With Gas Shortages Feared, Emergency Declared in Wisconsin

by | May 11, 2016 AT 1:01 PM

By Don Behm

An ongoing, two-monthlong shutdown of the only fuel pipeline between Milwaukee and Green Bay has pushed more fuel tanker trucks onto main highways and prompted Gov. Scott Walker to declare an energy emergency.

Passenger vehicles and tanker trucks will be squeezed into summer construction zones on main highways between Milwaukee and Green Bay and Madison and Green Bay until West Shore Pipe Line Co. of Illinois reopens its regional line.

In March, contractors for West Shore started repairing sections of the regional fuel pipeline within the Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area in the Town of Jackson near Cedar Creek.

The line has not reopened since that time, according to Elise Nelson, communications director for the state Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

Walker's emergency declaration enables tanker truck drivers to work more hours each week, and complete more fuel runs, officials said. Drivers on fuel runs within the state, however, must abide by regulations limiting them to no more than 12 hours a day of driving, according to Capt. Brian Ausloos of the Wisconsin State Patrol.

The emergency action was taken "to alleviate potential gasoline and diesel shortages" in the Green Bay metropolitan area, Walker said.

"As the demand for fuel rises with the summer season, it's crucial we have a plan in place to ensure Wisconsin travelers have the fuel they need to not only explore our great state but also continue normal business operations," he said in a statement.

The Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association requested the emergency declaration on behalf of its Green Bay area members, association President Matt Hauser said.

No station that is a member of the group has reported running out of fuel, Hauser said.

But possible shortages were on the minds of business owners earlier this month as truck drivers faced long lines and extended delays for refilling tankers at fuel terminals in Milwaukee and Madison, officials said.

Those delays "and trucking of petroleum products over long distances" make it difficult for transport companies to meet demand and comply with state and federal regulations limiting driving hours in a week, according to the emergency declaration.

West Shore owns a 650-mile fuel distribution system within Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Fuel pipelines extend from East Chicago, Ind., around Chicago to Milwaukee and Green Bay. A separate fuel line runs from the Chicago area to Janesville and Madison.

West Shore spokesman David Boone said the company has been carefully inspecting additional sections of the pipeline north of Milwaukee since completing the work at Jackson Marsh this year.

Boone acknowledged remaining inspection activities "will take several weeks and will likely have an impact on deliveries to Green Bay."

"The company is continuing to evaluate inspection data and perform necessary maintenance," Boone said in a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Welded seams or sections of pipe that have degraded over time are repaired.

"The pipeline will be returned to service as soon as this process concludes," he said.

"At West Shore Pipe Line Company, the safety of the communities we serve is a top priority," he said. No fuel has leaked from the line this year, according to Boone.

In April, pipeline repair work started in the Town of Trenton, according to Town Chairman Joseph Gonnering.

Pipeline crews first worked along S. Oak Road, south of Decorah Road, he said. A few weeks ago, they shifted to a pipeline crossing of Maple Dale Road, north of the West Bend Airport, Gonnering said.

This is the same pipeline that ruptured in July 2010 and spilled 54,600 gallons of gasoline in a farm pasture in the Town of Jackson in Washington County.

The spill was caused by a rupture of a welded seam along several feet of 10-inch pipe. The regional pipeline was built in 1961.

Gasoline from the spill contaminated groundwater in roughly a 1-square-mile area of the town.

West Shore subsequently paid $5.3 million to build eight miles of water main so that Village of Jackson municipal water could serve the rural area around the spill.

(c)2016 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel