Well, we’ve had a pretty eventful couple of weeks– which sort of delayed our plans for a series of one year anniversary retrospective posts (we’ll still get to them). It’s not just all the time we spent playing golf on vacation. No sooner did we return home to Michigan than we hopped on a plane to join our friend Beth Wallace (hero) in Washington D.C. for a “fly-in” hosted by the awesome people at the National Wildlife Federation. (Don’t worry, we had no idea what a fly-in was either.) We met with staff members for Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, Representative Gary Peters, and a handful of officials from the State Department. Here is photographic evidence:
We’ll bring you a full report on all of this, which means (of course) a brand new series! Since we’ve never lobbied before, we learned an awful lot. For example: that our government seems to be run by a bunch of teenagers, that you can get both cash and a haircut in congressional office buildings, that some Michigan elected officials might actually be interested in the bad behavior of Enbridge (you’ll have to wait to find out who!), that it is possible to get yelled at by a security guard in the State Department building, that the disturbing similarities between PHMSA and Enbridge run even deeper than we thought, that there is (small, remote) reason for some hope, that English majors are everywhere, and that the Department of Homeland Security might possibly have undercover agents who are somehow able to defy the laws of ordinary locomotion.
Surely you don’t want to miss any of that. Please stay tuned.
Yesterday, the three year anniversary of the spill in Marshall brought with it, as we pointed out, some excellent reports by some of our favorite reporters and writers– Dave Hasemyer, Lindsey Smith, Jacob Wheeler, and Josh Mogerman, to name a few.
By contrast, today, the day after the anniversary, has brought us some reports that are to, a greater or lesser extent. just plain maddening.
Take, for instance, the anniversary story released today by UPI, the people, you might recall, who think Beth Wallace is a “global warming advocate.” Unlike the group we mentioned above, the UPI typist couldn’t be bothered to do anything at all except quote back the hollow phrases served up to them by Jason Manshum. In fact, that’s the story’s lead:
There’s always a chance of failure when dealing with mechanical equipment and oil pipelines, Canadian pipeline company Enbridge said.
A couple of paragraphs later, the story offers up the same disingenuous load of hay about “mechanical equipment” from Jason Manshum that we discussed yesterday. Which really just raises one question: wasn’t UPI once a reputable news service?
Less maddening from a journalistic standpoint, but still a little maddening, is this item from a local paper covering Macomb County in Michigan, through which phase two of the Line 6B replacement runs. The headline of the story, oddly, is “NTSB report harshly criticizes Enbridge for oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.” This confused us a little at first, considering the fact that that report was released one year ago this month. But once we got our bearings, we realized that the story is a very good thing. The good citizens of Macomb and St. Clair counties need to know about that report, even if it’s a year old. So we commend The Voice and reporter Jim Bloch, who does a nice job of summarizing the report, for running the story. He even includes the really important stuff, like this:
The report condemned the “culture of deviance” that characterized Enbridge operators, pointing to “systemic flaws in operational decision-making.” The company’s operating culture was one “in which not adhering to approved procedures and protocols was normalized.”
Bloch also has a second story in The Voice, reporting on a meeting between some Enbridge reps and the Marysville, Michigan city council. It mainly consists of Enbridge saying, as they always do, “hey, none of this is any big deal; don’t you worry.” But at one point, Enbridge project manager Doug Reichley says this extraordinary thing:
“The original pipeline was built in the late ‘60s,” said Reichley. “We’ve had some repair issues and some maintenance issues, so we thought it best to replace the entire thing.”
That’s right. On the third anniversary of the most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history, Reichley says they’ve “had some repair issues.”
The last two maddening items from today are of the déjà vu sort. The Minnesota Star-Tribune has a truly infuriating story about Enbridge violating the terms of some environmental permits:
Enbridge Energy said Friday it will pay a $425,000 fine to settle federal allegations that it made illegal discharges into wetlands and rivers while testing two Minnesota pipelines, including one being upgraded to carry more crude oil.
The violations pertain to the discharge of water during testing of the lines in 2009 and 2010. Sound familiar? It should. Because that’s exactly what happened in Michigan a few weeks ago when Enbridge discharged some rust-colored water into Ore Creek, violating ELEVEN conditions of its MDEQ permit. We believe this constitutes a pattern. The fact is, as our friend Beth Wallace pointed out, that Enbridge treats these matters simply as the cost of doing business. To which we would add that our regulations are so weak and the fines issued for these violations are so small that there is no disincentive for companies like Enbridge to violate these permits. So as much as we want to point out that Enbridge is a very bad actor, we also hasten to add that the systems we have in place compound the problem: they are too weak to force companies like Enbridge to behave.
