There are plenty of things in David Hasemyer’s excellent article this morning in Inside Climate News that have got our motor running. So much that we’ll likely be writing about it for some time. But of everything Hasemyer reports, what turned our low simmer to a rolling boil are the remarks of Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer. In fact, they are so egregious, it’s going to take us more than one post to deal with just one statement. Here we’ll provide a summary of our objections, which we’ll follow-up with a number of posts that elaborate on each point.

So here is the statement:

“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.”

Let us count the ways Larry Springer is demonstrably wrong:  

  1. Enbridge mistakenly assumes that those who express skepticism are the same as those who represent a “special interest group”. Our rights as citizens to speak freely about what’s important to us are supposed to be just as important as a private corporation’s rights to tell half-truths. Embridge seems to have taken interest in a little non-profit called POLAR. We know this because they (oddly) mentioned POLAR in a letter their lawyers sent to Brandon township. The letter addressed concerns about the differences between Northern Gateway and Line 6B, not necessarily something POLAR has been vocal about; their main concern has been illuminating the local consent issue. And at the Groveland township board meeting this week, Supervisor DePalma seemed to think all citizen concerns were those of “Your Group”. We took this to mean he assumed that we were all there as representatives of POLAR, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Enbridge plants this seed and hopes it will grow large enough to cast doubt on anyone who speaks up. I personally suspect they suggest as much to our local and state officials; they tell them (as they do the press) that the noisy ones are just doing the bidding of that special interest group (as if that’s a dirty word), that we’re fringe environmentalists or landowners with an axe to grind. What else would explain the dismissiveness of our state and local officials? Enbridge tells our officials (and the press) these things in a cynical attempt to discredit and dismiss reasonable concerns at every turn.
  2. Enbridge continues to assert that “most who live and work along the pipeline are not opposed to Enbridge’s plans to replace Line 6B”. In the strictest sense, this is probably true. We don’t know of any neighbors who oppose their plans to replace the line. We don’t oppose their plans to replace the line. What we oppose is the WAY they plan to replace that line. Every single step of the way — from their presentations to the MPSC (promises about local economies and employment, for instance), to the way they call it a “replacement” when it’s really a brand new line, to the way they segmented the project to sidestep oversight, to the way they treat landowners (indemnification clause, refusal to pay fair replacement values, coercion and threats, etc.), to the way they continue to ignore local municipalities because they think they are exempt from the state’s constitution. None of these concerns or complaints have anything to do with the actual replacement of Line 6B. That line is over 40-years old and replacement seems reasonable. All of our skepticism has to do only with the way Enbridge conducts their business here in Michigan. They can’t erase what happened in Marshall, but they could have put their best foot forward when embarking upon this replacement project. Their practices did nothing to improve their standing with anyone who’s able to look beyond a public relations campaign.
  3. We particularly like the part where he insults the media.
  4. Mr. Springer goes on to declare that “Enbridge actions show that we deal openly and honestly with all stakeholders, including landowners and local governments.”  While it’s true that their Social Responsibility Policy says that they do so, it’s not exactly true in practice. If it were true, then why did we have to fight tooth and nail with them for 5 long months to get much less in damages than what they will take? Was it honesty that made the right-of-way agent mention the condemnation law when we first met in February, before Enbridge even had permission to use the law? If they deal honestly with landowners then why did they offer my neighbor a different per-acre price than they offered me? Why have local townships had to ask repeatedly before they agreed to attend public meetings? Perhaps their open and honest dealings also explain why now, the very week they broke ground in Brandon, they are finally willing to sit down with a local government. We know of no proactive efforts to sit down with any local governments in Phase One. The same sense of entitlement must be what led them to ignore Howell’s Pipeline Ordinance and the state constitution’s requirement to seek local consent for such a project.
More on these points coming soon.