Hazardous Cargo and the Port of Milwaukee

U.S. Oil’s lease with the Port of Milwaukee authorizes the storage and shipment of high hazard flammable (HHF) cargo including ethanol and liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

After C.A.R.S., Milwaukee Riverkeeper and other citizens raised concerns, there is now an amendment to the lease in which U.S. Oil agrees it will not use its property in the port to store or ship crude oil.

Big questions remain about U.S. Oil’s other plans.

Milwaukee already faces considerable risk from flammable crude oil and ethanol trains endangering our neighborhoods and waters.

US Oil’s plans to store and ship ethanol and LPG will increase hazardous train and truck tanker traffic through the heart of our city.

Why is the Port of Milwaukee creating a magnet for these dangerous cargos?

In addition the lease specifically authorizes a tire pyrolysis facility that would incinerate old tires to turn them into fuel oil.

Is this the future we want for our harbor, lakefront, rivers and the Great Lakes?

Has there been the broad public discussion and evaluation that the lease’s many implications obviously call for?

What you can do:  Whether you are a resident, regular visitor or boat owner, contact Milwaukee aldermen about this issue. Insist on a full public review.


Resources for more information

Aerial Photo of U.S. Oil Terminal Facility at Jones Island in the Milwaukee Port and their description of the facilities there.

Link to US Oil Lease Agreement with the Port of Milwaukee
On page 4 of the lease: “8. Use of the Property. Tenant shall use the Property for operating a liquid bulk facility for the receipt, production, blending, processing, handling, storage, shipping, and distribution of bulk liquid materials, including without limitation petroleum and renewable fuel s, which shall include the liquid materials and all raw materials, proceeds and ingredients related thereto and for the installation and operation of a tire pyrolysis facility.”

Link to 4th amendment to US Oil Lease
US Oil agrees not to handle or ship crude oil out of their facility in the MKE Port. They receive another .95 acres without paying any addition rent to expand their ethanol and LPG storage and shipping facility.

Big Questions for Milwaukee’s Harbor
Op-ed in Milwaukee Journal by CARS-MKE member Eric Hansen
Eric_Hansen-Harbor_ op-ed for a PDF version

Canadian Sailings-March2015  – trade magazine article
Highway H2O: Building on commodity success
U.S. Oil Director of Development, Richard Sawall, describes crude oil plans for Port of Milwaukee. Especially see page 19 where he says: “US Oil and others are investigating the use of the Great Lakes as a means to efficiently move crude oil out of the midcontinent to international markets.”

Canadian Shipper-Jan-Feb1015  – trade magazine article
Market Potential: Looking at Cargo Opportunities on the St. Lawrence Seaway
Richard Sawall, U.S. Oil Director of Development, describes their work to develop Milwaukee as a crude oil port.“We’ve been looking at this for over two years,” he said. See page 42 under the subhead “Crude Moves”.


Currently, a 2014 lease gives U.S. Oil 30 years to operate in the port.

U.S. Oil has plans to transport ethanol into the port by truck, store it in tanks, and pipe it to tankers to ship it through the Great Lakes to Quebec and the world market. What route would that parade of hazardous ethanol trucks take to get to the port?

Ethanol fires are dangerous. A 2009 train accident near Rockford, illinois triggered a ferocious ethanol fire that led to significant human casualties among motorists stopped at the railroad crossing: one death and three life threatening injuries.

Ethanol, which deoxygenates water when spilled, is notably dangerous for fish. The 2009 Rockford incident caused a historic, 50-mile long fish kill in the Rock River.

U.S. Oil’s website markets the rail infrastructure they have in the port. Will they try to bring mile long unit trains of ethanol or crude oil to their port facility in the future?

In 2014 and 2015 U.S. Oil promoted plans to transport tar sands crude oil (from Alberta) to the harbor by rail and then ship it through the Great Lakes for export. A trade magazine article describes the sheer scale of those plans: 5,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil per day – or more. Those plans faded with the drop in oil prices but the oil market could shift again and revive those plans. Key point: the infrastructure would already be in place.


CARS Harbor Fact Sheet