MADISON — The Wisconsin Court of Appeals was scheduled today to hear arguments in the Dane County v. Enbridge lawsuit, a case that could require the $130 billion Canadian pipeline company to purchase oil-spill insurance.
The Court of Appeals hearing was in the Supreme Court Hearing Room of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
In 2015, Dane County required the energy company to provide $25 million in environmental impairment liability (EIL) insurance as a condition for approving Enbridge’s Waterloo pumping station. A consultant hired by the county recommended the additional insurance to provide spill cleanup. Environmental groups, including 350 Madison and the Sierra Club, advocated for the insurance.
Enbridge argues that the permit requirement was invalidated by a provision in the 2015–17 state budget.
In February 2016, seven Dane County landowners whose properties are located next to the Enbridge Line 61 oil pipeline in the Town of Medina filed a lawsuit in Dane County court seeking more insurance to cover potential spills. They cited a July 2010 Enbridge spill in Michigan that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, released 843,000 gallons of oil, contaminating the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary.
A budget amendment later signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker stopped Dane County zoning authorities from enforcing the $25 million environmental impairment liability (EIL) requirement on the pipeline’s conditional use permit (CUP).
The lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court on Feb. 8, 2016, states that Enbridge lobbyists had a part in getting the amendment in the state budget.
The lawsuit states that the company refuses to purchase cleanup insurance, which is readily available in the commercial insurance market and costs less than $100,000 in annual premiums.
The suit also states that the pumping station will increase internal pipe pressure to 1,200 pounds per square inch (psi) and a pipe break in Dane County could result in the release of more than 2 million gallons per hour of hazardous material until the pipe is closed down.
The pump station was constructed and is currently operational on Cherry Lane in the Town of Medina.
Enbridge officials filed an appeal to have the insurance requirement in the CUP removed, even though it was unenforceable under current law. Enbridge has contended throughout the permit process that it has general liability insurance to cover spill cleanup.
“We are confident the facts in the case will support the Dane County Court ruling,” said Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith. “The Waterloo Pump Station is critical energy infrastructure for the State of Wisconsin and the entire region. It’s construction, along with the resulting increased transportation capacity, help ensure a reliable source of energy for decades to come.”
In 2016, representatives from 350 Madison, which strongly advocated for the additional insurance, said the group was pleased with the landowner’s lawsuit. The landowners living adjacent to the pumping station were expected to give oral arguments to the appeals court.
350 Madison’s Peter Anderson said the Court of Appeals’ willingness to hear the case now is encouraging, and other states might follow with insurance requirements of their own.
“If we are successful, Enbridge will once again be faced with the requirement to carry cleanup insurance to protect Dane County taxpayers from having to bail them out in the future. Adding interest to the subject, Minnesota, inspired by Dane County, appears likely to also require Enbridge to carry cleanup insurance for the pipeline running through the North Star State,” he said.