Hodgepodge post (Daniel is back!)

Hodgepodge post (Daniel is back!)

The Arkansas Spill

ArkOilMore details are emerging about the awful dilibt spill down in Arkansas. Lisa Song over at Inside Climate News is on the case. And to place the spill in some context– context which includes the Line 6B pipe moving more of the stuff through our properties– our friend Anthony Swift over at the NRDC Switchboard blog has a useful review of what we know and don’t know about transporting diluted bitumen.


Kalamazoo Cleanup

Speaking of Lisa Song, she also has an excellent report on the recent EPA order to Enbridge requiring more cleanup of the Marshall spill. Enbridge has agreed to comply with the order (there was some doubt about whether they would). It’s not clear whether this means they’re rethinking their claims about how the river is “cleaner than ever.”


Press for Tar Sands Petition

And speaking of concerns about dilbit, the tar sands regulation petition spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation has received plenty of press of national attention (we participated in a telepresser on the matter just last week)– in New England, in Nebraska, in Minnesota, and in Indiana, where the Northwest Indiana Times has a report by one of our favorite reporters Lauri Harvey Keagle (and no, that’s not just because of the quote at the end of the article!).


More Weak Michigan Regulatory Oversight

A few weeks back, we linked to some potentially disturbing stories about piles of petroleum coke, a byproduct of diluted bitumen, piled up along the banks of the Detroit River. Since that time, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has apparently looked into the matter. But don’t worry, they didn’t look too hard. And they responded, true to state regulatory form, with little more than a shrug of the shoulders. Consequently, we recommend against consuming any walleye that comes out of that river.


More Michigan Townships Prepare for the Enbridge Experience

As for Line 6B matters, landowners and townships are preparing for their own encounters with Enbridge as work on phase two nears its commencement. If anyone knows anyone along the route, we hope you’ll share this blog with them; our mission has always been to help inform and protect landowners. For our part, we plan to send a note to Bruce Township Supervisor Richard Cory, who recently expressed some (reasonable, appropriate) concerns about how the project will affect residents. Those concerns were addressed by an Enbridge rep we’ve never heard of:

Supervisor Richard Cory said he was worried about some residents east of Van Dyke since the line will run close to septic fields and property.
Doug Reichley, Enbridge project manager, said Enbridge will work with consultants to have a permanent fix if something needs to be altered, even if it’s engineering a new septic field.
“Our whole point is to take care of these folks and make sure when we leave it’s as good or better than when we first got there,” Reichley said.
With that in mind, Trustee Paul Okoniewski asked if the company would cap 36 Mile Road with limestone from Dequindre to Van Dyke after running its equipment on it.
“It will impact the road with the construction and trucks,” he said.
Reichley said he and other representatives would bring it to the project director’s attention. Similarly, he said Enbridge will replace any torn up grass, trees or fencing caused by construction.

We’ve heard these sorts of assurances before– and we all know how that has gone. Incidentally, we’re most struck here by Doug Reichley’s remarks about replacing trees. We’ve looked into that matter and are working on an extended tree post. Stay tuned for that one in the coming days!


The Latest from Pat Daniel

Lastly, earlier this month, we ran across an article on former Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel, who was recently given the Canadian Business Leader Award from the Alberta School of Business. You might recall that, in our analysis, Daniel is the person most responsible for the callous, defensive and thin-skinned, insular corporate culture at Enbridge. Even in retirement, Daniel is true to form, as defiant and delusional (or perhaps just disingenuous or even dishonest, we’re not sure) as ever. Here’s what Daniel, nearly three years after the fact, has to say about Marshall:

And while pipeline opponents seem to have targeted firms like Enbridge, Daniel insists its green efforts “have not been forgotten by the people that matter.

“When we were in Michigan in 2010 (at the oil pipeline rupture site) one of the first things people who live there told us they did was Google Enbridge because they had no idea of who we were. And they got a very favourable impression when they saw the extent of our renewable and sustainable development.”

Daniel said the pipeline rupture “is less of an issue the closer you get to Kalamazoo and Marshall” because of Enbridge’s cleanup efforts.

That’s right. If you believe Pat Daniel, Marshall might seem like a big deal up in Canada, but down in Marshall, it’s all good. Just ask the people there: Beth Wallace, Susan Connolly, Deb Miller, Michelle Barlond-Smith (and lots of others) will surely tell you what a non-issue that spill is; they’ll eagerly tell you just how favorable their impressions of Enbridge really are.

