Dane County’s zoning committee postponed a decision Tuesday on a permit Enbridge Energy wants as part of its plan to sharply increase the flow of tar sands crude through Wisconsin.
Committee chairman Patrick Miles said the panel needed expert advice to evaluate an offer from the company to provide specific additional insurance coverage in case of a spill.
Enbridge offered to reimburse the county for any costs it incurred in the cleanup of any oil spill, and said it would add the county as “an additional named insured” in $100 million of the company’s overall $700 million general liability policy.
Naming the county in the policy would mean it could seek reimbursement from the insurance company directly in the event of a spill, Joel Kanvik, Enbridge’s U.S. general counsel, said after the meeting.
However, committee members decided they weren’t certain that they understood exactly what was being offered, if it was the correct type of insurance or in an adequate amount, Miles said.
Enbridge spokeswoman Becky Haase said the company was disappointed about the delay, but would continue working with the county.
The pipeline company offered to make the change to its insurance policy as a condition of a permit it needs to build a pumping station in the town of Medina as part of a plan to triple the flow of crude through its largest Wisconsin pipeline.
Zoning board members discussed accepting the offer and requiring independent confirmation of the adequacy of a containment basin the company has proposed to hold spilled oil.
However, Peter Anderson of the Madison chapter of 350.org said business insurance is so complex that the committee should consult an expert to evaluate the offer.
Before the meeting, Enbridge opponents had asked the county to delay deciding on the permit until more is known about the offer.
Members of the county Zoning and Land Regulation Committee were informed last week of possible new options that could arise when it met Tuesday.
Committee members have expressed interest in requiring Enbridge to buy extra spill cleanup insurance. The corporation has been resisting.
During a private meeting on Thursday its lawyers told a county attorney about new options.
County and Enbridge officials have declined to disclose what was said, and Enbridge opponents have requested a public hearing on any new company proposal.
“We are concerned both that a careful and considered decision on a complicated question will not be possible in such a rushed environment, and also that we and other members of the public will not have been fully heard on what can be entirely new information,” the Sierra Club Wisconsin chapter’s Elizabeth Ward said in an email to the committee.
Miles said any new proposals would be fully explored in public. He said that assistant corporate counsel David Gault asked Enbridge representatives a few questions but didn’t negotiate with them about any potential permit conditions.
“As reported to me, the meeting was simply Enbridge floating a couple ideas that they may bring to the committee in their effort to move the permit along,” Miles said.
Miles said on Friday that he shared with the other four committee members a memorandum on the meeting that he received from Gault, but he declined to give a copy to the State Journal.
Ward repeated a request from the Sierra Club and tar sands opponent 350.org of Madison that the county conduct a study to determine how much and what type of insurance would be needed to ensure a prompt and complete cleanup of any spill.
A county staff report on the permit proposal lists an option for a condition requiring a study of the environmental impact and cleanup cost of a spill.
Enbridge officials have said they have $700 million in insurance, but a spill that dumped 20,000 barrels of crude into the Kalamazoo River watershed in Michigan has taken four years and $1.2 billion to clean up and the company has sued insurers to make them pay, said Anderson.
An Enbridge spokeswoman said Kalamazoo River costs were covered by insurance and budgeted funds without state or federal emergency cleanup fund.
Tar sands from western Canada are a heavy petroleum product that is mixed with a toxic solvent to make it flow through pipes.
Enbridge insists it has an above-average safety record and that its practices have improved since the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill, the largest-ever release from a U.S. pipeline.
The company’s Wisconsin plans would increase the flow through its Line 61 to 1.2 million barrels per day, far more than the 860,000 barrels TransCanada Corp. wants to push through Keystone XL, which would cut a new route across the Canadian border and through the Great Plains.