Environmental impact statement falls short of legal requirement to explore impacts on natural resources

MADISON  — A 74-mile natural gas pipeline proposed in west central Wisconsin has potential to create numerous and significant adverse impacts on wetlands, surface water, rare or threatened species’ habitats and high-quality woodlands. The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) fails to adequately address many key environmental issues including the effects of increased sand mining that could be promoted by the pipeline.

“Wisconsin law requires an EIS to consider and address all impacts, but we’re not seeing that here,” said Katie Nekola, attorney for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s oldest and largest environmental advocacy group. “A lack of detail creates a lack of understanding not only about what’s in store for our natural resources, but what can be done to protect those resources should this project ultimately be approved.”

Clean Wisconsin filed comments with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission regarding the draft EIS for the West Central Lateral Natural Gas Pipeline, which would begin near Eau Claire and end near Tomah. Project applicant Wisconsin Gas LLC is proposing the $192 million pipeline to provide new service to various communities and industries, including the sand mining industry which has already caused concern among local residents about the health impacts of airborne silica dust and impacts on ground and surface water. The draft environmental impact statement contains numerous deficiencies:

  • Inadequate exploration of the potential issues created by increased sand mining, which the project is actively promoting.
  • Inconsistency in accounting of wetland acreage and permanent forested areas.
  • Failure to evaluate endangered and threatened plants and animals.
  • Insufficient information on wetland and upland mitigation.

“While we appreciate PSC and DNR’s efforts to assess the potential impacts of this gas pipeline, unfortunately the draft impact statement in its current form is inadequate,” said Nekola. “This project would be constructed through many environmentally sensitive areas, and would promote more sand mining, which comes with its own set of impacts that must be fully evaluated. We encourage the PSC to engage in further analysis of all impacts before issuing a final Environmental Impact Statement.”