What’s got us worked up and fuming? Well, it’s not just that we empathize with the Nash family (although we certainly do; the clock is ticking on many of our beloved trees as well). And it’s not Behnam’s reporting, which we’ve quibbled with a bit in the past (in fact, despite those quibbles, we’re quite grateful that he has stayed on the story– unlike, say, the hapless Oakland Press). No. We’re all on fire about the remarks of Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum.
Those keeping up with news and events here and elsewhere know that Enbridge has been spending a lot of time lately suing Michigan landowners in court. We’ve been reporting on these condemnation hearings as best we can, especially on a few cases in Oakland County. But the past few days, all the action has been over in Livingston County. And unfortunately, Livingston makes it much more difficult to get a hold of court records than does Oakland. What’s more, the judge in the recent hearings, Judge Hatty, appears to prefer ruling from the bench, rather than in writing.
We can, however, say this much: the news out of Livingston is mixed. In the cases that have come before him, Judge Hatty has ruled that Enbridge’s easement language (the part we’ve discussed before, which says that they can send any old thing they want through their pipe, exceeds what the MPSC approval allows. That’s good news. However, unlike the TWO judges in Oakland County, Judge Hatty did not, therefore, dismiss Enbridge’s suits altogether. Instead, Hatty’s position seems to be “no harm, no foul”; let the suits commence. Also, in at least one case, Hatty ruled in favor of Enbridge on the question of “necessity”– which means, essentially, that Enbridge gets to “take” (ie, use) the land it wants. On the other hand, compensation still needs to be determined and we remain hopeful that the courts will help ensure that whatever agreement is reached is fair to the landowners, both in terms of monetary compensation and the language of the agreements, which should grant as many protections and assurances as possible to the property owners.
We thought we were done with our series on Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer’s outrageous statement a couple of weeks back. You remember: Springer insisted that Enbridge’s actions show that they deal openly and honestly with stakeholders, despite what those pesky “special interest groups” and their compatriots in the media who just want to stir up controversy would have you believe.
We took exception with that statement (again and again). We think we made our point quite clearly (and factually). We were prepared to give it a rest for a while.
But then examples of not-so-open and not-so-honest dealings by Enbridge just keep coming. Here’s a recent one: (more…)
We just came across a very interesting little story in the small Tri-City Times newspaper, covering the eastern part of the state (the area around Imlay City, Almont, Capac and Dryden). Some sort of Enbridge pipeline construction activity or preparation appears to be taking place in Capac. That’s very near portions of the Line 6B pipeline that Enbridge plans to replace in phase two of their project– the phase for which they do not yet have MPSC approval. Therefore, it’s not clear what’s going on over there– and evidently Enbridge isn’t saying. We’re curious.
A while back we linked to the disturbing story explaining how dilbit is exempt from the federal tax that helps fund the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund– the fund used to cover cleanup costs of oil spills like the one in Marshall in 2010. What that means is that Enbridge did not pay taxes on all that bitumen they dumped into Talmadge Creek. Yet they nevertheless drew money–more than $40 million– from the Trust Fund to help pay for the cleanup (they are supposed to pay it back).
This is potentially good news, of course. But we can’t help notice one little thing: none of the sponsors of this bill are from Michigan. Why, for instance, couldn’t Rep. Fred Upton, who represents the Kalamazoo area, have proposed this kind of legislation? For that matter, why hasn’t Fred Upton proposed any sort of legislation following Marshall and the NTSB findings about Marshall? We also can’t help but wonder whether our own Congressman, Rep. Mike Rogers, will support this proposed legislation. What about your U.S. reps? We recommend that you let them know, forcefully, that support of this bill is the very least they can do. Heaven knows they haven’t done much of anything up to this point.
Enbridge– in the form of spokesman Joe Martucci; we don’t know about any others– will be at tomorrow morning’s Livingston County commissioners’ meeting. Time will be set aside for public remarks. We won’t be able to attend, but we urge anyone who can to do so– and to speak. Tell your story and ask questions. Or, if you aren’t sure what to say, our archives are jam-packed with information and unanswered questions. Feel free to use whatever you find here! Based on our experience, we’d have low expectations for anything helpful or productive coming out of the meeting, but it is vitally important to let your local officials know that their citizens have not been dealt with openly and honestly and fairly by Enbridge– because you can be sure that Enbridge is telling them you have been!
The meeting begins at 7:30 am. Public remarks will open at 8 am. It will be held at the Livingston County Administrative Building, 304 E. Grand River Ave., Howell, MI.
