As we reported in our post late last night, the Brandon Township Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution yesterday evening requiring certain conditions of Enbridge before the company can begin work within the township limits. Supervisor Kathy Thurman, Clerk Jeannie McCreery, Treasure Tyrone Beltramo, and Trustees Dana DePalma, David King, Tom Stowell, and Cheryl Gault deserve a tremendous amount of credit for their courage, their responsiveness to citizen concerns, and their bold and responsible stewardship of the public interest. They have stepped in where few other Michigan elected officials have dared. We are hopeful that other townships and municipalities will be emboldened by Brandon’s actions and begin taking their own steps.
We were especially heartened at the meeting when the Board decided to adjust the resolution from a mere “statement” to a possibly binding requirement (changing language from saying that their conditions “should be addressed” to “must”). The Board also appears ready and willing to enforce their resolution as well. Legal and financial assistance for any such effort is likely to come from POLAR and possibly from the Michigan Townships Association (more on the latter in a moment). The legal authority for such enforcement would derive from the “local consent” requirements of the state constitution and the Highway Act, about which we’ve written before— more than once.
As to the resolution itself, we will post the full version once its precise language has been finalized. It consists of eight requirement, six of which involve safety precautions, addressing matters ranging from pipe wall thickness to on-site monitoring. These six requirements are drawn from the standards Enbridge has voluntarily pledged to adhere to in the construction of its Northern Gateway project in Canada, standards which, in Enbridge’s own words, “go above and beyond anything that has ever been done before in the industry.” The Brandon board sees no reason why U.S. standards should be any less rigorous.
The final two conditions of the Brandon resolution involve (1) a guarantee that the existing pipe, which Enbridge says will be deactivated, will not be used for any gas, petroleum, or other environmentally hazardous material in the future; and (2) compensation to the Township for the additional usage of Township roads.
Over the course of the past few weeks, we have heard from numerous people (including some elected officials) that Brandon’s resolution will have little, if any, effect. After all, Brandon is a small township and Enbridge is a mega-corporation with fancy lawyers and deep pockets. And perhaps this is the view of Howell Township, which to this point seems (perhaps understandably) reluctant to enforce its oil pipeline ordinance.
And maybe those people are right. However, actions like Brandon’s– actions based on principle, regardless of whether they’re overmatched– have the potential to initiate a groundswell of similar actions. So if five, six, seven townships speak up, adding their voices to the public chorus, then our state elected officials might wake up– and at that point, Enbridge will have to begin to take notice.
So once again, we encourage you to contact your own township supervisor and trustees. Write to your local congresspeople. And contact the Michigan Townships Association. Let them all know that Brandon Township has stood up for the public interest and for local authority and autonomy.
A final footnote: this is a non-partisan blog. Which is not to say that we don’t think the Line 6B “replacement” project isn’t a political issue. Obviously, it is. But in raising public awareness about it, we’re not interested in aligning ourselves with a political party (for the record, all of the Brandon board members are Republicans, I believe). Having said that, however, we also won’t shy away from calling ’em like we see ’em. And so we would like to thank Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress Lance Enderle for attending last night’s meeting and speaking in support of the Brandon resolution. Enderle is running against Representative Mike Rogers in the 8th congressional district. Rogers has completely ignored, for weeks, our repeated attempts to contact his office.