Beyond Marshall, Daniel says “he can’t understand how opponents can delay pipelines, which mean congestion and much lower prices for Canadian crude”– a statement that once again just confirms everything we’ve said about him in the past. Of course he “can’t understand.” He can’t understand because he lives in a bubble, surrounded by yes-men, showered in praise and awards, completely and utterly isolated from ordinary landowners whose everyday lives are affected by Enbridge’s projects and practices. From all available evidence, Pat Daniel has never— despite what the corporate values developed under his leadership state– bothered to “take the time to understand the perspective of others.”



Why we need pipeline safety advocates

Why we need pipeline safety advocates

We hope you’re sitting down for this one. Unfortunately, some people in Arkansas are learning a horrible lesson about what happens when a pipeline carrying tar sands oil fails. This is a major reason why we do what we do here at the blog–which isn’t half as much as what our wonderful, vigilant, hardworking friends at the Pipeline Safety Trust do. Their work is vital.


(Image: Carl Dement, via Nwahomepage.com)

(Image: Carl Dement, via Nwahomepage.com)


A Tale of Dirt (illustrated!)

A Tale of Dirt (illustrated!)

Long time readers of this blog know (we hope) that we have always tried very hard not to dwell on our personal situation, even though we do occasionally report on what’s happening around our property. But when we do, we generally do it to illustrate more general principles about the way Enbridge often carelessly and thoughtlessly (or callously) conducts its business. So it is with the story we have to tell today.

First, just a little context. In the temporary workspace that Enbridge required on our property was a stand of over 100 trees (some of them were also within Enbridge’s existing easement) and our precious perennial garden, which we planned, dug, planted, and tended ourselves over a period of years. This is what it looked like the spring before Enbridge arrived:




Enbridge leveled all of it. And because there was nothing we could to to prevent them from doing so, we instead gave a great deal of thought and concern to restoration. We’re obviously not a farm, but in order to replant some version of our green wall and our garden, we need productive, fertile soil. From the start, this has always been our primary concern.

Our attempts to have some assurances about care and handling and restoration of our soil inserted into our agreement with Enbridge during negotiations were summarily rejected. Instead, they just referred us to their general remediation practices (we could show you the emails from our ROW agent) and said, essentially, “trust us.” They directed us to the “Environmental Impact Report” on file with the Michigan Public Service Commission for a description of those practices. So let’s take a quick look at a bit of that document.

Under “Clearing and Site Preparation” the report says that “All brush and other materials cleared from upland areas within the construction corridor will be placed as a windrow along the construction corridor and disposed of as agreed to with the landowner.” In our case, what Enbridge agreed to is this (from our construction line list): “Trees with with pink ribbons are to be cut and saved for landowner at NE corner of property. Trees without ribbons are to be cut and hauled away.”

Here is what that looked like after construction crews did their clearing:



Two things to note here. First, that pile of timber on the left side of the image? Those are the trees we asked to have saved. But that’s not, as the agreement states, the NE corner of the property. And second, see the piles all along the orange fence in the middle and right of the image? That’s the shredded remains of the rest of the trees. Those piles should have been hauled away– that’s what we wanted to happen; that’s what we were told would happen– according to our agreement. But as you can see, they weren’t. In fact, they’re still there now (as you’ll see in a moment).

Now, we never complained about either of these things. The timber placement isn’t really a big deal and while we feared the shredded material might eventually become a problem, we trusted that they’d keep it segregated and haul it away after the pipe is placed in the ground. And since we don’t really like to complain constantly, we let these things go.

Much more important than those matters is what the Enbridge Environmental Impact Report and our agreement have to say about the handling of soil (much of which, in our case, isn’t ordinarily topsoil as we brought in loads of rich garden soil when we created our perennial bed). And we’ll just reiterate that we invested a lot of love and sweat into that soil, which is why, as some of you may recall, we were so upset the day a bulldozer started pushing the neighbor’s weed-filled dirt onto our property.

Anyway, here’s what it says in the Impact Report:

Topsoil generally has physical and chemical properties that are conducive to good plant growth. To prevent the mixing of topsoil with less productive subsoil during construction, topsoil will be segregated in selected areas where soil productivity is an important consideration. A minimum one foot of separation must be maintained between the topsoil and subsoil piles to prevent mixing. Where the one foot separation cannot be maintained, a physical barrier, such as a thick layer of straw mulch, may be used between the spoil and topsoil piles to prevent mixing. Use of the physical barrier must be reviewed and approved by Enbridge on a site-specific basis.

