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Proposed expansion of Enbridge pipeline sparks scrutiny

Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio

Groups and some local governments are still after state officials to take a closer look at the proposed expansion of an oil pipeline that's buried under much of Wisconsin. 

The Enbridge Corp. 's Line 61 stretches southeast from Superior through the center of Wisconsin, then all the way south through Rock County and into Illinois. 

Enbridge officials said that they want to triple the capacity of the pipeline by upgrading or building  17 pumping stations along the way. 

But, Dave Spitzer, of the group 350 Madison, said the state Department of Natural Resources needs to do an environmental assessment of the project. Spitzer said some counties are also asking for the more comprehensive state review.

"Because the pipeline goes through 16 or 17 counties in the state, county boards are becoming active in saying, 'Hey, this pipeline is coming through here. We want to be sure that our citizens and our county are safe from it,'" he said. "So, DNR, please do this assessment."

The Dane County Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution calling for the assessment and to revoke an air permit that the DNR officials have granted for more storage tank capacity at Enbridge's terminal in Superior.

Ben Callan, of the DNR, recently issued a wetlands permit for five of the Enbridge pump stations. Callan said current law doesn't require a new assessment beyond what that DNR did eight years ago.

"When Line 61, which was formerly known as Southern Access, was original proposed, so we did a fairly extensive, comprehensive environmental analysis at that time," he said.

Callan said he understands counties are raising concerns, but he said the federal government has oversight over pipeline capacity and safety. 

Enbridge officials have hired a former Republican state cabinet secretary to try to keep its Line 61 expansion flowing smoothly.

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