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Environmentalists ask DNR to deny permit for Superior oil tanks

By Mike Simonson

Wisconsin Public Radio

The Department of Natural Resources held a hearing in Superior on Monday to take public testimony on Enbridge Pipeline's proposal to build three five-story high oil tanks in the city.

Enbridge wants to build the tanks to handle their proposed pipeline carrying capacity from the Canadian Alberta tar sands and North Dakota Bakken oil fields. The tanks would increase storage capacity by 1.5 million barrels.

A dozen people testified against it at the hearing, while four were in favor. Christopher LaForge of Port Wing opposed the project, citing global warming as a concern.

“The tar sands of Alberta are lethal carbon bombs and the planned expansion of this facility is basically the fuse on these bombs,” said LaForge. “The more and more that we ship of this toxic oil substance, the more we’ll burn and the more we can expect the climate chaos that we’re actually experiencing.”

Northland College student Kaylee Thornley of Spooner went after Enbridge for its pipeline spills, such as Michigan’s 2010 Kalamazoo River rupture that spilled one million gallons of tar sands oil.

“Enbridge has proven itself a criminal corporate citizen,” said Thornley. “It took them more than 17 hours to report that the Kalamazoo spill was even occurring. By the time the dust had settled, Enbridge was charged by regulators with 24 federal violations.”

With 125 construction jobs on the line, two union leaders defended Enbridge. Building Trades President Norm Voorhees says the company has high environmental and safety standards.

“We rely on our public agencies and technology to review everything and make sure it’s done in a responsible manner,” said Voorhees.

Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak wants the DNR to permit the tanks, saying it will build on Superior as an oil hub.

“We are the gateway to North American energy independence and we’re proud to be home to Enbridge’s Superior Terminal,” said Lisak. “In Douglas County, we’ve been able to strike a balance between economic development and nature. We’ve proven that industry and nature can co-exist.”

Public comment on the project ends May 19. Enbridge hopes to build the tanks this summer.

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