So far more than the handling of cleared timber, we’ve always been concerned about this practice, especially the segregation of subsoil and topsoil. That’s why we had this listed also, very clearly, in our line list agreement, which says: “Separate topsoil from subsoil, upon completion restore topsoil to surface and properly de-compact the work area.”

It’s hard to see the pile of stripped topsoil in the picture above, but it’s on the far side of the piles of shredded material. Here are a couple of up-close pictures, the second from a different angle, of the pile of topsoil (in the foreground):





And here is just one more, looking along the temporary workspace line. Behind the orange fence, you can see the shredded material and the pile of topsoil to the left of that. Now, we can tell you that plenty of excavated subsoil was placed in close proximity to this topsoil, certainly closer than the one foot separation listed in the Report.




So where is this headed? Well, yesterday construction crews were hard at work on our property, finally putting the pipe in the ground. That means some serious excavation– the removal of lots and lots of subsoil. And in one place, where they will tie in to the pipe they bored underground several weeks ago, they had to install a big blue steel box because the slope of the trench walls are very steep. Here’s a look:




By now, we’re sure you know where this is going. All of that dirt (clay, really) they excavated to lay the pipe and install that big blue box had to be piled somewhere. Here they are piling it:




See where they put all that excavated subsoil? Yep, right on top of our topsoil and even spilling into and onto the shredded material. So much for segregation. Here is a shot from the same angle as the one of the topsoil above:




And here is a closeup of the new mixture:




As we said at the start of this post, we don’t like to dwell on our personal situation. Mostly that’s because we know very well that compared to many others affected by this project– like our friends Beth Duman and Amy Nash, not to mention plenty of other people we’ve heard from or heard about– we don’t have it so bad, even though the state of soil on our property does mean a great deal to us. Many good people along Line 6B are in far, far worse situations than we are. We are very sensitive to that fact.

But that doesn’t excuse these violations. In fact, the sort of thing we’re describing here has happened and is happening all up and down the line. Enbridge would have you believe that these are just mistakes, aberrations. That’s what we’ve been told in the past by Enbridge executives. Mark Sitek told us, “we’re not perfect.”  Mark Curwin told us “mistakes happen.” And those things are probably true. We get that. We even let little mistakes (like the placement of those felled trees) pass.

But when these things happen repeatedly (we’ve documented how many just on our property?). when a large percentage (a third? half?) of landowners have each witnessed two, three, four, or more “mistakes” on their own properties, when the same sort of “mistake” is made over and over again, well, then it ceases to be a mistake and has to be called a pattern of behavior, evidence of shoddy practices. And it’s a pattern of behavior and a set of practices that are totally at odds with the way Enbridge presents itself to the public and with the way that Enbridge presented itself to the MPSC. In fact, as our citations from the Environmental Impact Report (submitted as evidence to the MPSC) show, Enbridge, one can only conclude, simply misrepresented to that agency the way that it conduct its business. (Not that the MPSC much cares.)

Now, we’re not without some slight measure of confidence– though we’re extremely wary– that Enbridge will try to take steps to make this situation with our soil right. But it’s going to take a fair amount of effort and convincing on our part, adding more frustrating experiences to our already rich store of them. And the fact is, as we have said dozens of times, it didn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. If only they just do as they say.


Pics: the pipe is in the ground!

Pics: the pipe is in the ground!

Well, some of it is anyway…

Petition for pipeline regulations

Petition for pipeline regulations

Yesterday, we took part in a telephone press conference (a “tele presser”) to announce a petition to PHMSA and the EPA spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation and supported by a coalition of citizens and citizen groups. The petition seeks greater scrutiny, oversight, and safety standards for tar sands oil pipelines. We are happy to support the petition– and grateful to our friend Beth Wallace for the invitation to join the presser and for her work on the petition. Here is the press release, with a link to the petition:

Coalition Petitions EPA, DOT to Protect Water, Wildlife & Communities from Tar Sands Spills

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (March 27, 2013) – A coalition of landowners, former and current government officials, environmental, renewable energy and sportsmen’s groups filed a petition today with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the agencies to develop stronger safety standards for tar sands oil pipelines.

“Three years after the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, little has been done to improve pipeline safety,” said Beth Wallace with the Great Lakes Regional Center. “This disaster should have been a wake-up call to industry, regulators and public officials. Instead industry is being allowed to expand pipelines across the region and even under the Great Lakes themselves, which will continue to put communities, wildlife and our economy at risk.”

