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Workers unload a boat last week, beginning the reconstruction project at the Montello Dam and dredgebank along Buffalo Lake.

 

Town of Westfield residents discuss biogas pipeline


By Keri Solis
About 40 residents and landowners were in attendance at the monthly meeting of the Town of Westfield, where discussion was held regarding allowing Clean Energy North America to put in a pipeline for biogas to flow between New Chester Dairy and Brakebush Brothers. Once it reaches Brakebush it would be converted into energy for use by the business.

The meeting began with Erik Olsen, a lawyer hired by John and Mary Fullmer to protect property rights, addressing the crowd. In his opinion, State Statute 86.16(1) was a gray area in regards to being able to get permission from towns to use the road right-of-way to install a pipe, since biogas did not fall under a specific list of items in the statute that includes messages, light, heat, water and power.

The same statute had been reviewed earlier in the year at by the state’s general counsel at the request of Senator Luther Olsen. It was reported to the county board that in the counsel’s opinion, the proposed biogas pipeline would be covered by the statute. Ben Bult, corporation counsel to the Marquette County Board of Supervisors, also stated to the County Board of Supervisors in the past that he was comfortable with the opinion of the state.
Attorney Olsen also raised concerns about any future contamination and who would be responsible, along with the issuing of a permit versus an easement. A permit can be revoked, while an easement could be forever.

The biggest concern from residents was over liability. Steve Spitzer, who owns property along Hwy. J and Hwy. A, offered to sell the portion of land required to lay the pipeline to CENA.  “Let the people profiting from this hold all of the liability,” he said.
Others questioned why the pipeline was going to Brakebush instead of the federal prison, where the energy could save taxpayer dollars. Murray Sim of CENA responded by saying they did approach the prison, but it is a five-year process with the government for it to go through and that did not match the timeline CENA was looking for.

Some also thought that CENA should be offering the Town and the landowners more money, since they will be profiting by putting the pipe through the town. Currently, they are offering landowners one dollar a foot. Some landowners said they wouldn’t cash the check because that would be agreeing to the project.

Resident Mara Meronek also raised issues regarding the biodigester that would be installed and the potentional increased truck traffic.
Dominic Ferraro, who said he moved to the area to get away from city life, addressed the crowd by saying that, “There is nothing wrong with the plan.” In speaking to those who were concerned about leaks, he said, “I’ll argue there was more methane released in this room tonight.”

Ferraro felt that the people needed to support the pipeline and support the employers who are a part of it, with the thought that they would then be able to give back to the community by providing more jobs or pay increases. He received a round of applause from the crowd after his speech.
The board did not vote on the issue, as it was placed on the agenda as a presentation by Fullmer and/or his attorney. The topic will most likely appear on the agenda again next month for a vote.