Wisconsin DNR sends Enbridge a list of demands

November 1, 2022

On October 31, 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WIDNR) sent Enbridge Energy a letter asking for data needed to prepare the environmental impact statement (EIS) for their proposed Line 5 reroute through the Bad River watershed. Among other things, the letter questions the drilling fluids—how many and what other damaging additives they plan to use—and how they will contain PFAS.


Just two weeks prior, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed criminal charges against Enbridge for the damage they did in northern Minnesota when they built Line 3. Among other things, on August 10, 2021 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released a report saying there had been more frack outs of drilling fluid spilled along Line 3 than Enbridge had previously reported. The state water permit issued to Enbridge did not authorize the release of drilling fluid to a wetland or river. But between June 8 and August 5, Enbridge created 28 releases at 12 river crossings, with 13 spills into wetlands and 14 in upland areas. Enbridge brokered an $11M settlement with the State and must promise to not break the law again.

WIDNR is in the process of developing an EIS in response to Enbridge’s proposed plan to reroute their ailing pipeline out of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation. The Band did not renew Enbridge’s easement in 2013, but Enbridge continued to operate illegally. Bad River sued in 2019, and on September 7, 2022 Enbridge was found guilty of criminal trespass and unjust enrichment and ordered to pay financial compensation.

Instead of decommissioning Line 5, they plan to reroute it into the million-year-old watershed of the Penokee Hills. They are proposing doing horizontal directional drilling (HDD) through terrain that, in the event of a spill, would be near impossible to respond to. The watershed flows into Lake Superior through the Kakagon Sloughs, home of Bad River’s wild rice. Considering the damage done in Minnesota and their propensity to lie, Enbridge should be pressed with the hard questions of how they would plan to protect the area from their reckless practices.

Terrain near Copper Falls State Park, where Enbridge plans to do horizontal directional drilling to build a pipeline.

In August 2022, WIDNR reported that an Enbridge contractor discovered oil-contaminated soil along the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline just south of the City of Ashland. Several thousand pounds of dirt were removed according to eye witnesses. Enbridge reported it was only about a tablespoon. Enbridge continues to demonstrate that they cannot be forthcoming with the truth.

Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr: “Deep Blue under Earth drinking water aquifers look like they are reaching out but they are actually pouring down and pouring in. Wispy areas are where surface waters and groundwater’s interact, and it’s hardly a place for Earth destroyers. Water is life.” Map courtesy Mike Wiggins, Jr.

To make matters worse, Enbridge has already signed a contract with the Michels Corporation to build Line 5. Owner Tim Michels is running for governor of Wisconsin and promises to break up WIDNR. Michels would profit greatly from WIDNR granting permits. The Michels Corporation, however, has been part of criminal charges recently filed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro against Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) for the work they did on the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Michels was the construction company and the grand jury investigation revealed that Michels lost drilling fluid 22 different times during the drilling of the 20-inch line and another nine times during work on the 16-inch line.


Drilling for a 16-inch line began in May 2020 with Michels as the subcontractor. Between May and August, the drill lost circulation of fluid totaling approximately 100,000 gallons. These losses were not reported to DEP. From August through September, drilling fluid flowed into Snitz Creek five different times, resulting in five more Notices of Violation from DEP.

Grand Jury investigation into Mariner East 2 Pipeline

Taking all of this into account, how can Enbridge or Michels be trusted here? Does it matter how they respond to WIDNR request for information?

Enbridge should not be trusted to monitor themselves. Million-dollar fines are calculated as a cost of doing business, leaving behind damaged aquifers, contaminated soil, poisoned wells, millions of gallons of water wasted, and remediation projects that cost millions of dollars and take years to complete. In light of the evidence that Enbridge breaks the law repeatedly, WIDNR would be wise to not allow them into the watershed.

Decommission the line and let Enbridge use any of the many other lines they have running through Wisconsin to reroute their oil.

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2 Comments on “Wisconsin DNR sends Enbridge a list of demands”

  1. catthompson November 1, 2022 at 7:14 pm #

    Does anyone know where that $11million goes? Will they actually use that money to restore the damage? Or does this just go into the state coffers?

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