On Enbridge’s “open and honest dealings,” Part 3

Sep 19, 2012 by

Our interrogation of Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer’s astonishing statement to journalist David Hasemyer last week keeps getting interrupted: first by the recent Brandon Township “workshop” with Enbridge and then today by some good news from the Oakland County Circuit Court. If you missed the first two parts of our discussion of Hasemyer’s excellent article and Springer’s statement, you can read them here (and here). This morning, we return to that series.

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.”  

Enbridge’s actions and what they show

Let’s consider some of Enbridge’s actions with regard both to landowners and to local governments, since those are the two groups of stakeholders Springer mentions. We’ll take each in turn, starting with landowners.

  • Enbridge’s action: the first time we ever met an Enbridge right of way agent, way back in February, he presented to us a Temporary Workspace Agreement– the same agreement, we’ve since learned, that Enbridge presented to every other landowner along the pipeline route– that contained an indemnification clause saying that both parties (Enbridge and us) would not hold the other liable for any damages caused during construction. They actually wanted us to sign this. In doing so, we would have agreed that if, say, Enbridge accidentally injured my dog or sent a rock flying through the window of my house– or things much worse that one could easily imagine– we would have no legal right to seek restitution for such accidents; they actually wanted us to sign away that right.

(Minor digression: When we told this story to a Groveland Township trustee a while back, he actually looked at us, shrugged his shoulders cavalierly and said, “that’s just business”– as if in his mind it is perfectly acceptable for an enormous multinational corporation, with its vast resources, its billions of dollars, and its army of attorneys to try and take advantage of decent, unsuspecting individual landowners who may or may not even know what “indemnify” means. I still shudder when I recall that moment.)

Now, it is true that when asked, Enbridge did not hesitate to strike the indemnification language in question. But that only goes to show that they knew it was unreasonable from the start. Yet they tried to get away with it anyway (and in some cases, they probably did).

So: is that sort of action open? Is it honest?

  • Enbridge’s action: Enbridge is required to pay landowners for construction work in the right of way and any temporary work space. It’s sort of like rent and is in addition to compensation for damages. Enbridge calculates this payment on a set per-acre value. When they first approached us, they were offering us $6500 per acre (for the use of about 1/3 of an acre of our land). A few weeks later, the ROW agent told us they’d increased that amount to $30,000 an acre; the reasons for the change weren’t clear. Now that seems like a very good thing. Except that (a) it is likely that a number of landowners jumped at that initial $6500/acre offer; and (b) months later we learned that our neighbors were being offered $35,000 per acre. Others along the route were offered even more.

So rather than just paying a fair value per acre to everyone, it appears that Enbridge tries to get away with whatever they can, fair or not. Is that open? Is that honest?

  • Enbridge’s action: some readers might recall our little impromptu visit to the Enbridge offices in Superior, Wisconsin back in July. After my conversation with someone there, I was assured that there would be follow-up. But no one called. So I followed up. Still no one called. So I followed up again and, weeks later, I am still waiting for the phone call that Land Agent Supervisor Doug Aller said that he would make to me. Is avoiding hearing from dissatisfied landowners open?
  • Enbridge’s action: the first right-of-way agent we spoke to said that we would be fairly compensated for the 100 or so trees they’ll be removing from our property. He repeated that Enbridge just wanted to “make us whole.” Our second right-of-way agent told us that Enbridge simply would not pay for trees within the existing easement– even though those trees have been there for 40 years and even though there is NO language in our easement that prohibits trees in the easement. Is that open? Is that honest?
  • Enbridge’s action: in the midst of our negotiations, which consisted of our complete cooperation from the start met with repeated weeks-long silences from Enbridge, we received threatening letters from corporate treating us as if we were the ones preventing a settlement. Is that open? Is that honest?
  • Enbridge’s action: Larry Springer says, insultingly, that the questions and concerns tha are being raised about the project are coming from “special interest groups,” rather than ordinary citizens along the pipeline. Is that honest?

We could go on, but instead, let’s turn to Enbridge’s actions with regard to local governments:

  • Enbridge’s action: Enbridge held only three “Open Houses” in Michigan to discuss the Line 6B project. Not one of those meetings was held in the 150 mile stretch between Marshall and Marysville. Is that open?
  • Enbridge’s action: prior to the passing of the Brandon resolution (and the attendant press coverage), Enbridge twice declined to attend meetings with the Groveland Township Board of Trustees. They attended subsequently when reports suggested Groveland might pass their own resolution (though, alas, they did not). Is that open?
  • Enbridge’s action: upon agreeing to meet with Brandon Township to discuss their resolution, Enbridge wanted a private meeting with the Township Supervisor, not a meeting open to all of the trustees and to the public. Is that open?
  • Enbridge’s action: four Enbridge representatives stated to the Brandon board that they knew of no examples of Enbridge reactivating idled pipelines. Yet Enbridge reactivated a line in the U.S. just last year. Is that open? Is that honest?

This list is far from exhaustive. I suspect some of our readers have examples of their own. There are still mor examples in our archives. All of which leaves us with this: when Larry Springer says that Enbridge’s actions show that they deal openly and honestly with stakeholders, is he being open? Is he being honest?

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5 Comments

  1. Tar Sands Oil Horrors

    We recommend all readers to read Enbridge’s commitments as stated on their web pages at http://www.enbridge.com . The sections titled “In Your Community” and “About Enbridge” have some interesting information. Our favorite is under “About Enbridge” Historical Highlights. Why do they not mention their most famous historical incident of all….The Marshall Oil Spill? Oh, that is a lowlight not a highlight, we suppose.

  2. Carol

    I would like to add something about their “hold harmless” clause. Signng this clause in the original “Enbridge” form not only releases them from paying damages to the homeowner (for any cracked foundations, damaged septics, etc) it also makes the homeowner liable if any persons are injured on their property (including the construction site). The homeowner will have no recourse because they already agreed to indemnify Enbridge from any legal action. It is a good thing that this is being made public so homeowners who have not yet signed will have this clause reversed, whereby Enbridge agrees to indemnify the homeowner (not the other way around). The good rule of thumb is: never, ever agree to indemnify anybody for anything.

  3. Jennifer

    I know him and he is a complete moron.

  4. Nia

    WOW~! So very glad I read this! Yes, 2 weeks ago the rep sat on my sofa, looked at my youngest kid, lied about a previous verbal agreement, and then said again that the indemnification clause was SOP when I asked for a strike of the language. I said, “Then don’t build it on my land.” I haven’t heard from them since.

    • Jeff

      Are you on phase two, Nia? As for that language, every single person I know of who asked to have it removed got it removed. If you contact me backchannel, I would be happy to send you the final language (which is less than ideal, but much better) from our agreement.

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