Oh, and if anyone cares to send me a report afterwards, I’d love to see it. You can reach me here.
As we reported earlier today, two more of Enbridge’s condemnation suits were dismissed this morning. Last week, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James M. Alexander dismissed an Enbridge suit, ruling that their “good faith offer”– a requirement prior to any taking– was defective, since it included language claiming “use beyond that allowable under the Michigan Public Service Commission Order approving [Enbridge’s] application.” This morning, Judge Phyllis C. McMillen likewise accepted the defendant’s argument regarding the same Enbridge overreach. Judge McMillen puts it this way: (more…)
Take a look at the progress that’s been made by the persistent folks at Bold Nebraska on the Keystone XL matter. The situation there, you’ll see, is extraordinarily similar to ours– from the lethargy of elected officials right down to basic questions about High Consequence Areas! But they’re getting results. They’ve moved their governor and their own Public Service Commission to take notice. This is exactly why we keep urging everyone to contact our state officials, from the governor to your local congresspersons. Can you imagine Michiganders writing Michigan’s rules?
This just in: two additional condemnation suits brought against landowners in Oakland County court have been dismissed– this time by a different judge than the one who ordered the dismissal last week. The grounds for the dismissal are similar (Enbridge overreaching), but there are some interesting and heartening nuances in this morning’s ruling. We’re looking over and digesting the relevant documents and will have more to say about this good news later today. Stay tuned.
Regular readers of this blog know that our concerns about the way Enbridge conducts its business are many and varied. But if we had to state our objections to the Line 6B project in just one sentence, it would be this:
Enbridge has run roughshod over the citizens of the state of Michigan and our state elected officials have stood by idly and allowed it to happen.
Obviously, there’s much to elaborate upon here– and that’s what we’ve been trying to do for the past three months or so. But that sentence, we think, more or less sums it all up. What makes it all worse, of course, is that Enbridge has behaved this way and our elected officials have let them behave this way in the wake of Marshall. We continue to find it truly astonishing after such a terrible betrayal of the public trust as the Marshall spill– which, we repeat yet again, the NTSB has shown was NOT just an accident–that Enbridge would not do everything possible to earn back that trust and that our elected officials would not be firm and vigilant in making sure that Enbridge act responsibly. Yet Enbridge has had its way. Enbridge has been allowed to have its way.
Which brings us to our most recent example: Brandon Township’s Woodlands Preservation ordinance. (more…)
Another request from our friends at the POLAR legal defense fund: if you’ve been keeping up with events, you know that some of the legal tussles have begun to heat up. POLAR’s suit, for instance, appears to be heading to federal court. Other legal challenges are pending as well. These cases are expensive. If you are able to make a donation to the legal defense fund, please consider doing so. You can do so right through the POLAR website.
Before I even begin this post, an apology and/or warning: here we’re going to tackle some sticky legal questions, some of them theoretical. I fully recognize that lots of folks might not have much of a taste for the kind of jurisprudential nerdiness that is about to be on display here. If that’s you, I won’t be offended if you choose to quietly excuse yourself from the blog for a little while (just as long as you promise to come back!). It’s just that sometimes I get an intellectual itch that I have to scratch or it will drive me crazy. However, if you do stick around, I’ll do my best to try and make this interesting and worth your while. Deal? (more…)
An important blog entry from the always razor-sharp Anthony Swift at the National Resources Defense Council. Swift calls our attention to more essential investigative work at Inside Climate News, this time by Lisa Song (whose work we’ve praised before). From Swift:
Enbridge’s Kalamazoo tar sands spill presents another case undercutting industry’s claims about pipeline safety and leak detection. As the InsideClimate piece notes, “Just 10 days before the accident, Enbridge Inc., which operates the Michigan pipeline, told federal regulators it could remotely detect and shut down a rupture in eight minutes. But when the line burst open, it took Enbridge 17 hours to confirm the spill.”
As we reported late yesterday, Enbridge has filed a “Notice of Removal” to have POLAR’s recent lawsuit heard in federal rather than state court. We spent last night reviewing the relevant documents and can now provide some details. First, a brief explanation of the why and the how of this action: (more…)
Wow, it’s been a busy week! Here is the latest: Enbridge yesterday filed a “Notice of Removal” requesting that a suit filed by POLAR be taken to federal court. Because Enbridge is an out-of-state corporation, they have the right to request the forum in which the suit takes place–in this case, federal court.
