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Sen. Ron Johnson visits Enbridge in Superior

U.S. Sen Ron Johnson says fossil fuels power 80% of the economy, and Enbridge is crucial for places like Wisconsin.

Sen. Ron Johnson.jpg
U.S. Sen Ron Johnson addresses reporters outside Enbridge offices Monday, Oct. 24, on Stinson Avenue in Superior.
Shelley Nelson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson visited the city Monday, Oct. 24, to learn more about the pipelines Enbridge Energy operates.

Following a private briefing with Enbridge Energy officials, the senator who is seeking his third term in office, met briefly with area reporters.

Johnson, a Republican, said he learned the pipeline operation keeps thousands of tanker cars and trucks off the road, and he was impressed with how focused Enbridge is on safety.

“They just go above and beyond,” Johnson said.

Johnson's visit to Superior came one week after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources ordered Enbridge to pay $11 million following a series of aquifer breaches during construction on the company's Line 3 pipeline last year.

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In northern Wisconsin, the company's Line 5 pipeline has been under scrutiny for the last few years. The 69-year-old pipeline runs 645 miles from Superior through northern Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. It carries up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day.

State officials shut down the existing pipeline twice over the summer to investigate possible spills.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued Enbridge in federal court in 2019 to shut Line 5 down and remove the pipeline from 12 parcels of tribal lands. As a result, Enbridge proposed building a new pipeline that would bypass the Bad River Reservation at an estimated cost of $450 million. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hasn't yet issued a construction permit for the project and is completing an environmental review before making that decision, according to reporting from Wisconsin Public Radio.

During his briefing with reporters, Johnson took issue with policies that call for the elimination of fossil fuels.

“We need to understand that our economy is powered about 80% by fossil fuels,” Johnson said. “When (President Joe) Biden said he’s going to get rid of fossil fuels, that is so divorced from reality. I’m sorry, but the Green New Deal is a fantasy. The world is going to be run and powered by fossil fuels for decades.”

Even if America were to eliminate all carbon dioxide emissions, Johnson said it wouldn’t impact climate change by 1 degree. He said the impact of India and China burning fossil fuels would still be felt in the world.

“So if you’re concerned about climate change, I don’t deny it,” Johnson said. “I’m just not alarmist.”

With the wind blowing about 10 miles per hour Monday morning, Johnson said it may be a good day for wind energy, but the reality is fossil fuels are still needed as an energy source.

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“We’ve got to be able to permit these pipelines, recognizing that is the safest, most cost-effective way of transporting oil and gas,” Johnson said. “That’s why companies like Enbridge are so crucial. In Wisconsin, we have no oil or gas; we have to truck it in to fuel our economy.”

Johnson said it doesn’t make sense that his opponent, Democrat Mandela Barnes, is opposed to pipeline projects because they create hundreds of good-paying union jobs and fuel the economy.

Maddy McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Mandela Barnes campaign, issued a statement following Johnson's visit to Superior.

“Why would Wisconsinites ever entrust energy policy to the guy who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in political support from Big Oil?" McDaniel said. "Ron Johnson would rather mortgage our futures and allow China to take the lead on clean energy manufacturing than stand up to the oil executives who have bought his loyalty.”

This story was updated at noon Oct. 25 with remarks from the Mandela Barnes campaign spokesperson. It originally posted at 4 p.m. Oct. 24.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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As reported by Douglas County.
As reported by Douglas County.