- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Dane County officials have given up on trying to force Enbridge Energy to provide stronger financial assurances for a proper cleanup of a spill from the company’s crude oil pipeline across Wisconsin.

County zoning administrator Roger Lane told the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1KalG02 ) that efforts to secure additional funding for cleanup are fruitless because of opposition from state lawmakers.

Environmentalists want Dane County to require Canada-based Enbridge to establish a $25 million cleanup trust fund in case of a spill of tar sands oil. But if the county imposed a cleanup fund requirement, Enbridge would sue and probably win, assistant county attorney David Gault said last month in an opinion.

A state ban on cleanup insurance recently was signed by Gov. Scott Walker, and trying to circumvent that ban could trigger a punishing response from Republicans, who control the government in Wisconsin, said Patrick Miles, chairman of the county zoning board.

“I’m guessing if we asked for $25 million upfront for a trust fund, they would react pretty quickly,” Miles said.

He predicts that lawmakers would ban local requirements for the trust fund and perhaps approve a currently stalled proposal to remove the county’s zoning authority.

“I’m not interested in seeing more of our authority pulled out from under us,” Miles said. “It’s frustrating to have to be making that kind of calculus, but that’s the reality we’re dealing with.”

Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst said in March that lawmakers were keeping a close eye out for county officials with an “ideological bent” who wanted to block projects that promise to reduce petroleum prices for consumers.

Enbridge already has $860 million in liability insurance and could also tap federal and state cleanup funds if necessary to deal with a spill anywhere on its system in Wisconsin, company spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said in an email.

“If a release were to occur on Enbridge’s system in Dane County (or anywhere else in Wisconsin), we will take responsibility,” she said.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj

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