This is an interesting move, the implications of which we’re only beginning to work through. One thing is for sure: this raises the profile and perhaps even the stakes of the case a bit.
We have all of the relevant documents, including POLAR’s original complaint and Enbridge’s Notice of Removal filing. Once we’ve had a chance to peruse them, we’ll provide more detail– hopefully soon. Again: stay tuned.
If, like us, your easement agreement with Enbridge is one that goes back to the late 1960s, you might dust it off and read it over. There you will likely find the language that was at issue in yesterday’s Oakland County Circuit Court ruling against Enbridge. Our easement, signed in 1968, grants to Enbridge– for the princely sum of $25.00!:
a right-of-way and perpetual easement to construct, operate, maintain… one or pipelines… for the transportation of oil, other liquid hydrocarbons, and any product or by-product thereof, or any material or substance which can be conveyed through a pipeline…
See for yourself:
A question that occurred to us yesterday is why Enbridge would overreach the way they did with the Smiths? For one thing, we wondered whether the clause allowing them to transport any old substance whatsoever through that pipe might have something to do with the possibility of reactivating the old pipeline and transporting who-knows-what. That seems not so likely to me now. Rather, our easement would seem to suggest that this is just standard practice; it’s the way Enbridge (and Lakehead before them) has always done business. It’s just that no one has ever called them on it before.
But it does have us wondering a couple of new things: first, does yesterday’s ruling mean anything at all for those of us whose old easements contain that language? And second, if Enbridge were, in fact, to ship some “material or substance” other than crude oil or petroleum or liquid gas through their pipe, what agency– if any– would have oversight over such shipments? If not the MPSC (and it would appear no), then who? Anybody? Those question marks are not comforting.
And whatever the case, we urge everybody– whether your easement is new or old– to get it out and read it again. Go ahead; do it right now.
We’ve had a chance to review the Judge’s ruling in the case we reported on this morning. So we’re now in a position to offer some details. But in order for it all to make sense, you need to know a little bit about “condemnation”– or “eminent domain” (we’ll use those terms interchangeably)– and how it works. We’ll try to keep that explanation brief: (more…)
First, let’s revisit what Springer actually said about people like us (and perhaps you), ordinary citizens who have reasonable and perfectly understandable concerns about the Line 6B project:
“While there has been recent publicity and activity by special interest groups, most who live and work along the pipeline are not opposed to Enbridge’s plans to replace Line 6B,” he said. “While the media may choose to focus on controversial situations, Enbridge’s actions show that we deal openly and honestly with all stakeholders, including landowners and local governments.”
I have to confess: part of me still can’t believe he said this. But he did. Today, we will explore the last part of his statement. And we’ll do it simply. We’ll just gather together some actual examples of actual Enbridge actions and see whether those actions do, in fact, show that Enbridge “deal[s] openly and honestly with all stakeholders.” (more…)
This morning, we were in the midst of revisiting our series on the outrageous recent statements in Inside Climate News by Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer— and then we were planning to take the dog out for a run (we do have a life beyond Enbridge, you know!)– when we received word that an Oakland County Circuit Court judge has dismissed an Enbridge condemnation suit, finding that the language in Enbridge’s proposed easement agreement was over-broad.
Of course, we’re not surprised to know that the case involved another example of Enbridge over-reaching. But it is nice to see that once in a while, their attempts can be thwarted. We’re also pleased to be able to congratulate attorney Kim Savage (who received some assistance from the crackerjacks at Ackerman, Ackerman and Dynkowski) on this one, as we’ve long admired her dedication and intelligence.
This ruling also has some important potential implications that extend well beyond the specific property owners involved. Once we’ve had a chance to read through the case and the judge’s ruling, we’ll have more commentary and analysis.
We interrupt our ordinary programming for one brief expression of gratitude:
While we understand all too well that most of the time (way too much time), brainpower, researching, hand-wringing, worrying, hair-tearing, phone-calling, letter-writing, and psychic and emotional energy we’ve spent on all of this will bear very little fruit (in the short term), we have gained a great deal of compensation from all of the wonderful, decent, generous people we have met (and you mostly know who you are): neighbors we didn’t know before; fellow landowners– rich ones and not-so-rich ones, young and energetic ones and older-but-just-as-energetic ones; farmers, attorneys, activists, environmentalists, engineers, journalists, civic leaders, and people who would prefer just to be left alone. We may feel slightly impoverished by our dealings with Enbridge, but we’ve been enriched by our dealings with our fellow citizens.