Nov. 01–CAPRON — A strip of bright green grass identifies the Enbridge pipeline running parallel to Ronald Gadow’s property.
The pipeline, officially Line 61, which starts in Superior, Wisconsin, runs through Boone County on its way to its endpoint near Pontiac, carrying an average of 930,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
Now, a new $2.6 billion Enbridge oil pipeline project sparking debate in Minnesota has Gadow and other Boone County residents concerned that the Canadian company will revive studies designed to lay the groundwork for a “twin” Line 61 that would carry more oil through the county. Enbridge officials say they have no such plans.
Gadow fears he could lose woodlands and a whole host of plants and wildlife if that happened.
“Safety is one of my concerns,” Gadow said. “It also devalues the property. If you don’t have a lawyer, you’re a total victim to what Enbridge can do.”
He has hired an attorney and plans to join other landowners and groups like Save Our Illinois Land, called SOIL, and Wisconsin Safe Energy Alliance, or WiSE, in pressing the Boone County Board to pass a resolution opposing the use of eminent domain to obtain land for a new Enbridge line. Eminent domain is the right of a government or its agent to take property at fair market value for public use.
Experts agree that Enbridge could prevail if it seeks to use eminent domain, and residents doubt they could stop the project.
“I’ve just always been under the impression that the oil companies always win,” Gadow said.
Residents are wary after Enbridge’s massive 2010 oil spill into Michigan’sKalamazoo River and because of the Minnesota controversy.
“I think that you have to consider other things that Enbridge is doing,” said Deni Mathews, a SOIL activist.
SOIL and WiSE have invited residents living near Line 61 to informational meetings that are being held despite Enbridge’s insistence that there is no plan for a second line.
“Our stakeholders know we are not pursuing another pipeline project,” said Jennifer Smith, an Enbridge manager, during a telephone interview last month. “We have no plans to build south of Superior.”
Line 61 went into service in 2008. The company added three new pumping stations to the existing line between 2014 and 2016 to increase daily pumping capacity from about 400,000 barrels a day to 1.2 million barrels a day.
Surveys were done in anticipation of a potential twin line, Smith said. The market did not support construction of a second line, however.
Jim and Lori Schall live near Gadow. Their property also would be at risk if a twin line were built.
“You hear about things happening, like leaks,” Lori Schall said. “You can fight. You can express your concerns. But is it going to matter? It can’t hurt. It’s nice to at least let them know our concerns. If they can listen and address our concerns, more power to them.”
“Nobody is going to want it on their property,” Jim Schall said. “Nobody is going to want it near them. It’s just like having a prison built.”
Robert McNamara, a senior attorney for the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, said pipeline companies’ use of eminent domain is the subject of debate.
Although a County Board resolution may carry little weight, McNamara nonetheless says residents should “stand up, make your voice heard, and make it known you don’t intend to go quietly.”
The Boone County Board in 2016 approved a resolution opposing a proposed $8 billion, 275-mile rail line that would have cut through the county after residents expressed concerns that eminent domain would be used to acquire vast stretches of private land for the project.
“If residents want to band together, we’re more than happy to listen to what their concerns are,” County Board Chairman Karl Johnson said. “I personally am not a big fan of eminent domain.”
Susan Vela: 815-987-1392; firstname.lastname@example.org; @susanvela
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