Another Great Lakes protection success story – WI DNR dismisses oil tanker terminal permit

I just received word that the application to rehab a terminal, in Superior, Wisc., for oil tankers has been dismissed by the WI DNR. This terminal permit would have been the first step in getting large oil tankers on the waters of the Great Lakes. You can read more about that project, the impacts and the dismissal below:

The Alliance for the Great Lakes and Minnesota Environmental Partnership just released this press statement:

Wisconsin dismisses controversial oil terminal permit application, for now Proposal would open the door to tar sands shipping on the Great Lakes

SUPERIOR, Wis. — A plan to begin shipping tar sands oil across Lake Superior – and potentially open the door to shipping large volumes of this relatively new form of thick crude across the Great Lakes — has been dealt a setback for now.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in December dismissed an application for a loading dock rehabilitation viewed as the first step toward a $25 million crude oil complex meant to facilitate shipments of tar sands crude across Lake Superior starting as soon as next year. As the first permit to pave the way for tar sands shipping on the Great Lakes, the proposal had broad implications for the region.

Before the project can proceed, the DNR has instead ordered a comprehensive Environmental Assessment of the entire dock project, something many called for during a public informational hearing in November attended by about 50 residents from both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“Area residents really care about Lake Superior and they want to make sure this unique resource is not threatened by costly and harmful spills of this dangerous type of crude oil,” said Andrew Slade, Northeast Program Coordinator for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “This demonstrates how, when citizens speak up on such important water issues, government agencies can actually respond.”

The applicant, Elkhorn Industries, may re-apply for the permit under conditions set by the DNR in its Dec. 23, 2013 letter to the company. The letter says public comments from the meetingplayed a role in its decision, and states that the agency “will need significantly more information about the plans and activities proposed for the site.”

“We want to thank Wisconsin DNR for agreeing that more information is needed, and to the members of the public who helped make this change,” said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program director for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “This gives the community – and the region – much-needed time for a larger binational discussion about whether the Great Lakes should become the next frontier for shipping tar sands crude oil.”

Welch is the lead author of a report released in November ( that explores the potential risks of tar sands oil shipping across the Great Lakes. The report found that neither the Great Lakes shipping fleet nor its ports were designed to ship this form of crude over the lakes, and highlighted the proven challenges of cleanup after a spill.

The DNR cited two other issues as having a role in its dismissal of the application, including that Elkhorn Industries does not own the entire waterfront property necessary to complete the proposed project and could not legally apply for work on the property it does not own.


— Andrew Slade, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, 218-727-0800

— Lyman Welch, Alliance for the Great Lakes, 312-445-9739,


5 thoughts on “Another Great Lakes protection success story – WI DNR dismisses oil tanker terminal permit

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