Read the full petition here (pdf)

The petition effort is spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation and includes 29 national, state and local organizations as well as 36 landowners from states across the country impacted by existing and proposed tar sands pipelines. It requests a halt to new or expanded tar sands pipelines until adequate rules are in place.

“This petition is an exercise of citizens’ rights to request that government live up to its charge to follow the law, and protect us from the harms and risk of a tar sands pipeline spill,” said Jim Murphy, Senior Council at the National Wildlife Federation. “Until the right standards are put into place, we shouldn’t be exposing more communities and resources to tar sands risks.  We expect the government to answer our request and live up to its charge to properly address the unique risks of tar sands transportation.”

Current pipeline regulations were issued long before tar sands oil production ramped up and do not cover the unique aspects of tar sands. Tar sands oil poses more acute risks than conventional fuels shipped through pipelines because the oil is a volatile mix of raw bitumen – an asphalt-like substance – diluted with gas condensates. Diluted bitumen is a toxic, viscous, corrosive substance with the consistency of gritty peanut butter that must be moved at much higher pressures and temperatures than conventional oil. Strong evidence indicates tar sands oil threatens pipeline integrity.

“Even after what happened in Marshall, pipeline companies have continued to run roughshod over the state of Michigan while regulatory agencies and elected officials have stood by idly and allowed it to happen,” said Jeff Inkso, writer of the Line 6B citizen blog and landowner impacted by the Enbridge expansion project.

Between 2007 and 2010, pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan — the main states with a history of tar sands oil pipelines — spilled almost three times more crude oil per mile of pipeline when compared to the U.S. national average. In a scathing report on the Kalamazoo River spill near Marshall, MI, the National Transportation Safety Board pointed blame at current regulations, calling them “weak” and “inadequate.”

“Minnesota has experienced 11 oil pipeline leaks since 2002 according to PHMSA,“ said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, “We need to do a much better job of protecting our human populations and our wildlife populations that live next to these big pipelines.“

The petition requests new standards tightening several aspects of oil transport and pipeline safety:

    • Stronger safety requirements than those for conventional crude oil;
    • Industry disclosure of products carried through pipelines and their conveyance schedules;
    • Stronger industry spill response plans;
    • Shut-down requirements upon the first indication of a leak or other pipeline failure;
    • Repair of pipelines as soon as defects are discovered;
    • Transparent pipeline inspection reporting; and
    • Pipeline inspection and monitoring by independent entities unaffiliated with pipeline or energy companies;
    • A moratorium on building new or expanded tar sands pipelines until new regulations are final.

Supporters of the petition will be seeking cosigners over the next few months. Under the U.S. Constitution and the federal Administrative Procedure Act, citizens can file a formal petition requesting that a federal agency take specific actions required by law or change existing regulations. This petition requests a change in existing regulations. Federal agencies are required to respond.

National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.



We are sorry for our recent silence. But rest assured we are still on the case. In fact, just today we’ve been taking pictures of the pipe that has actually made its way into the ground– a spring miracle! Oh, and we took those pictures after the telepresser this morning called by our friends at the National Wildlife Federation.

More on these things and other matters coming in the next couple of days. Please come back!

News of the weird, part 3

News of the weird, part 3

Well, this one’s hard to resist: the debate up in Canada over Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project– basically, Canada’s version of Keystone XL– continues. And just last week, in testimony before the Canadian Joint Review Panel, an industry “consultant” named John Thompson offered some pretty novel testimony. You see, it turns out that oil spills have a way of kind of correcting themselves because they are actually economically beneficial.

Seriously. Citing the famous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, Thompson goes on:

Although a spill could have a big impact on the fishery, Thompson said compensation and other opportunities – such as working on clean up crews – will ensure people don’t lose any income. He said the compensation packages would not just go to those catching the fish but also people working in processing industries.

“The net result of these whole compensation schemes is the idea that at the end of the day, nobody is any worse off than they were beforehand,” he said. “So what you would see is that the income levels would remain the same, the source of the income would differ. Instead of getting it directly from sales of product, it would be through the income compensation.”

I assume this sort of thing applies to Marshall, Michigan as well. Nobody there is “any worse off than they were before.” Right?

