Crude oil shipping blocked under new U.S. Venture port lease

Company plans to ship ethanol to Canada, Europe

Appleton-based U.S. Venture Inc. would agree to not receive, handle, store, ship or distribute crude oil through its Port Milwaukee operations as part of an amended lease agreement currently before the city’s Public Works Committee.

The possibility of the company shipping crude oil through the port was among a number of concerns raised during debate earlier this year over a previous lease amendment. Opponents, including Citizens Acting for Rail Safety and Milwaukee Riverkeeper, expressed concern about the possibility of a spill at the port along with additional trains and trucks operating near downtown.

U.S. Venture plans to build a 1,000-foot long pipe from its tank yard at the port to the port’s liquid cargo terminal to export ethanol to Canada and Europe. The ethanol will be shipped to the port via truck or train before being loaded and sent out by boat. The company also submitted a conditional use permit application in July to install equipment to expand its ability to handle liquid petroleum gas and will also be submitting an application to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The company would have also have been able to ship crude oil through the port had it secured permits from the Department of Natural Resources. Company representatives indicated in April they were open to limiting crude in future lease amendments.

In addition to blocking the distribution of crude oil, the current proposal would also add two parcels totaling nearly an acre to the company’s lease. U.S. Venture is not required to pay any additional rent for the extra space.

One of the parcels is located near the liquid pumping station and the other will help facilitate the expansion of U.S. Venture’s butane operation. Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for Port Milwaukee, said neither parcel is otherwise readily available for a lease. While the company is not paying rent on the additional space, the expanded operations will generate revenue for the port through wharfage and dockage.

Fleming said the additional land was not offered to the company in exchange for not moving crude oil through the port. He pointed to the company’s previous willingness to limit crude and said it was included in the current lease changes at the port’s request to avoid making multiple amendments.

“At the request of the Port of Milwaukee, U.S. Venture recently agreed to amend the lease to provide that U.S. Venture will not use the property to receive, handle, store or ship or otherwise distribute crude oil to or from Jones Island on the Great Lakes,” the company said in a statement.

The Public Works Committee will consider the amended lease at its meeting Wednesday.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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