MADISON — If politicians and bureaucrats really want to help farmers, they’ll support a pipeline project in northern Wisconsin, says Keith Ripp of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
“The product transported on Line 5 ensures a consistent and adequate supply for the many functions our farmers rely on to run their farms and get products to market,” Ripp, the Farm Bureau’s executive director of Governmental Relations, wrote in comments to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “The rising costs of fuel have a tremendous impact on the economic health of our members. This pipeline provides energy products that eventually become the fuel our members need to maintain their livelihoods.”
The organization is among a long list of supporters of Canada-based Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 crude oil pipeline relocation project.
Farmers, union workers, papermakers, small businesses, even a bait shop have weighed in to support the proposed $450 million plan to construct 41 miles of the pipeline outside of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians’ exterior boundaries of the Reservation.
Friday marked the end of a four-month-long public comment period held by the DNR on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Line 5 Wisconsin Segment Relocation project.
While final numbers will not be known until all comments are posted to the DNR’s project website, comments submitted to the DNR between the original public comment period running from Dec. 16 until Feb. 28 saw supporters outnumbering opposition to the project by a 3 to 1 margin, according to the Wisconsin Jobs and Energy Coalition. When only those who identified as living in Wisconsin were counted, support for the project jumped to more than 80 percent, notes the coalition, made up of dozens of organizations and businesses representing Wisconsin’s workers, manufacturing, agriculture, and communities.
“We are optimistic that the construction of the Line 5 relocation will help spur economic opportunities by creating jobs for these tradespersons,” states comments from the Wisconsin Building Trades Council, made up of 14 trade unions representing 40,000 union in employees across the Badger State.
A 2019 economic impact report found the project would support more than 1,000 jobs, the majority of which would be in Ashland, Bayfield and Iron counties. “We also find that the Project would ultimately add $135 million to Wisconsin’s economic output,” the report estimates.
The project aims to move 12 miles of pipeline off of native land while ensuring the critical pipeline continues to carry the than a half million barrels of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids a day through Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada.
But the tribe and environmentalists have opposed the project, claiming the pipeline could put in peril freshwater sources. The full line has come under constant attack by liberal activists and Democrat politicians, like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suing to shut it down.
Gov. Tony Evers has led a liberal environmental agenda marked by climate change initiatives. But he has been mostly silent on the Line 5 project, particularly as energy and gasoline prices soar. His Department of Natural Resources in February extended the public comment period on the environmental impact statement.
The Wisconsin Jobs and Energy Coalition consists of 35 diverse organizations not typically on the same side of issues. Members range from labor unions, including the Laborers and the Operating Engineers, to agriculture groups, including the Cooperative Network and the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association. Membership also includes small business organizations like the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and Wisconsin Independent Businesses, and the state’s largest chamber of commerce, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.