News roundup

News roundup

While we were toiling away all last week at our regular job, a number of interesting Enbridge-related news items appeared. The most important of which, of course, is the new EPA order telling Enbridge they need to do more dredging to remove oil from the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge has 15 days to respond to the order, although indications are– judging from what’s coming out of Jason Manshum’s mouth– that they’ll be looking for ways to resist the order:

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum released a statement touting the progress of the cleanup to date and suggesting that “dredging and active recovery may cause incremental damage as determined by the U.S. EPA’s own Net Environmental Benefit Assessment.”

“The weathered and degraded oil remaining in the river is in extremely small concentrations found in the bottom sediments (and) is nonhazardous upon incidental contact according to the results of a study conducted by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH).

Our favorite part of this is when Manshum then adds, by way of a complete non sequitur, “Furthermore, the drinking water from private wells near the river has been and continues to (be) safe for consumption, as verified by the MDCH”– something that is evidently true, but has nothing whatsoever to do with the EPA’s order for more dredging.

But of course, as we have pointed out before, Enbridge’s style of communication does not always adhere to the ordinary rules of rational discourse. For instance, Manshum’s statement about the EPA order also says that Enbridge is “focused on cooperation with the EPA and other authorities in doing what is best for the river and the environment based on analysis and sound science.” Yet Enbridge appears to have some slightly different ideas about what constitutes “sound science” than the rest of us. Case in point, a recent study commissioned by Enbridge that claims that dilbit floats in water– a rather startling claim given the fact the dilbit they spilled into the Kalamazoo River did NOT float. It sank. Which is why the EPA wants them to do more dredging.

Our friend Beth Wallace has a brief blog post about this matter over at Wildlife Promise.

In other news, the Lansing State Journal has an item about a potential problem over in Ingham County. According to the report:

Samples from a county drain are being tested after a sheen was detected on the water’s surface over the weekend near the Enbridge Inc. facility in southeastern Ingham County

As of Tuesday night, no petroleum had been detected, but testing was continuing, Deputy Ingham County Drain Commissioner Carla Clos said Tuesday afternoon.

“At this point, we don’t really know what it is,” Clos said. “(The tests) are not showing anything to be worried about.”

For our part, we have our doubts that there’s anything much to this. At the same time, we also have our doubts about what’s coming out of the mouth of our old pal Larry Springer, who, by way of offering reassurances, tells us it might just be… um, decaying leaves:

Many things other than petroleum can cause a sheen on water, including decaying leaves, and there was no indication of an oil or gas leak, [Larry] Springer said.

But in both cases, we admit, we don’t really know. We hope that local and state officials continue to monitor the matter closely.

Moving north, there are a couple of interesting items out of Wisconsin. A state Court of Appeals has ruled that a family can pursue a trespass claim against Enbridge for allegedly exceeding the easement rights they have on the family’s land. The ruling means that the family could force Enbridge to remove pipelines they’ve installed on the family’s property.

In unrelated news, Enbridge wants to upgrade its pipeline capacity from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin— to transport diluted bitumen.  In order to do so, they must seek permission from the State Department, since they’ll be transporting oil across a border. Can anyone say “Keystone XL“?

Even farther north, up in Canada (unless we’re accused of being unfair!) comes this heartwarming article about what great neighbors Enbridge has been while working on Line 9.

By way of counterpoint, closer to home residents over in Rose Township, just to our west, haven’t had quite the same pleasant experience. The Tri County Times this week has the story of some construction trouble in that area. Resident Ellie Vance has some positive words to say about Enbridge’s contractor, but not so much for Enbridge and its ROW agents:

One supervisor with Precision Pipeline has picked her up personally from her door with a golf cart to take her out to her car, which is marooned on the other side of the construction. She has enjoyed dealing with the Precision Pipeline, the group carrying out the work on the pipeline that Enbridge owns. She does not, however, like working with Enbridge. She has been through two land agents, and said the recent land agent has been very brisk.



A little schadenfreude

A little schadenfreude

Ordinarily, we try not to take pleasure in the misfortune of others. But we have to admit to kind of enjoying it when this construction truck got stuck in the mud on our property this morning. It was sunk so deep they had to use the gigantic backhoe to drag it out.




In fact, we figure it’s some kind of cosmic payback for yesterday’s construction line list violation. You see, as we were trying to enjoy a quiet Sunday breakfast, construction crews gathered, fired up equipment, and started doing we’re-not-sure-what in our backyard. Here they are:




But our agreement clearly states that no work will take place on our property on Sundays. Our ROW agent promptly looked into the matter, which mostly took care of the problem– although our property was still a thruway for equipment for most of the day.

