The sordid tale of yesterday’s line list violation that we promised comes from our better half, Katy:
We just returned from the Brandon Township board of trustees meeting where the smart, principled, courageous trustees passed a resolution stating that they would take whatever legal steps necessary to require Enbridge to seek local consent as required by the Michigan Constitution and the state HIghway Act. With this resolution, they not only join the MTA in support of the POLAR lawsuit, they go a step further in resolving to take legal action to enforce the law. This is precisely the sort of bold position we’ve been waiting for some government entity to take; it effectively solves the “standing” conundrum we have previously discussed.
Brandon Township has once again taken remarkable and inspirational action on behalf of their township and, in our estimation, on behalf of the citizens of the state of Michigan. As we’ve said before: this is what leadership looks like.
We’ll have more details on this action and the next steps as they become available and as time allows. In the meantime, for tonight at least, we’re actually feeling hopeful.
Oh boy. There’s so much happening right now, so much to write about, that we’re feeling a little overwhelmed. We’re not even halfway through our series on our conversation with VP Mark Sitek. And we need to measure Jennifer Smith’s account of what happened in Marshall against the facts presented by the NTSB. And there’s the mystery of wall pipeline thicknesses in Lake County, Indiana to be investigated. And we still want to say some more about the MTA amicus filing in the POLAR lawsuit. And we took a quick peek at Enbridge’s 2012 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, parts of which made our eyes bug out and steam blast from our ears. And we’ve got more construction pictures and videos to post. And there are other small and large matters to address swirling around in our heads.
Most immediately, there’s our personal tale of today’s disheartening, anger-inducing construction line list violations by Enbridge– a simple, easily avoidable offense we saw coming months ago and tried to address during our negotiations. At that time, Enbridge wouldn’t take those concerns seriously; they just brushed them off and dismissed them and flat-out refused us our request. And now exactly what we were afraid of (though it may seem a small thing to some) has come to pass, just as we thought it would.
We’ll bring you that story as soon as we’re able. In the meantime, if you can: be vigilant about what construction crews are doing on your property. Watch them if you can. Take pictures. Remind your ROW agent about what Enbridge has agreed to. We’re hearing that violations similar to what happened on our property today are happening all over.
Last week, we noted a curious situation with regard to some seemingly conflicting remarks from Lake County, Indiana officials and Enbridge spokespersons about pipeline wall thicknesses in Lake County. The questions that remain ambiguous are: (1) whether Enbridge is increasing wall thicknesses as a result of discussions with local officials (something they rejected as absurd up here in Michigan) and (2) what, precisely, that thickness will be.
The comments of Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith in a new article in the Times of Northwest Indiana only further deepen the mystery: (more…)
There’s a VERY interesting story today out of the News Dispatch in Michigan City, Indiana. Among other things, we’re wondering why Enbridge didn’t think the securing of permits prior to construction was as important in Michigan as it apparently is Indiana (although we’re certainly glad they now think it’s important).
Also, our friend Nathan Pavlovic of Save the Dunes tells it like it is in the article, while Enbridge’s Jennifer Smith– who is quickly establishing herself as one of the least reliable sources of information we’ve encountered yet– tells it like it is not. Evidently she has yet to read the NTSB report on Marshall. Frankly, we’re shocked by her characterization of what happened there. When we have more time, we will explain– in clear, specific detail– why.
You would think at this point we would cease to be surprised at Enbridge’s baffling public communications. Yet they continue to astound us. That is certainly the case with the latest ad they’ve published in the Detroit Free Press. They appear to be utterly incapable of presenting even the most basic information without misleading or dissembling. But we’ll say this much: at least they’re consistent.
This one is a bit of a head scratcher and we’d like to get to the bottom of it:
The Gary, Indiana Post-Tribune reported this week that, apparently, Enbridge
has agreed to increase the thickness of the pipe throughout [Lake County, Indiana] instead of just at the drains it must run under, according to Surveyor George Van Til. “We are very pleased about that,” Van Til said. (more…)
. . . for the value of our beautiful trees to Enbridge.
Yesterday, we launched our new series centering upon the telephone conversation we had Wednesday with Enbridge Vice President Mark Sitek. We’re using that exchange as an opportunity to try and diagnose and account for the condition that causes Enbridge to act in ways that alienate landowners and the general public (not to mention other stakeholders). In the first installment of the series we discussed Enbridge’s defensiveness, its tendency to portray itself as unfairly victimized. The basic thesis of that post was two-fold. We suggested that (1) it’s absurd for the party that wields all the power, has all the resources, and nearly always gets its way to pose as the victim; and (2) that such a pose is the result of an extreme insularity that prevents Enbridge from seeing things from a broader perspective. For that matter, we suggested at the very end of our post, Enbridge seems to have trouble adopting any perspective other than its own narrow one.
