WHITEWATER, Wis. - Protesters hit the streets of Whitewater Saturday afternoon to make their voices heard in opposition to a possible pipeline that might be built near Whitewater.
More than 100 people gathered to march about a mile from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater University Center to Cravath Lakefront Park.
“If you’ve got a problem with something, don’t just sit there and let it be. Actually say something and do something about it,” Ben Skowronek, UW-Whitewater student and member of Students Allied for a Green Earth, said. “I think that me, all my friends and everyone here that’s with us today is doing just that.”
The group marched in protest of the Canadian company Enbridge and its plan to possibly build another pipeline near existing Line 61, which runs on the outskirts of Whitewater.
“This is something we organized just to show Enbridge and the state legislation that students throughout the state do not want this pipeline in our backyards,” Lorenzo Backhaus, co-president of SAGE, said. “We don’t need another one. We need to stop our reliance and our addiction on fossil fuels, and we need to transition over. We have the technology for clean energy. We need to use it.”
Line 61 is a 42-inch-diameter crude oil pipeline that carries up to 1.2 million barrels per day from Superior, Wisconsin to Pontiac, Illinois.
According to an email from Jennifer Smith, the community engagement manager for Enbridge, the company started talking about expanding its pipeline corridor in February 2014. As part of the evaluation for expansion, Enbridge did field surveys in Wisconsin and Illinois, where the new pipeline would run, from 2014-2015.
Smith said Enbridge informed its investors in October 2015 about the field surveys. She said the possible pipeline could be up to 42 inches in outside diameter, carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil per day and “would generally be immediately adjacent to Enbridge’s existing mainline system.”
But Smith said there are no current plans to move forward with construction.
“Enbridge would only move forward with a project if sufficient need and customer support existed,” Smith said in an email. “If that were to happen, we would announce the project to the public and begin outreach to landowners and other stakeholders along the proposed route in both states.”
Protesters said they want to be proactive and make people aware about the possibility of the pipeline.
“We really hope to spark the conversation about this new pipeline before Enbridge is able to start building,” Cassie Steiner, with Wisconsin Youth Network, said. “We really hope people can hear about this before the thing even starts moving forward and be ready when those public hearings start happening.”
In a statement, Enbridge said it “recognizes the rights of people to express their views legally and peacefully, and to discuss Enbridge’s business as long as everyone is respectful of those who live and work near our pipelines.”
Protest organizers said they were happy to see people of all ages come from around the state and even across the country.
“It’s heartwarming. It’s empowering. It’s amazing to see something come together,” Backhaus said.
The group said it will continue to rally and hold events until the people are heard.
“We won’t be silenced. We’re going to keep protesting, and we’re going to do it until we get what we want,” Backhaus said. “We want a clean future. We want generations to be able to survive and sustain life.”
In addition to protesting the possible new pipeline, the group wants Enbridge not to construct any new tar sands oil infrastructure in Wisconsin. It also wants the company to decommission Line 5, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac, a waterway that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, as well as improve its pipeline management, oversight and technology with the eventual goal of decommissioning its existing pipelines and moving toward clean fuel sources.