, and public input opportunities for these federal and state actions.

Enbridge’s Proposed Reroute of Line 5 in Northern Wisconsin

The existing Line 5 pipeline crosses the Bad River Reservation in northern Wisconsin where the continued operation of the pipeline despite expired easements has led the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to file suit against Enbridge. In the lawsuit, the Band is seeking removal of the pipeline from the Reservation. Enbridge has indicated that it’s preferred reroute is just outside of the Reservation.

The Bad River, a major tributary to Lake Superior, flows through a remote area of the state with outstanding natural and cultural resources, including the Kakagon-Bad River sloughs, a large coastal wetland complex of international significance on Lake Superior. Many local citizens, both tribal and non-tribal members, are concerned about the possibilities of a major oil spill in the watershed.

MEA and WGF’s upcoming guides to oil pipeline regulation will address environmental permits in more detail.

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