In this our second installment, we’ll take up that last point, which is all the more important because it is one of Enbridge’s stated core values. As part of their commitment to “Respect,” Enbridge states that its employees will “take the time to understand the perspective of others.” This, along with their other values, is what Enbridge describes as “a constant beacon by which we make our decisions, as a company and as individual employees, every day.”
Part 2: Understanding the Perspective of Others (more…)
We’re working as furiously (pun intended) as we can on the second installment of our new series focused upon our conversation with Enbridge VP Mark Sitek. We’ve decided to use the series as a way of diagnosing the (hopefully curable) malady from which, in our view, Enbridge suffers. But we’re interrupting that work to bring you a story we just heard. File it under: Making Sure Enbridge Behaves During Construction.
But before recounting it, a quick word to our Enbridge readers: here at the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog, we hear LOTS of stories, most of them rather awful in their portrayal of Enbridge. Most of those stories we don’t tell, either out of respect for the parties who told them to us or, equally important, because we can’t verify them. That is to say, we are willing to be unflinching in our criticism of Enbridge when we think it’s warranted, but we are NOT in the business– and I think our work shows this– of simply passing along every rumor or third-hand tale of alleged Enbridge nefariousness that crosses our desk. Because we want to be fair, we demonstrate more forbearance in this regard than you know. What matters to us more than anything else is the truth.
Having said that, we have complete and total trust in the veracity of our source for this story. So here it is:
As we’ve mentioned, on Wednesday we had an extended telephone conversation with Enbridge Vice President for Major Projects Execution Mark Sitek; he’s the VP who signed the “letter” that appeared in lots of newspapers a couple of weeks back. Mark struck us as a good man, easy to talk to, and a good listener. We’re grateful he took the time to speak with us–especially since so many other folks at Enbridge– like spokesperson Jennifer Smith and Lands and Right-of-Way Project Manager Doug Aller— are clearly ducking us.
As you can imagine, there is an awful lot to report from the conversation. We think we learned some important things from the experience and we confirmed for ourselves some other impressions we’ve had about Enbridge for a while. So instead of just providing a summary of our conversation, we thought we’d focus on what was instructive about the exchange and attempt to extrapolate from it some general lessons– touching upon details of the conversation as we go. (more…)
The NWF’s Beth Wallace yesterday on Fox Business News talking about Enbridge’s planned expansion of its aging Line 5.
Busy day at work today. But we’ve been thinking (brooding) a lot about how to write about the long telephone conversation we had yesterday with Enbridge Vice President Mark Sitek. We think we’ve figured out a strategy that we will be helpful, fair, appropriately detailed (cuz we know you want the goods), and revealing.
That means, of course, a new series! So early tomorrow (we hope):
Part I: Insularity and Perspective
No, we are not going to be on television– that is something we studiously avoid (although if a major national network wanted to talk about Line 6B we would surely oblige…). Instead, our friend Beth Wallace from the National Wildlife Federation, who is infinitely more telegenic than we are, is going to appear on Fox Business News this afternoon at about 5 pm to talk about the NWF’s recent report on Enbridge’s Line 5, which runs through the straits of Mackinac.
Be sure to tune in.
Lest we be accused of being unfair, we have two positive items about Enbridge to mention this morning:
First, the Clarkston News reports that Enbridge has awarded the Oxford Fire Dept. a $1000 grant to purchase combustible gas detection meters. We’re glad to see emergency responders from local municipalities getting financial support. Surely they need it. And indeed, Enbridge’s “Safe Community Program” is a real example– as opposed to the hollow rhetorical ones we hear from their PR folks– of neighborliness. Indeed, we will just note that months ago we encouraged the trustees of Brandon and Groveland Townships to seek funding from Enbridge for community projects.
Secondly, our ROW agent has been doing a very good job of providing construction updates. (From what we’ve heard, other ROW agents are not doing the same). In the latest, we’re told that Enbridge’s plan is still to finish construction by the end of 2012. Surveyors continue to move east and clearing crews are right on their heels. If you’ve seen the footage here on the blog, you know that tree clearing took place on our property on Monday and Tuesday. We haven’t seen any other crews since, however.