More gunk in Michigan rivers?

More gunk in Michigan rivers?

Photo by Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star

Photo by Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star

Here’s a distrubing story. You see, apparently pipeline spills are not the only way that the diluted bitumen Enbridge transports can foul Michigan rivers. Let us tell you about “petcoke.”

A byproduct of the refining process, petroleum coke is a fine powder that can be burned like coal and used in other processes, like making asphalt. The Marathon refinery in Detroit– you will recall that they recently completed a multi-million dollar expansion so that they could refine more of the dilbit Enbridge pipes to them– produces enormous piles of the stuff, which they then sell.

Where does it all go?

Well, a good amount of appears to be going, for the short term anyway, right down to the shores of the Detroit River. The Windsor Star over in Canada this week ran the disturbing story of mountains of petcoke sitting unprotected by the side of the river. From all appearances, it seems very unlikely that such a fine, powdery material would not blow or runoff or slide or otherwise leach its way into the river, along which it is piled. (The paper has since run some follow up stories. And here’s another on some protests over the piles.)

Apparently, the Michigan DEQ is now on the case. We wait anxiously to see what sort of action will be taken– but given the record of Michigan politicians and state regulations on these sorts of matters, we’re not all that confident.

Oh, and by the way, when entities like the state department do those calculations to determine the carbon emissions (and climate impact) of tar sands mining, as in their recent report on Keystone XL, the impact of burning petcoke– a far dirtier fuel than coal, evidently– does not get included.

Construction update

Construction update

You might recall that a week or so ago we mentioned that we are so very sick of looking at the strings of green steel pipe in our backyard. Well, we’re still sick of it. And we asked our ROW agent and Project Manager Tom Hodge when we might expect that pipe to be placed in the ground and restoration to begin. Here is what we learned:

Because on a couple of properties just a few hundred feet from ours the pipe runs very close those property owners’ homes (we’re talking maybe 20 feet!), they are boring, rather than digging. This apparently takes a bit more time. But once they’ve done that, they can tie the pipe in our yard into that bore. If all goes well, they anticipate all of that to be completed in the next two weeks. Hooray!

Beyond that, Tom Hodge says that they hope to have everything in the ground– there are apparently still some spots over in the Stockbridge area and elsewhere to the east where crews are still tying in– by the end of April. Restoration will then begin as soon as the ground is dry enough for crews to work on it without leaving ruts and so forth.

As for the details of restoration, well, we’ve got some more inquiries in regarding some of those matters and will report to you what we learn if and when we learn some things.

Sam is sick of it, too.



More from the IRWA

We’re trying to find the time to provide you with a detailed account of our (surprisingly pleasant) experience speaking to the Michigan chapter of the International Right of Way Association. In the meantime, we’ll offer another teaser.

Our readers know (we hope) that we pride ourselves here at the Line 6B blog on telling the truth and calling ’em like we see ’em. Here are a couple things that, as we see them, are true:

Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation is really smart and doing important work. That’s her below speaking to the IRWA on Thursday. Attorney Kim Savage (that’s the back of her head in the other photo– sorry for such horrible pictures!) is also exceedingly smart–and she gives lawyers a GOOD name. We’re proud to know them both.






Sneak preview: go figure!

Here’s something we never ever would have imagined we would say: if you ever get a chance to go and speak to the Michigan chapter of the International Right of Way Association, take it. Those people are great.

More on our experience to come…



MPSC fails again

MPSC fails again

A couple of weeks ago, we wrapped up our series on the woeful effort the Michigan Public Service Commission puts forth to protect the public interest. We noted the shallow analysis provided by their staff; the staff attorney’s vigorous efforts on behalf of Enbridge; the past work on behalf of industry performed by the Administrative Law Judge; the snide, hostile tone toward citizen intervenors taken by the Commission’s final ruling, and– perhaps worst of all– the way that the Commission (enabled by the ALJ) essentially allowed Enbridge, a foreign corporation, to re-write Michigan law.

It’s an appalling state of affairs, in our view. And while we realize the regulatory matters aren’t the sexiest topic in the world, we think this is a tremendously important story. It’s regrettable that it’s not the sort of story anyone in the media is likely to write about. Boring as it is, this is exactly how important matters (do not) get done.

Which brings us to the latest out of the MPSC (which we learned about thanks to our friend Kim Savage). Turns out, it’s not just Enbridge that gets to disregard the public. The MPSC is happy to grant Consumer’s Energy the same privilege. You see, Consumer’s has applied to the MPSC for their own certificate of public necessity. They want to install some 25 miles of new natural gas pipeline over on the western part of the state.

