Still more on why people don’t trust Enbridge (sigh!)
It’s been an extremely hectic week for us (we do have jobs, you know) and the weekend isn’t going to provide any relief, as we’re running in the Detroit Marathon on Sunday. And the POLAR lawsuit hearing in federal court is on Monday and it can’t be long after that that Enbridge’s clearing crews will be here taking down our beautiful trees…
But we’re not complaining. It’s just that all of this has prevented us from returning to some things we’ve been wanting to revisit, like our promised discussion of the importance of the MTA amicus brief filing. But then other things keep happening, like Enbridge’s “letter” printed as a paid advertisement in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday. We’ve also heard reports that the ad is running in other places– Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Lansing, even the Wall Street Journal (why? I have no idea). The ad is also running in some northern Indiana papers, though we’re told that Enbridge couldn’t be bothered to change “Michigan” to “Indiana” when running it down there. Anyway, we’ve had plenty to say about the ad this week. And we’re very much looking forward to responding to their subsequent ads.
Speaking of Indiana, that’s what has us brooding a little today.
This week we read a fine article by Lauri Harvey Keagle and Bowdeya Tweh at nwi.com about Enbridge’s dealings with landowners in the Hoosier state (our native home!). What it described was all too familiar, including this from landowner Bill LeFever:
Worried about his expected loss of property, LaFever said he’s also concerned about liability for things like crop loss, workers injured during the construction or maintenance of the pipeline, contamination of his well water and changes to drainage that could cause flooding.
The contract he has also would absolve Enbridge of liability associated with the pipeline construction.
“All we’ve been asking for is a good agreement,” he said.
The interesting part here is the hold harmless clause LeFever was evidently asked to sign. We’ve covered this ground before and so weren’t surprised. But what made our eyes bug out was what we read next:
In a statement, Enbridge denies asking landowners to sign agreements with such language.
“We are responsible to landowners for all damages or impacts resulting from pipeline maintenance work, construction or expansion of facilities and ongoing pipeline operations,” [Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer] Smith said in a statement. Smith said the company works before, during and after construction to ensure landowners, workers and the public are kept safe.
How can Enbridge possibly deny that they ask landowners to sign agreements with such language? We’ve got an agreement with such language given to us by Enbridge sitting right in front of us as we type this. Here’s what it says:
Lessor [that's us] and Lessee [that's Enbridge] agree to indemnify and hold each other harmless against any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, including reasonable attorneys fees, court costs and disbursements, for or related to injury or death of person, or for or related to damage to or destruction of property, to the extent arising from the negligent acts, omissions or intentional misconduct of the other or its employees, agents, representatives, contractors, subcontractors or invitees.
There it is. That’s what Enbridge asked us (and many, many others) to sign. Surely some people did. I suspect this is exactly the language Bill LeFever was asked to sign. And yet here is Jennifer Smith saying they don’t ask landowners to sign such agreements.
Now we’ll be generous here. Perhaps it’s the case that Jennifer Smith simply isn’t aware of this. Or perhaps she does know but is simply saying things that her employer tells her to say, even though they are, quite plainly, counterfactual. (In fact we’re so stunned by this that we’ve written directly to her about it to ask for clarification; we’ll report on any response we receive.) The latter strikes us as unconscionable for both parties– although we’ve seen it before from Enbridge.
Whatever the case, we have to ask yet again: why can’t Enbridge see that this is precisely why people don’t trust them? How many examples of this sort of thing do we need to document before someone at that corporation– anyone– recognizes that they have a very real credibility problem, a problem of their very own making?