Apparently, “fuming” Line 6B landowners made for the fifth biggest story of the year over at the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. We will say this much: Christopher Behnan stayed on the story like few other local reporters (Susan Bromley and Eric Lawrence excepted). And the story made hardly any impression at all over at The Oakland Press, which is one of the great mysteries (and travesties) of the year in local journalism as far as we’re concerned.
But the Daily Press headline does have us wondering one thing: have we been fuming? Do we fume here at the Citizens’ blog? (Privately, it’s another matter altogether…)
As we mentioned a few days ago, construction crews were pretty busy on our property over the past few weeks. Specifically, they were pulling a string of pipe about 500 feet long beneath the road just to the east of us. Our property was the staging area for this activity. And if it weren’t for some potentially frustrating line list violations, we kind of enjoyed watching the fascinating process and learning about it from the workers, a generally nice bunch of people. (For the record, we’ve spoken with more than 20 workers on our property. So far, we’ve met only 3 who are from Michigan. We don’t know whether that’s a representative sample, but it does cause one to be a little skeptical of all of Enbridge’s claims of creating lots of local jobs.)
Anyway, we took photos and video of the process and thought some of you might be interested. So here’s a slideshow. Click on the first image to start it:
And then they start pulling. It took a few hours to pull it all.
And finally, you might be as shocked– shocked!– as we were at the remarks of some local emergency manners down there in Indiana, who appear to trust Enbridge implicitly. We can’t decide whether they’re naive, ignorant, overconfident or all of the above. What we can tell you is that they don’t inspire much confidence. And we can all but guarantee they haven’t read the NTSB report on Marshall. Get a load of this:
Emergency managers in three of the Indiana counties the pipeline will cross told InsideClimate News they are satisfied with the company’s emergency response plans for the current 6B and believe the new pipeline will be safe. Although they haven’t been provided response plans tailored specifically for the unique conditions a dilbit spill would create, they said they have universal procedures that can cover a multitude of scenarios.
“You have to ask yourself the question: ‘Is it [a spill] going to happen?'” said Russell Shirley, director of the Department of Emergency Management in Porter County. “Anything is possible, but it is probable?
“I don’t think it’s probable.”
The emergency managers said they get most of their information from an annual meeting held by about two-dozen pipeline companies, including Enbridge. The meeting satisfies a federal requirement that pipeline operators make representatives available to local officials.
Shirley said he hasn’t seen Enbridge’s response plan, hasn’t met with an Enbridge representative and has never engaged in any drills with Enbridge. But he said his 20-member hazmat team could quickly confront a spill and that he could call 40 additional hazmat responders from adjoining counties.
Jeff Hamilton, director of LaPorte County’s hazmat department, said that outside of the annual meeting, he has only sporadic contact with Enbridge, although a company liaison is always available for calls.
We hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a lovely day yesterday– well, actually we hope everyone had a lovely day yesterday. We are currently in our hometown hunkering down and watching a blizzard develop.
A week or so ago, we promised you a semi-positive tale, which in the spirit of Christmas it seems appropriate to share with you now:
As we’ve mentioned before, from what we’re hearing, our parcel appears to be about the only property along the Line 6B route where any construction activity at all is taking place. In fact, our property has been a staging area for a lot of pipe that’s going into the ground on adjacent properties (nobody ever told us about this beforehand, even though it’s a fact that might well have affected our negotiations). Here’s what our backyard has looked like the past couple of weeks:
Last week and the week before, construction crews were busy at work on our property. They bored a hole and pulled some 500 feet of pipe underneath the road just to our east. We confess that it’s a pretty fascinating process and we kind of enjoyed learning about it from talking with and watching the construction crews at work. (We’ll post a slideshow of the process later today.)
At any rate, it was a good thing we were watching and talking with the construction crews: a week ago last Saturday, when it looked like they were about to begin pulling the pipe, we went out and asked when they would get started (because we wanted to capture some video). We were told that they probably wouldn’t start until “tomorrow.” It took a minute, but we quickly realized that “tomorrow” happened to be Sunday. And according the construction line list agreement we made with Enbridge, there would be no construction work on our property on Sundays (except in emergencies). So we called our ROW agent. He answered, seemed surprised, said he’d look into it and call us back. In an hour or so, he did call back and assured us the crews had been notified that they cannot work on Sundays; they’d re-commence Monday morning.
Now, this may not be quite the sort of responsiveness that you get if you’re a fancy doctor all decked out in hunting gear, but our ROW agent was plenty responsive. And we’re grateful for it. In fact, it’s only fair to say that in general, our ROW agent has been (from what we’ve heard) much better than most when it comes to attending to landowner concerns during construction.
Of course, if this moderately positive story (we don’t want to go overboard with praise; after all, we’re really just talking about somebody doing his job) was Enbridge’s Christmas gift to us, we also have to note that it was wrapped up in some pretty crappy paper. For one thing, if we hadn’t been out there talking to construction crews ahead of time, we never would have known of their plans to work on Sunday. Chances are they would have worked on Sunday.
And then, a few days later, there was this little episode: we happened to notice the back-hoe operator digging a big hole on our property and taking bucketsful of dirt over to the neighbor’s property. Here it is:
Again in fairness, the construction foreman was very nice (as almost all of the construction workers have been), responsive, and apologetic; he acknowledged that the backhoe operator shouldn’t have been dumping the sludge onto our property and put a stop to it.
But in both of these instances, what if we hadn’t been home? What if we hadn’t been watching? What if we hadn’t been vigilant? It makes us wonder what happens on our property when we’re not there? It makes us wonder what happens on your property.
The Northwest Times of Indiana reports this morning that Enbridge won’t break ground on phase two of the project until this summer, pending IDEM approval. The reason for the delay? Citizens advocacy and the fantastic work of our friends at Save the Dunes and other organizations. At least that’s what Tom Hodge says:
Hodge said he believes the project would have remained on schedule for a year-end completion “if there hadn’t been any voices of public opposition raised,” pushing the IDEM public hearing process.
Just one little note for Tom Hodge (we hope he’s reading): we really wish that you and your Enbridge colleagues would stop referring to the raising of legitimate concerns, the reasonable calls for caution, and the asking of questions as “opposition.” As the article puts it,
a coalition of environmental groups issued a joint statement of concern about the project, urging the state to take extra steps to ensure Lake Michigan and its tributaries will not be compromised by the project or a breach of the pipeline.
A “statement” of concern asking for reasonable safeguards and safety measures is not “opposition.”
Anyway, it appears (or so we hope) that IDEM is taking citizen concerns seriously and plans to deliberate carefully before issuing permits. We applaud them for their prudence.