Labor unions, Enbridge plan to work together on proposed rerouting of Line 5 oil pipeline

Public comment on draft environmental impact statement extended through Friday

MADISON, Wis. — A group of labor unions and pipeline company Enbridge plan to work together on a project that would move an oil pipeline off Native American lands in northern Wisconsin.

Enbridge, Michels Pipeline Inc. and the unions — including the Laborers International Union of North America, International Union of Operating Engineers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters — held a project labor agreement signing event in Madison on Wednesday.

Proponents of the project say it will create 700 construction jobs while meeting the push by the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa to move the pipeline off its reservation.

A 12-mile section of the line would be rerouted around the reservation, heading south from near Ashland to Mellen before heading north to rejoin the existing line in Iron County. In total, the detour would run about 41 miles.

The project has faced backlash from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and environmentalists alike who say the pipeline poses a risk to freshwater sources throughout the upper Midwest, including the Great Lakes.

RELATED: Several hundred people address Enbridge pipeline reroute

Approvals are required from multiple agencies before the project could move forward.

In a statement, Amy Barrilleaux, the communications director for Clean Wisconsin, expressed concerns about the project and said the state should instead move toward clean energy sources:

It’s important to note that the reroute of Line 5 is far from a done deal. Canada-based Enbridge, LLC. still needs numerous federal, state, and local permits to construct and operate any reroute of Line 5. Clean Wisconsin, along with many other groups and advocates, is involved in providing input on the environmental review of the project. Our state’s most valuable natural resource is clean water. The proposed reroute of Line 5 will cross nearly 200 waterways and 135 acres of wetlands in northern Wisconsin. The proposed route is just upstream of Copper Falls State Park and poses a huge risk to the park and the rest of the Bad River watershed. In the last 50 years, Line 5 has leaked 29 times, spilling more than a million gallons of oil into the environment.

Fortunately, we have the chance to create new jobs here in Wisconsin by turning to home-grown energy, like wind and solar production. Wisconsin’s clean energy workforce is 76,000 strong and continued investment in renewable energy will created thousands more good-paying jobs.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has extended the public comment period for the project’s draft environmental impact statement to Friday. To learn more, click here.