Earlier this afternoon, we had a long telephone conversation with Mark Sitek–yes, that Mark Sitek, Enbridge’s Vice President of Major Projects Execution. We spoke for about an hour. On the whole we thought the exchange was amicable and productively candid on both sides. Perhaps this will set the tone for the upcoming encounters with Enbridge folks we’re bound to have at the Public Safety Trust conference in a couple of weeks.
We’re working up an account of our conversation and will post it as soon as we can. In the meantime, we’ll just say that we hope that our conversation will bear some fruit. Until we learn otherwise, we’re giving Mr. Sitek the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he didn’t call just to appease us, but to gather information that will lead to action, some genuine and positive measures that will help improve or repair Enbridge’s relations with landowners.
We are grateful to Mr. Sitek for his time. (Unfortunately, we must also report that we have still not heard from Lands and Right-of-Way Project Manager Doug Aller. Nor have we received any replies form spokespersons Jennifer Smith and Lorraine Little, whom we contacted about some troubling Enbridge remarks in an Indiana newspaper last week.)
We know we’ve been a little self-involved this week with all the pictures and the videos of our property. Please forgive us. But here’s just one more look. This one shows the transformation of our property from the day we bought it (all surrounded by chain link) to the creation of our large perennial garden to the blighting of it all just this week:
This week in the Brandon Citizen, Susan Bromley (our favorite small-town reporter) has a q & a with Enbridge’s Jason Manshum. The interview focuses primarily on the status of construction in Brandon Township, which has evidently ceased for the time being as the parties attempt to resolve the question of Enbridge’s compliance with Brandon’s Woodlands ordinance. (more…)
60 or so years for those trees to grow, about 45 minutes to take them all down.
Ace journalist David Hasemyer– he pretty much owns this story at this point– has a brief article this morning in Inside Climate News about yesterday’s hearing, a hearing that more or less fizzled. We make a brief appearance at the end of Hasemyer’s article to say this:
“These townships are gun shy,” said Jeff Insko, a university literature professor who created the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog to chronicle events surrounding the pipeline construction. “They are afraid to stand up to Enbridge.”
Let me back up a little to explain that remark: (more…)
We returned from today’s hearing in federal court to find clearing crews cutting down our trees. Sam the dog is very frightened and won’t go outside now.
We’ll give a fuller account as soon as we’re able, but the quick version of today’s hearing is that not much happened. Judge Cleland wants the parties to argue the question of “standing”–that is, whether POLAR has legal standing to bring this suit (more on that in a later post)– before hearing anything else. But since the parties weren’t prepared to make those arguments today, they’ve set a date (Nov. 7, I believe) for that hearing. So more delays…
We’ll try to explain and describe all of this in more detail in a subsequent post. Now back to the falling trees…
Last Sunday, Enbridge launched a new ad campaign in newspapers across Michigan and Indiana. We devoted considerable attention to that first ad, which appeared in the form of a letter by Vice President for Major Projects Execution Mark Sitek. In the letter, Sitek promised:
. . . over the next four weeks we will use space in this newspaper to share project updates and to address some of these questions. We will expand on the purpose of the projects and what community members can expect from us. We will present our process for reaching right-of-way agreements with landowners. We will also provide insight into the regulatory process and requirements guiding the projects’ development.
We eagerly awaited the next installment, ready to assess the quality of the information Sitek would provide. Well, a new ad did in fact appear this Sunday, only it didn’t at all provide any of the information Sitek promised.
This one is personally painful: workers have arrived in Groveland Township. This tractor was eating up our garden this morning. Tree clearing crews are at I-75 and could be on our property as early as today.
We spent this morning re-reading the printed interview between reporters from the Times of Northwest Indiana and Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith. (What a great service the Times did by publishing this!). The more we read, the more worked up we got. So we’ve decided we’re going to have to devote some serious time and attention to that intriguing, maddening document. So stay tuned for a new series. In the meantime, you might want to read it for yourself.
We’re also looking forward to the next installment of Enbridge’s ad— they’ve promised four more! You can bet that we’ll be ready to point out any and all misinformation, dissembling, and rheotrical sleights-of-hand. We’ve also decided we’re going to write directly to Mark Sitek (whose name appears on the “letter”). We’ll post that here as well once we’ve sent it.
From Canada this week came this intriguing opinion piece on Enbridge’s corporate character. It pretty much hits the nail on the head– in fact, it pretty much arrives at the same conclusion and advances the same thesis we offered some weeks back.
Lastly this morning: keep in mind that the POLAR lawsuit hearing in federal court is tomorrow. Please consider attending to show your support for the effort to make Enbridge do things right.