We also did a double-take when we read that “Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said the company didn’t admit to the violations, but decided to settle the case and avoid litigation.” It’s not just that we remember our own not-unpleasant encounter with Terri Larson at the PSTrust conference back in November (though we have a strong hunch that she was subsequently told to stop replying to our emails). It’s that this also seems to be a pattern with Enbridge. Long time readers might recall that when Enbridge finally reached a “consent agreement” with Brandon Township, they did not admit that they’d violated an ordinances or that they were required by law to seek consent. Enbridge is nothing if not recalcitrant.
Lastly, Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith, who’s doing great work, spent a long, late evening at the Comstock Township Planning Commission last night, as the commissioners considered whether to approve Enbridge’s dredging plan. Based on Lindsey’s fine report, it sounds like it was an interesting, if a little exhausting, meeting. But the déjà vu moment for us in the story was this:
Tracy presented the plans to the township’s planning commission after apologizing for not coming sooner. Enbridge set up a lot of equipment at the location near Morrow Lake in June, without getting township approval.
“There is a small slice of time here, that’s no excuse for not coming you to begin with,” Tracy said.
He also apologized to planning commissioners who said they were kicked off the proposed site when they attempted to see it.
This, too, is part of a pattern with Enbridge, something we have seen (and pointed out) on numerous occasions. Enbridge shoots first and aims later. They plow forward, doing whatever they want, and then later, pretending to be innocent and sincere, they issue apologies or offers to fix whatever problems they have caused. It’s a very convenient strategy– for Enbridge– and far too many regulatory and governing bodies have allowed them to get away with it for far too long. Here’s hoping Comstock Township does not do the same.
Lastly, here’s something really interesting for this anniversary. When the spill happened in Marshall 3 years ago, a lot of committed people took lots of different forms of action. This included a small local paper called the Michigan Messenger, which did a lot of vital reporting in real time and did a great job of trying to hold Enbridge’s feet to the fire. Through the magic of the internet, a great deal of that reporting lives on. So if you really want a look back upon that nightmarish summer, hop a ride on the internet wayback machine.
As everyone reading this surely knows by now, today is the third anniversary of the spill in Marshall. To mark the occasion, lots of journalists and others have filed lots of fine work, looking back and assessing the current state of the Kalamazoo cleanup and Enbridge’s other ongoing operations in the state. We already posted to Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Hasemyer’s terrific piece over at Inside Climate News. If you haven’t already, be sure to checkout the accompanying slideshow.
Several other notable items have since appeared, including Lindsey Smith’s first-rate Environment Report. In fact, of everything we’ve seen so far, this is the one that has us worked up the most. That’s because Jason Manshum, apparently saved his best (by which we mean his worst) material for this special occasion. We’re used to his dissembling and his vacuities, but today, he’s outdone himself. Here’s what he told Lindsey Smith:
“You know, I would love to say that we have done the following ten items that will ensure there are no leaks again. I would love to tell you that. But I can’t. We’re dealing with mechanical equipment and any time you deal with mechanical equipment there’s a chance for some sort of failure,” says Manshum.
See what he’s doing here? He’s pretending like the Marshall spill was just a matter of some inevitable, albeit regrettable, failures of “mechanical equipment.” ‘Cuz let’s face it, sooner or later, your lawn mower is going to break down. That’s clever, we admit. But it’s also counter-factual– which is why it is so very important that everyone, every single citizen of the state of Michigan and beyond, should read the NTSB report. Because if and when they do, those citizens will learn that the spill in Marshall (how many times do we have to say this? seriously, how many?) was NOT a matter of mechanical problems, technological failures or whatever dishonest, evasive line Enbridge reps like Jason Manshum still to this day try to peddle to an under-informed public. No, the NTSB report makes it crystal clear that humans– humans working for and trained by Enbridge– failed, again and again. The fact that the Jason Manshums still try and pretend otherwise at this late date does nothing more that belie their rhetoric of taking full responsibility for what happened in Marshall on this day three years ago.
