By Cassie Steiner

[Note. The DNR’s public hearing on the Line 5 draft Environmental Impact Statement was held February 2, 2022. The hearing lasted 10 hours, with 147 people testifying in opposition to Enbridge’s proposal and only 20 in favor. The entire hearing can be viewed here.]

I have been advocating against Enbridge pipeline expansions in Wisconsin for almost 10 years, ever since I was a college student at UW–Whitewater. UW–Whitewater is located less than three miles from Enbridge’s Line 61 pipeline, which was expanded just a few years ago in a shady, undemocratic way to become one of the largest oil pipelines in the world. What a shame that so little has changed since then in regard to the permitting of oil pipelines.

My comment today voices many of the same concerns that have been raised for years without being adequately addressed: Enbridge’s oil pipeline proposals and existing pipelines pose serious risks to our climate, our waterways, our wildlife, and extremely importantly, tribal rights and sovereignty.

These concerns remain relevant. What’s more, the climate crisis is no longer a decade away. It is here, and we cannot afford to wait any longer to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure and move to clean energy.

Turning to the specific focus of this hearing, Enbridge’s proposal and the accompanying draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) have uniquely atrocious flaws. These have been explained in detail by others at tonight’s hearing, so I won’t repeat what’s already been said.

What I do want to highlight is the appalling disrespect shown to sovereign tribal nations during the entire Line 5 permitting process. This disrespect is evident in:

  • The decision to give a Congressperson the first word at this hearing instead of the Chair of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a sovereign nation;
  • The dEIS’s inaccurate and incomplete list of the tribes that would be affected by the proposed pipeline expansion and the document’s failure to adequately address the concerns raised by the Bad River Band and other Indigenous leaders; and
  • The insistence of those speaking in favor of Line 5 that Enbridge is “honoring” the Bad River Band’s wishes by rerouting the pipeline around the reservation but through the watershed, when the tribe has made it abundantly clear that they want Enbridge — as the Tribal Chair said a few moments ago — “to just get out of our water.”

The dEIS is gravely inadequate, and frankly offensive. With so much additional data and analysis needed — as pointed out in great detail at this hearing — I urge the DNR to go back to the drawing board, come up with an updated and more thorough draft, and host a new hearing and extended public comment period on the revised version.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.