People over Pipelines, Pt. 1

by Sandra Kaptain,


A few of us from SOIL, Save Our Illinois Land, went to a conference People Over Pipelines, in Marshfield WI in October.

I was skeptical when I went, especially since Enbridge is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and with all the financial support added from the Koch Bros. for fossil fuels of all kinds, opposition to Enbridge seemed futile!

Being more or less a pessimistic type person, I like to pick my fights among those that might be winnable!

So, that being said, I arrived on Friday night thinking, this will be my ‘yes/no’ decision weekend as to what I continue to do about tar sands pipelines.

That was then. Now I am inspired by the work of Mark Borchardt and Elizabeth Stratton and their team of workers who put on one of the best conferences I ever attended, and at almost 70, I’m not a newbie to these!

Between Mark’s story and Elizabeth’s support and over-flowing energy you could not help loving what all these people up here in Wisconsin and from neighboring states are working so hard for, and the community they have formed by working together.

Mark said he and his wife started two years ago with a tar sands oil spill on a small corner of their property, but their neighbor got the brunt of it, being directly on the pipeline route. The neighbor has since had to leave his house, which has not been sold. Mark is a working microbiologist at a research lab, but in his spare time he gathered 10 neighbors who were concerned about the pipeline. They met in Mark’s front room to talk about what they could do about the pipelines.

From there the organization they started along with others who have joined in, they are now, two short years later, a force to be reckoned with. I believe much of that success is due to Mark’s personable, down-to-earth personality, unwillingness to ‘take it’, and the facts that Enbridge oil spills are toxic.

Enbridge works quietly, lies to landowners, and seems to be all-powerful.

Mark and his neighbors said no. Safety is the most important aspect of this battle, and when you violate a family’s safety or ruin part of their land with toxic pollutants, you know you are in an almost ‘life and death situation’. (The property next door to Mark has not been sold.)  Safety alone is a major reason to be involved in this fight! But property rights are very important too.


© Thom Ayres

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