Another outstanding piece of journalism is now posted over at The Uptake. It’s a video report by Jacob Wheeler, another fellow of the IJNR Kalamazoo River Institute. Both the video and the written piece are very good, so be sure to read and watch. We’re also glad to see that it’s been picked up by a handful of outlets, as it merits a wide audience. The video features a number of our favorite people, including Beth Wallace, Susan Connolly, Deb Miller, Dave Gallagher, and Josh Mogerman. In fact, if you check out the version of the story over at the Glen Arbor Sun, there’s a downloadable picture of Josh in his adorable red cap. Oh, and if you stick around the video until about the 8:40 or so mark, you might see us saying a few words…
Speaking of Josh Mogerman, he’s got a wonderfully pithy blog post up over at the NRDC Switchboard, which includes a whole bunch of links worth clicking on.
Lastly, the Detroit News (almost always lagging behind, if we’re being honest) has a bit more on that interesting Bell’s Brewery lawsuit story.
In case you haven’t heard, this week marks one full year of existence for the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog. This has put us in a reflective mood. And to celebrate, after thanking some of the marvelous friends we’ve made in the past year, we’ve planned to re-visit what we think (a little self-indulgently; we hope we’ll be forgiven!) some of our greatest hits– which is really just a way of pointing out what we think are some of the more revealing episodes in the life of the Line 6B replacement project. But we’re on vacation this week and, to be honest, golf has sort of taken precedent over reviewing. Which just means that we’ll be dragging this anniversary out a bit longer than we thought we would.
But today marks another, far more important anniversary, the anniversary of the event without which the Line 6B “replacement” and, hence, this blog never would have existed in the first place. Yes, it was three years ago today that the Line 6B pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan and began spilling what would eventually be more than a million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.
This is an anniversary that is not worth celebrating.
But it is a good day to read through the NTSB report on the incident, just to remind ourselves of who is responsible for that disaster; it wasn’t a matter of mere mistakes. Nor was it a failure of technology. It was the inevitable result of Enbridge’s “culture of deviance.” It’s all right there in the report.
To commemorate this day, various news outlets are looking Back. Most notably, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dave Hasemyer of Inside Climate News (we’re so glad he’s back!) has an excellent, lengthy article this morning that everyone should (and will) be reading. We make a brief appearance, as do our friends Steve Hamilton, Deb Miller, and Dave Gallagher. But the money quote comes Robert LaForge, whose property next to Talmadge Creek was affected by the spill so badly that he had to sell it to Enbridge– for far less than a fair price, in his view.
LaForge’s message for Enbridge? “Go to hell.”
Over at Michigan Radio, there’s an informative interview with Lindsey Smith. As always, she’s knowledgeable and clear.
Up in Canada, Brenda Gouglas is also looking back on the past three years. Having observed Enbridge’s actions since the spill, she’s wary of their rhetoric meant to assure Canadians about the Northern Gateway Project. In her fine piece this morning in the Vancouver Observer, she asks, “Can Enbridge be trusted.” Guess what the evidence suggests.
One last item of note: the Comstock Township Planning Commission will consider Enbridge’s permit tonight. You can bet Larry Bell and plenty of others will be there to urge the commissioners to deny it. They’re expecting a full house. Wish we could attend!
(Not so) Happy Anniversary!
There’s been some VERY interesting news this week and, we’re happy to report, some of it quite good or at least very intriguing. A couple of days ago, we linked to the many news reports telling of the bold action taken by the committed members of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS).
Well, today, reports say that Enbridge plans to beef up its security in response. As always, Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum is on the case, ready with more vapid, equivocal statements:
“We are looking at around the clock, 24/7 security,” he said. “When you think about it, you are talking about people’s safety on the site. You are also talking about the integrity of that pipeline.”
But much more interesting than Enbridge’s security measures is the news from Comstock Township. As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery– makers of our favorite beers, Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale and Oberon Ale (the perfect summer beer)– is, like others in Comstock, mighty unhappy with Enbridge’s latest plans for their continued dredging of the Kalamazoo River. This week, Bell’s filed a lawsuit against Enbridge and a developer with whom Enbridge has a lease agreement. MiLive has the story here. According to the suit, Enbridge’s plan:
will “release pollution, hazardous substances, odor, dust and particulate” which could negatively impact brewery operations.