Now, in compliance with MPSC procedures, Consumer’s is required to send out a Notice of Hearing to solicit filings for public appearances regarding their application– you may recall that this was something of a sticking point with Enbridge’s application. We wrote about it here and here. Anyway, here is the interesting– that is to say, disturbing part: Consumer’s Notice was not sent to even one single individual resident. That’s right, not one. And this despite the fact that as Consumer’s notes in their application, “The Project will cross approximately 4 acres of residential land. Based on a review of aerial photography 11 homesteads were identified as being within 200 feet of the proposed route.” That’s excluding farmland.

How is this possible? How is that Consumer’s can get away with not sending a Notice to those who are likely to be affected by this construction, whether directly or indirectly? Well, it turns out that the requirement for these Notices of Hearings is only that the applicant notify those who IT deems it has not obtained sufficient property rights. The fact that those 11 homesteads in close proximity to the project are going to be affected one way or another– wouldn’t you want to know about a major infrastructure project 200 feet away from your home?– evidently isn’t all that important to the MPSC, and certainly not to Consumer’s Energy. This is how the MPSC serves the public interest.

Note that we’re not talking about any onerous regulations on industry here. We’re talking about what ought to be the very bare minimum: making sure that the general public, and especially those landowners who will be impacted directly, are informed. Is that too much to ask?


Dog vs. Thing

Dog vs. Thing

This morning, Sam encountered this vaguely anthropomorphic-looking piece of construction equipment. He showed it who’s boss.


Accountability: the latest

Accountability: the latest

Oh boy. This morning Eric Lawrence of the Detroit Free Press (as we’ve said many times, one of our favorite reporters who has done excellent work on Enbridge matters for months) has a new piece explaining that Enbridge does not want to pay for more studies assessing damage from the Marshall spill. Here’s a taste:

The pipeline company responsible for the 2010 tar sands oil spill that fouled almost 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River is refusing to pay $800,000 to complete two new studies to assess the spill’s damage.

Trustees of the National Resource Damage Assessment, an effort to assess the damage caused by oil spills and other hazards, wants Enbridge to participate in the studies, which involve vegetation and recreational use in the area affected by the spill.

The group comprises state and federal agencies, such as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as two tribal governments.

But Enbridge notified trustees in June and October that it was “declining to cooperate” because adequate data had already been collected.

Here we have yet another example of something we have discussed repeatedly over the past eight months: Enbridge’s unwillingness to take full and complete responsibility for the Marshall spill. Instead, they only pretend to take responsibility. Mostly, they want to pretend that the Marshall debacle is over and done with; they want desperately just to move on. We’ve covered numerous examples of this:

We have also dealt with this matter in our discussions about and with Enbridge executives. For example:

The point in all of those cases (and others) has always been the same: Enbridge seems not to understand what it means to truly take responsibility. They seem to think that somehow they get to decide when things have been made right. But truly taking responsibility means leaving that determination up to those whom you have wronged, or those in a position to decide when the situation you created has been rectified, when the mess you have made has been cleaned up.

What’s even worse is that in the face of that disaster and Enbridge’s refusal to fully take responsibility for it, the good people of the state of Michigan have STILL allowed Enbridge to build a new pipe that will increase the capacity of oil they can transport and thereby increase their profits– by millions and millions of dollars.

Hodgepodge post

Hodgepodge post

When it comes to Enbridge lately, mostly we sit around waiting for the stretches of green steel pipe that dominate our backyard vista to somehow burrow their way into the ground– so that we can finally stop looking at them. Well, that’s not totally true. We’ve been trying to get some answers as to when construction might wrap up, so we can begin devising a tree-replanting plan. But we have been waiting to hear back from Tom Hodge with an update.

We’ve also been trying to get some more information regarding the Environmental Stewardship program that we’ve been told has finally been rolled out to all townships along the route. As soon as we have that information, you can bet we’ll tell you all about– so that you can begin thinking of ways to benefit your local areas. We’ve made some inquiries on related matters, too, but again are waiting–patiently, but a bit anxiously, at this point–for some responses. Why anxiously? Well, when days (or weeks) begin to pass without any replies, we start to remember the other times we’ve been brushed off by Enbridge folks (and the other other times).

