We haven’t finished with our review and commentary of the Michigan Townships Association amicus filing in the federal lawsuit initiated by POLAR. We’ll return to that soon. But we’re taking time away from that to remark upon the extraordinary ad, in the form of a letter to “neighbors,” published by Enbridge in yesterday’s Free Press. In our first post, we noted how it’s more than a little strange that Enbridge has chose to open up lines of communication more than a year after they first filed for MPSC approval of the project.
This, our second installment on the letter signed by Vice President for Major Projects Execution Mark Sitek, will focus on just one sentence. It’s our favorite one in the whole letter. Sitek says:
There has been much discussion involving information from various sources that are not necessarily familiar with the pipeline industry or our projects, so over the next four weeks we will use space in this newspaper to share project updates and to address some of these questions.
Now that’s a terribly awkward sentence, poorly worded, exactly the sort of thing that you wouldn’t be allowed to get away with in your freshman composition course. What’s wrong with it? Well, for one thing, there’s that passive construction– “there has been much discussion.” Discussion by whom? Where? When? Why doesn’t Sitek mention any of it specifically? Does he mean discussions in the MPSC proceedings? In court? Or does he mean the things that have been written here on the Citizens’ Blog? Or deliberations at the Brandon Township Board of Trustees meetings? Or conversations people are having in their backyards or in coffee shops or at their dinner tables? Because he doesn’t specify, the “discussion” to which Sitek refers could be anything.
And then there’s the vague phrase “involving information from various sources.” But what information? What sources? Does he mean press coverage? The articles by Matt Pearce in the LA Times? By David Hasemyer in Inside Climate News? By Jack Lessenberry? By Susan Bromley in The Citizen? Is this blog one of those unmentionable sources? Again, Sitek doesn’t say. The only thing he does tell us about those sources is that they are “not necessarily familiar with the pipeline industry or our projects.”
It’s this last phrase that explains why Sitek is so hazy about the “discussion from various sources.” It’s also why I half-suspect that his vague, poorly constructed sentence is not actually evidence of bad writing after all. It may well be that it’s a deliberate rhetorical strategy. You see, Sitek (and/or the clever PR folks who helped craft the letter) wants you to think that there are a bunch of know-nothings out there spreading misinformation about Enbridge. They want you to think that Enbridge’s critics can (and should) be easily dismissed. (We’ve seen this strategy from Enbridge before.)
In other words, Sitek doesn’t name names or cite particulars because the real fact is that a lot of people doing a lot of the discussing know a lot about the pipeline industry and about Enbridge projects. Carl Weimer, Robert Whitesides, Beth Wallace and Anthony Swift– these are people who know a great deal about the pipeline industry. As for Enbridge’s projects, there are an awful lot of folks over in the Marshall area who also know a great deal– Susan Connolly, Michelle Barlond Smith, and Debbie Miller among them. And I’ll just add that there are a lot of people over here on this side of the state who have worked very hard to educate themselves about Enbridge projects: Jeff Axt of POLAR, landowner Beth Duman, attorney Kim Savage; these are people who know a thing or two about how Enbridge operates. We will even dare to say, with humility, that we know some stuff ourselves (to cite just one example, we evidently know more about Enbridge reactivation projects than do the people who actually work for Enbridge).
So we’re looking forward to the next four weeks of Sitek and Enbridge addressing questions in their paid advertisements. Just as we’re doing now, we promise to devote plenty of time, attention, and commentary to interrogating what Enbridge says.
Up next: Enbridge’s purposes and processes