The complaint alleges Enbridge violated condominium covenants by failing to submit a site plan application before installing equipment. It also alleges that CCP, as developer of the commerce park, violated the Michigan Condominium Act by failing to disclose to the condominium association its intent to lease property to Enbridge.
We will of course be watching developments with regard to this suit very closely. In addition to protection of the beautiful Bell’s beer, a large part of what’s at stake here is once again local autonomy– something Enbridge has disregarded all across the state of Michigan for a very long time.
And in one final bit of excellent news, Keith Matheny at the Detroit Free Press is reporting that those nasty piles of petroleum coke along the Detroit River will be going away– at least for the time being. We’re hopeful about this, although the statements coming from Detroit Bulk Storage, the company that’s keeping the stuff– ““We are exploring all options at this time”– are positively Manshum-like in their haziness, which does not exactly inspire confidence.
You have probably heard the news already (we’re allowed to be a little slow; we’re on vacation!): yesterday, a bunch of protestors from the energetic Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) locked themselves to some of Enbridge’s construction equipment over in Stockbridge. Authorities had to cut them free and have arrested 12 people. The story is all over the news. Here is the MiLive version of the story. But there’s more here and here and here and here.
A couple of things struck us with particular force:
First, according to protestor Christopher Corrigan, he is taking action because “Governmental authorities have failed them by the lack of regulation and the ‘endless permitting of these projects,’ he said.” Corrigan is dead right about this. Our state and federal authorities and regulatory agencies have failed us. We’ve said this ourselves over and over.
Secondly, in a statement released to the press in response to this action, Enbridge said (among other things), “The company works hard to encourage dialogue with communities and residents in areas where it has operations.” We’ve discussed that matter so much over the past year, we don’t even have the energy to provide you a link. You can practically choose a post here at random and it will show how Enbridge does not work hard at all to encourage dialogue with communities and residents. If they did, this blog wouldn’t exist. So, unlike Christopher Corrigan, Enbridge in its statement is dead wrong.
As we mentioned yesterday, we’re on our annual vacation in Minnesota. Now, you might think that would mean that we get a reprieve from Enbridge and oil pipeline related matters. But no. They evidently dog and hound us at every turn, wherever we go. For example, when we got out of bed yesterday and checked the local newspaper, this is what greeted us:
Yep, it appears that Minnesota regulators are every bit as weak and reluctant to protect the public interest as those in Michigan. Sigh. We’ve got a lot more to say about this matter — and about the Minnesota decision as one small piece of a larger Enbridge puzzle– in a separate post.
But right now, rather than looking forward, we’re doing a bit more reflection on the year that has been here at the Line 6B blog. As we said earlier this week, it’s our birthday or anniversary, one full year since we started this thing. So we’re looking back (a little sentimentally even). This morning, we’re going to kick off a series of posts on some of our “greatest hits” (if you’ll forgive us a bit of self-indulgent back-patting), some of the posts we’ve written that, in our view, merit some re-visiting. The Minnesota story reminds us one of those hits in particular– but we’re going to save that one for later.
Instead, we’ll start this year in review where it has to start, where everything Enbridge-related absolutely must begin, with the crucial context without which one can’t understand anything about what Enbridge is doing in Michigan (and beyond), with the document that anybody who thinks they have an opinion about Enbridge, critical or supportive, has to have read if they want to have any sort of credibility whatsoever, if they want to be taken seriously: The National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the Marshall spill.
The release of this report in July of last year– and our reading of it– is what changed us from frustrated landowners to critics and activists. Its parade of horrors, its litany of poor decisions, neglect, and inaction, all attributable to a dreadfully lax safety culture at Enbridge, will send chills down your spine.
So early on in the life of this blog, we did a series of posts on “Tales and Lessons” from the report, in which we not only summarized some of the more horrifying findings from the federal investigation into the Marshall disaster. We also considered how those tales appear to reveal some general truths about Enbridge that explain how they have conducted themselves during the course of the Line 6B “replacement” project– conduct and behavior we have continued to write about. In fact, looking back at this series nearly a year later, it’s extraordinary how often we have returned to the three basic problems with Enbridge that we then, via the NTSB report, identified. Here is just one example:
In the first post in that series, we told you about Enbridge’s failure to abide by its own safety protocol, known as 10-minute rule– a failure that greatly exacerbated the severity of the spill into Talmadge Creek. In disucssing this failure, we asked the question “Does Enbridge learn from its mistakes?” You can imagine what sort of answer we arrived at back then. But what is perhaps most striking to us looking back on that question now is that it turns out to be a question that we are still asking. In fact, in a pair of posts just last month, we asked what amounts to the very same question: why can’t Enbridge do better?