But while we wait for those things, we thought we’d point you in the direction of some other interesting, and totally unrelated (to one another) matters:

  • We are completely fascinated by (and filled with admiration for) the actions of the Red Lake Nation up in Northern Minnesota. They’re staging a blockade against a 60-year old Enbridge pipeline– a pipeline that was built on sovereign lands without permission. You can learn about the story here.
  • Closer to home, we are very interested in a request from Bruce Township (over to our east) for some help from Enbridge treating their battered roads with limestone. Enbridge, apparently, has said they would take the request “into consideration.” We hope they will. As we have said from day one– we said it to to our own Township trustees (who dismissed us out of hand)– every township should be making these sorts of requests. Not only is it a chance for Enbridge to live up to their “good neighbor” rhetoric; it’s also completely reasonable that host communities should want to gain some benefit from being good faith partners with Enbridge– because Enbridge will most certainly benefit from it, in the form of millions of dollars.
  • Lastly, if you missed it in our comments section, the good people over at The Hermitage retreat in Three Rivers are hosting a fascinating event later this month: “A Service of Lament and Hope along the Enbridge Pipeline” on Saturday, March 30, 2013 2-4 pm. The Hermitage is located at 11321 Dutch Settlement Road, Three Rivers, MI. They describe the event this way:

    You are invited to express your sorrow, regret or disappointment over the new pipeline being laid by Enbridge. The public lament. . .will include a public confession of our complicity in the demand for oil, a prayer walk to the pipeline, public acts of mourning and despair, and conclude with a dance of hope.

Unfortunately, the drive to Three Rivers is probably a bit out of our range– but we’ll try and find some time that day ourselves for a bit of lamentation.

News of the Weird, part 2

News of the Weird, part 2

About a week ago, we launched a playful new series of strange items we’ve encountered recently. We kicked things off with a picture of the convenient wipes that are now available along the Kalamazoo River for cleaning the oil off of your skin and boat– such a thoughtful amenity!

Today’s item is weird in a totally different way. Since we began writing this blog and reaching out to landowners about eight months ago, we’ve met lots of wonderful, fascinating people and have experienced and done all sorts of things we never really imagined ourselves doing– some of them not that strange, like attending and speaking up at local township meetings; and some of them rather surreal, like eating midnight beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans with oil pipeline executives (and various other eccentrics, like this guy).

But even that doesn’t compare to what we’ll be doing this week, along with two of our very favorite people we’ve met through all of this, Beth Wallace and Kim Savage. On Thursday, the three of us will be speaking at a meeting of the Michigan chapter of the International Right of Way Association. It’s true! No joke! Just look:


What will we say? We haven’t totally decided yet, but it won’t just be a repeat of our last presentation at the Pipeline Safety Trust conference. And in fact, we’re likely to say some things we’ve never even posted here. A long time ago, we made a conscious decision not to spend our time and energy on this blog beating up on ROW agents– even though we have heard plenty of stories of their bad behavior, stories that would curl your hair. And we have ourselves experienced a fair amount of unprofessional conduct and heard plenty of misinformation from them. Yet (as memory serves), we have never once called out a ROW agent by name (or even deed) here on this blog.

Partly, that’s because we do not get personal. But also it’s because Enbridge is ultimately responsible for the conduct and behavior of its ROW agents. Indeed, as far as landowners are concerned, the ROW agents that come to our houses ARE Enbridge; they are the company’s direct interface with landowners. So if and when they lie, intimidate, disrespect, misinform, misbehave, or otherwise fail to deal openly and honestly and cooperatively and protectively with and toward landowners– well, that’s Enbridge doing it– because Enbridge lets them do it.

So, it’s likely on Thursday that we’ll tell all of the ROW agents– primarily a bunch of good, honest, hardworking, professional people, we are sure– that some among them do lie, intimidate, disrespect, misinform, misbehave, or otherwise fail to deal openly and honestly and cooperatively with and toward landowners. And when they do, it reflects poorly on ROW agents in general. So perhaps their peers can help keep the bad actors in line in a way that Enbridge either can’t or won’t.

We will, of course, provide you with a full report of the proceedings.

Construction Question

Sorry we’ve been out of commission the past week or so! That pesky job keeps intruding…

We’ll do some catch-up blogging this weekend. In the meantime, a semi-urgen question if anyone is able to respond quickly:

Is there any current construction happening over in Livingston County– open trenches, strings of pipe not in the ground, that sort of thing? If so, could someone please send us a quick email and let us know where?

Thank you!