Pedaling a message about oil pipelines

Calling attention to the underground workings of the Enbridge Energy pipeline in Wisconsin is the goal behind a bike trek in Douglas County over the weekend.

Bruce Noble of Madison pedals Sunday along Stinson Avenue near Enbridge Energy in Superior to educate the public on the potential hazards of petroleum pipelines. (Shelley Nelson)

Calling attention to the underground workings of the Enbridge Energy pipeline in Wisconsin is the goal behind a bike trek in Douglas County over the weekend.

Bruce Noble, 80, of Madison took the ride on behalf of Wisconsin Grassroots Pipeline Group. The goal of the organization is to call attention to the potential for harm posed by petroleum pipelines running through Wisconsin.

“The primary message is its very hidden,” Noble said. “People have not generally known about it because it’s all underground. It’s the greatest story never heard.”

Noble said the goal is to educate the public about the hazards the pipeline poses.

“Since 2007, Wisconsin has experienced three spills,” Noble said. They occurred in Adams Rusk and Clarke counties. He said in all three cases, the spill went beyond easements held by the company.


Pipelines are mechanical systems and unfortunate mechanical systems fail, said Enbridge spokesperson Becky Haase. During that time, she said Enbridge delivered 13 billion barrels of oil to its destination without incident.

“These are hazards to the public we want people to know about,” Noble said. “We’re not trying to scare people. We’re just trying to say ‘hey, this pipeline is going through your state - you’re not receiving one cent ... We want to make sure the people know what risk they’re taking. We’re educators. We’re not saying go out and take some action. We don’t necessarily want to stop the pipeline, but we think that people ought to know.”

He said the goal is get counties affected by the pipeline to adopt resolutions that would ask the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to seek environmental impact statements for pipelines running through the state.

“I’m 80 years old; I’m not going to see petroleum end in my lifetime,” Noble said. An open-heart surgery and cancer survivor, he said “I said to myself ‘I don’t know how many years you have left, but do something for your kids and grandkids.’ I follow the Native American principle of planning for seven generations, not just the immediacy of what gas might cost today, but what is oil going to do seven generations down the line if we’re still here.”

Noble said his goal is to ride through all 16 counties in Wisconsin affected by the pipeline between Superior and Illinois.

He acknowledged transporting oil by truck, train and ship pose a greater threat to the environment; however, Noble said the safer alternative for transporting petroleum shouldn’t be assumed to be a safe means of transportation.

Pipelines are considered the safest form of transporting oil, Haase said. She said it would take 13,000 tanker trucks to deliver the amount of oil delivered by Enbridge pipelines in a day.

For John Endrizzi, who was traveling with Noble on Sunday, water is of great concern.


“Water is our most precious element,” Endrizzi said. “… the water has been compromised already by three leaks.”

He said while the damage wasn’t as extensive in Wisconsin as it was on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, it has that potential.

In Canada, isolation valves are required where the pipeline crosses waterways, Endrizzi said. He said it’s a means of protecting the water should a leak develop.

“Our water is so precious and we stand so much of a chance of having a problem,” Endrizzi said.

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