We’re still awaiting details on the final agreement between Brandon Township and Enbridge; it’s probably going to be several days at least before its language is finalized and the document made available to the public. Yesterday, in our first installment of this new series, we provided as much detail as we could– and we hope other townships were paying attention. In fact, we encourage you to contact your township supervisor and insist that they also get an independent construction supervisor and that they know about Enbridge’s environmental stewardship program. After all, Enbridge insists that they treat stakeholders “fairly and consistently.” Let’s make sure they do.
While we’re waiting for the finalized agreement, we thought we’d bring you some other stories from Monday night’s meeting, where the agreement was reached. It was, to to say the least, quite interesting. Of particular interest were the stories that a couple of landowners shared with the trustees. We’ll tell the story of landowner Bill Aldrich in a different post some time in the coming days. This morning, we want to tell you about Tony Amico.
Prior to Monday night’s meeting, we’d never met Tony. He is a landowner in Brandon Township near the Line 6B route. Enbridge has no easement on his property, although they did need to use a portion of his land for temporary work space. Like most of us, Tony was perfectly willing to work with Enbridge; he had no plans (or desire) to obstruct the project. Tony was simply concerned with minimizing the number of trees– very old, very large trees– that Enbridge removed from his land. So he struck an agreement with a ROW agent (whom Tony trusted): prior to any construction activity on his land, a construction manager would meet with Tony to discuss, among other things, which trees would or could be saved. Now just imagine Tony’s surprise when he arrived on his property one day to find that Enbridge had already, without any such meeting, cleared a swath of his land, taking down some 75 mature and valuable Black Walnut trees (among others). When Tony contacted his ROW agent about this violation of what he thought was a good-faith agreement, he more or less just got a shrug of the shoulders in reply. And that was it.
Like so many landowners, Tony was unhappy, frustrated, and angry– and had no idea where to turn. Tony’s experience shows clearly that despite what Thomas Hodge has told the MPSC, landowners absolutely do not “know they have an avenue to escalate the issue if they are not getting satisfaction from the land agent that they are dealing with.” In fact, landowners generally have no idea where to turn once trust with their land agent has been broken. And often (as in our personal case), even when they try to move “up the chain” (as Hodge puts it), they are ignored or dismissed.
Which is why, after weeks (maybe months) of anger and frustration, Tony came to the Brandon board meeting to tell his story. And what was so interesting about this is that during the break in the meeting (a coffee and cookie reception for the newly sworn-in board), Tom Hodge and Mark Curwin were all over Tony. They wanted to hear his story. They gave him their cards. They made an appointment to meet him at his property the very next morning. They seemed to want to make things right.
Now, in fairness, we think that is a very good thing. And we’re not going to doubt the sincerity of Hodge and Curwin when they say they want to make things right with Tony Amico. We don’t believe– nor have we ever said– that people like Hodge and Curwin (ROW agents may be a different story, however) don’t care about landowners or aren’t willing to be responsive. In fact, if anything, what we’ve said–not about Hodge and Curwin specifically, but about Enbridge executives generally– is that they don’t care; we believe they just don’t know about all the Tony Amicos out there. And we’ve further said that they also seem to us rather unwilling to acknowledge just how many Tonys actually are out there. And the sad fact is that if Tony didn’t just happen to be at that meeting where Hodge and Curwin had no choice but to hear his story (in public!), Tony would STILL be angry and unhappy.
It shouldn’t have to be this way.
So once the meeting resumed, we wrote down the remarks we planned to make during public comments. We wound up saying other things– for reasons we’ll describe in a different installment of this series (stay tuned!)– but here’s what we wrote:
For every Tony Amico or Bill Aldrich who is here tonight where Enbridge can make a public show of their responsiveness, I can tell you first-hand– because I’ve heard their stories– that there are dozens more landowners along the Line 6B route who feel abused and mistreated, who feel like they have no recourse or voice, nowhere to turn, who feel helpless and alone and who have NOT been made whole, as Enbridge promised they would be. So my question for Enbridge is simply this: how many stories like Tony’s does Enbridge need to hear before they are willing to squarely and honestly face the fact that there is a serious problem with the way they have dealt with landowners on this project?