Below is the transcript of my speech at the Barrymore on May 25th, after Naomi Klein’s movie, “This Changes Everything”.
I live in a sacrifice zone.
Our town, our people, our water, our flora and fauna, are being sacrificed for fossil fuel.
I live in Legendary Lake Mills, about 18 miles east of Madison, just over the county line in Jefferson County. Not very far from Madison at all.
Lake Mills is a Norman Rockwell like town with a square, well, really it’s a triangle, a pyramid, to represent the mysterious pyramids in the lake and the mounds of Aztalan State Park. We recently built two LEED certified school buildings. We have a busy Main Street and a thriving local economy and a population that supports this concept. We have our own light and power company. We care about the environment.
Much of my adult life has been spent in Lake Mills. For a while I lived on a small tract of land just west of town. My kids could sit on our lawn and watch calves be born across the road. They used to sled down the clearing on the hill behind our home.
Oh, we were told by neighbors that there was a gas pipeline buried there, and we just assumed it was a utility line. We didn’t think it could be dangerous. We never knew what it was back then, nor what it would become in 2006. We moved from that home in the mid 1990’s and moved north for a while returning to Lake Mills in 2006.
In the years that we were gone, an additional pipeline, Line 14, was laid, In the years after we returned to Lake Mills, we saw Line 13, and 61 placed. We had no idea what those pipelines were. It wasn’t until 2014, that we learned what was in that corridor.
Now I live about 2 miles east, as the crow files, from the pipeline. My memories, neighbors and friends still live on that pipeline. Some of my neighbors silenced by non-disclosure clauses forbidding them to discuss the pipeline with any one including me.
In May of 2014, Enbridge announced that they wanted to triple the flow in the current 42 inch pipeline to 1.2 million barrels per day, and that they needed to construct a pump station to do so. It’s under construction right now, guarded by rent a cops 24/7. With the expansion, we now have 2.5 million barrels per day of oil flowing through our countryside. But they are not done.
Back when I lived on the pipeline, you didn’t see much evidence of the line underground. But now, in winter, thick black lines of snowmelt, mark where bitumen flows, like thick, hot lava….flowing to the refineries. The bitumen is heated to 158 degrees so it can remain fluid. It’s pressurized to 1200 psi.
In the early Spring, when the fields are still brown, grass grows upon these lines leaving an eerie neon green glow.
Our roads are collapsing over the pipeline, needing constant maintenance, and there are also Integrity Digs, occurring sporadically with little or no notice and we really don’t know why they are digging.
Underground runs a river of oil and toxic gas. Should pipeline 61 rupture, it could release 2 million gallons of dilbit, per hour, 650,000 gallons of heavier than air toxic gas, which would be flammable, and potentially instantly fatal depending on dose.
We live in drumlin country, among beautiful hills and valleys.
The low spots would be traps. Heavier than air gas, doesn’t disperse as readily with the wind, because it clings to the ground at about chest level, and sinks to the low spots it can find.
We have volunteer fire departments in our small towns.
These are thinly staffed, especially during the day because, in our town, as in most small towns, our younger fit people, are working in the cities. There are times when Lake Mills has as few as 2 firefighters on the ready. This won’t do for a rescue of people who would be caught near a full bore rupture of this behemoth. Our pipeline people need to be educated that they could have to make life and death decisions should a rupture occur near their homes. They need to know elevation and wind direction relative to the pipeline. They need to understand not to do anything that would cause a spark. They need to know, that only they, can make the decision to flee, or to shelter in place, and what the result of a wrong call could be. What they have received is a vague brochure from Enbridge telling them to call 911 and at the same time, not to use any electronic device. Brave Wisconsin is in the process of making safety kits which volunteers will distribute along the line. Enbridge repeatedly refers to their online first responder training program, and that they have trained our first responders for any disaster. Having been a first responder in my younger years, I know what rural response time is, and for the mundane call, 20-30 minutes is pretty much the usual.
We would be looking at a situation where the first responders need to don self contained breathing apparatus before rescuing.
I was curious what they were going to do in a full bore rupture so I registered for their online class, and took it. See here is my certificate.
I admit I learned a few things, but nowhere in the 5 hour training did they confront a massive pipeline rupture in an area with residential dwellings.
Our activism started back in June 2014 some of our people attended Enbridge’s Coffee and Conversations. Enbridge thought that it was a good idea to come to our area and show us what good neighbors they are, so they set up a room with tables and put a representative at each table. People were not happy with the set up, so several of us decided, to take this on, by sitting down. The entire room took a chair. For two and a half hours, the Enbridge representatives earned their salaries by dealing with pointed questions from the audience. It ended with a chant, and then every last citizen put away their chair back on the rack. It was one of those magic moments in activism. Now, we must create more of those. We must empower the local people of OUR sacrifice zone.
Over 200 of our people gathered again in March of 2015 at a forum, that our group put together. Over 1500 homes along the pipeline were leafleted by our Brave Wisconsin’s group of volunteers.
It doesn’t end there, along with the danger the present pipelines pose, Enbridge is adding the pain and insult of eminent domain. The new pipeline Line 66, will require that Enbridge buy more land. We don’t yet know a confirmed size of the line but 42 inches is mentioned in their literature. We have heard up to 200 additional feet is being sought. Our measures against Enbridge are limited, but our imagination, our will and capacity to wear them down, is not. We can win this. I’m hoping Enbridge never knows where we will show up and what non-violent, creativity we will present, to get the message across to them that this land is OUR land and they are not welcome here.
Many of our landowners are smaller farmers, or rural residents. Most of them have no say whatsoever, as they don’t own the easement that Enbridge wants, they just happen to have home right next to the corridor. They have nothing to negotiate with Enbridge. For others this pipeline is up close and personal, many of these people are losing stands of old trees, barns, outbuildings and yes, even homes.
Homes that can not be replaced.
Heritage that can not be reclaimed.
History that can not be recovered.
People in the cities stand to lose something too.
Those quiet places of nature where we all go to replenish our souls. The places our food is grown and water is naturally recycled. Quiet country roads, we love to bike on. Silent rivers we like to canoe. This isn’t just about our battle in the sacrifice zone. It’s not just about the injustice of eminent domain, it’s not just our water and our land, it’s also the fact that this dirty fuel is obsolete and if we don’t stop using it soon, our future generations will die from it.
It took this being in my back yard to stir me to real action. Into motion. I was always aware of climate change and wanted to do something about it, I gave money to the cause. I was committed. I put bumper stickers on my car. I rallied, marched and set up Facebook pages. But, it wasn’t enough and it still isn’t enough. As a mother and grandmother, I feel the urgency to remedy the situation in my lifetime and it has grown increasingly personal.
I didn’t think this would happen here. Now it’s in my neighborhood. I no longer have the option of intermittent denial. Now, I have only two options, flee for short-lived temporary safety, or as the band REM sings: stand in the place where you live. I’m going to stand in the place where I live.
I live in a sacrifice zone.
This Changes Everything.