By Phyllis Hasbrouck

In the face of the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change that UN Secretary António Guterres called “Code Red for Humanity,” Wisconsinites have the opportunity to take a huge step towards cutting our carbon emissions.

Enbridge, a Canadian company, is seeking Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permits to create a 41-mile new segment of their existing Line 5. Here are some of the reasons that 350 Wisconsin (formerly 350 Madison) is urging the Evers administration to deny Enbridge a permit.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Enbridge’s Line 5 expansion proposal is totally inadequate. TRC, the firm that the DNR chose to create it, is not unbiased. It makes money by consulting on huge engineering projects like laying pipelines. Were TRC to truthfully state the environmental impacts of such a project, they would soon have no clients.

Instead of consultants who extoll the “benefits” of the project and minimize the huge dangers it poses, the DNR needs to pay scientists who understand geology, hydrology, HDD (horizontal directional drilling), and other pipeline installation practices, and who do not make their living by siding with the corporations who seek permits. They could also consult with people who recently had to deal with Enbridge laying a pipeline through a water-rich, fragile ecosystem. Guess what? Such people exist: they are the opponents to Enbridge’s recently completed Line 3 replacement project in Minnesota.

They have documented crimes against nature perpetrated by Enbridge in its mad rush to finish Line 3 before it could be stopped by a successful lawsuit, an effective climate change policy by the Biden or Evers administration, or the inevitable collapse of the tar sands industry as the world moves away from fossil fuels, starting with the dirtiest ones. These courageous people in Minnesota should be interviewed by an unbiased group of scientists who can create a new DEIS, one that will honestly address the environmental impacts of the Line 5 expansion, instead of minimizing them, as TRC did.

I realize that I’m asking a lot of those who will be making this decision. I’m asking them to do something that may not have a precedent: saying no to an oil pipeline project. Many will say, “That’s not politically feasible” and, “It’s unreasonable to expect huge changes so quickly.” Tell that to Mother Nature. She doesn’t care that you want to keep your job, or get a big grant, or whatever the prize is that cautious people value over the future of humanity. If we keep burning fossil fuels, Mother Nature will unleash disasters that we can barely imagine. If politicians and DNR employees dare not say no to Enbridge’s permit application, tar sands will continue to arrive at foreign markets and be burned.

We Wisconsinites can be at the forefront of the drawdown of fossil fuel, which is the only way to keep our planet livable. How lucky we are to be in the throes of a decision that could shut down the entire Line 5, which moves 540,000 barrels per day of “lightly refined” tar sands oil. Let’s embrace this opportunity and lead other states and countries in disabling the fossil fuel industry. Our country and our world have the knowledge, the money and the people power to turn a fossil fueled economy into a renewable energy economy. (Read the book Drawdown for a detailed plan of how to do it.)

Those who work at the DNR do so because they love nature and want to preserve and repair our environment. Perhaps, just like the politicians who limit what staff are allowed to do, they have made decisions that they weren’t proud of. Perhaps they told themselves, “If I get fired or resign in protest, they will just bring in someone else who doesn’t care about nature as much as I do. I won’t be here to influence other decisions that are even more important than this one.”

Well, there is no decision more important than this one. The unbiased scientists of the IPCC tell us that we have just 30 months to make carbon emissions fall, and then decades more remaking our energy sector while defending against climate disasters, and helping people and landscapes recover from them.

There is no higher calling at this moment than to bring carbon emissions down, and the Evers administration’s decision on Line 5 can be a turning point in saving life on our planet. I ask them to join with the people fighting for a livable future and reject Line 5.

This post originally appeared in the The Capital Times (4/27/22). Reprinted with permission.