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New Court Fight Emerges Over WI Oil Pipeline

Enbridge company sign on top of a building in Toronto, Canada
TOimages - stock.adobe.com
Enbridge company sign on top of a building in Toronto, Canada

A court hearing is scheduled for this week as environmental and tribal advocates continue to voice concerns about an oil and gas pipeline that runs across northern Wisconsin.

Line 5, operated by Enbridge Energy, goes through a reservation that is home to the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The tribe recently filed a court motion seeking an emergency shutdown of the pipeline. The filing says the line is at risk of exposure because of soil erosion, brought on by spring flooding, along the Bad River.

Jadine Sonoda, campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club's Wisconsin Chapter, said it's another reason why groups like hers feel it's time to end Line 5 operations permanently.

"This pipeline is not safe to have," said Sonoda. "It doesn't benefit Wisconsinites and it's really just a danger to the region."

She said not only would a pipeline spill be an ecological disaster for tribal lands, but the Great Lakes as well because the river feeds into Lake Superior.

In an e-mailed statement, Enbridge contended that there is no pipeline safety issue - and that it has offered numerous plans to reinforce the riverbank.

The hearing prompted by the court filing is due to get underway Thursday morning.

Enbridge is currently seeking permit approval to reroute a section of Line 5 around the reservation in light of mounting tensions with the Bad River Band.

Sonoda pointed to construction issues that popped up with a similar Enbridge project in Minnesota, where there was an aquifer breach last year. She said government agencies need to reject these proposals because of the risks.

"Water is at risk, aquifers are at risk, long-term ecosystem and environmental health is at risk," said Sonoda. "And it's a really, really big deal and a really big opportunity for us to prevent something from happening beforehand."

As part of its statement, Enbridge says Line 5 is "critical infrastructure" that provides millions of people in the Great Lakes region with energy that they rely on daily.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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