The fact that we’re still asking whether Enbridge learns from its mistakes nearly 12 months on suggests to us that the answer is perfectly obvious.
During this birthday/anniversary week, we’re reflecting a bit. And when we reflect on this past year, we don’t just think of all the mess, stress, destruction, and inconvenience– because this experience, strangely, has not been without compensation. We’re not talking about money (frankly, there hasn’t been nearly enough of that!). No, we’re talking about some of the fascinating things we’ve learned and done, though we’ve done some pretty fascinating things. We’re talking about all of the fantastic people we’ve met, in person and cybernetically; all of the friends we’ve made.
Now, this is a dangerous thing to do, since we run the risk of leaving someone out. But we’d like to give some heartfelt shout-outs. If we forget you, we apologize in advance. Nevertheless, we want to say that we are genuinely, truly, deeply grateful that we’ve gotten the chance to meet and know:
Carl Weimer, the Big Cheese
Rebecca Craven, brainiac
Beth Wallace, hero
Kim Savage, trench warrior
Jeff Axt, Brandon brawler
Josh Mogerman, water (and beer) watchdog
Ben Gotschall & Jane Kleeb, role models
Nate Pavlovic, prodigy
Anthony Swift & Sara Gosman, legal masterminds
Susan Connolly, Deb Miller, & Michelle Barlond Smith, K-zoo pugilists
Steve Hamilton, river baron
Kathy Thurman, model public steward
Mike Holmstrom, pipeline guru
Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, whale hunter
Mike O’Leary, wild lifer
Chris Wilson, Texas tornado
Sonia Grant, scholar
Lance Enderle, winner
Gary Field, intervenor
Jake McGraw, eco-activist
Dave Hasemyer & Lisa Song & Susan Bromley & Elana Schor & Dave Spratt & Rebecca Williams & Jack Lessenberry & Adam Hinterthuer & Morgan Sherburne & Lindsey Smith & Tiffany Stecker & Tina Casagrand, journos who give us hope (seriously, having spoken with those last four, all smart and at the very start of their careers, one actually does not despair for the future of American journalism)
And most of all, all our fellow landowners, the outspoken and the silent, who have put up with far more than they ever should have: Beth D & Donna T & Dave G & Carol B & Shannon & Linda K & Patricia & Amy N and all the others too numerous to mention who stop by and occasionally comment here & all those many others whom we’ve never even met.
In all sincerity: thank you.
Can you believe it? This week marks the one year anniversary of the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog. One full year! Can you believe it? We are finally growing up!
Well, technically, we launched the blog on June 27, but it was really the middle of July that we started blogging in earnest– even though we had no idea what we were doing and sort of floundered around unsure of what to say, clueless about blogging conventions (which we still don’t really understand that well), and shaky with the technology. It took us quite a while to find our sea legs. In fact, our early posts, like, say, this one, weren’t really posts at all.
Anyway, in our minds, we associate the launch of the blog with our annual vacation in Minnesota, where we are sitting right this very moment (in the sweltering heat, alas!). That’s when, one year ago, we made our impromptu visit to the Enbridge offices in Superior, Wisconsin. That’s when we first started reading the horror story that is the NTSB report on Marshall— the experience that changed everything for us. That’s when we had our disturbing and now-famous pseudo-correspondence with Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, landing our better half in the Los Angeles Times. Not once, but twice.
So to kick off our birthday celebration, we made a return visit to the Enbridge offices. But this time we didn’t pop in for a chat. We’re quite certain that Doug Aller and Mike Harris don’t want (or aren’t willing) to talk with us. But here we are; Sam got to get out of the car this time:
Over the next week or so, we’re going to reflect upon the past year, re-visit some of our “greatest hits” (if you’ll indulge us), and look toward some new directions for this blog (most of which will have to do with some of Enbridge’s new ventures).
So light some candles, hang some decorations, bake a cake– but no gifts, please!– and join us in celebration. We’ve decided to keep this blogging thing going for a while longer!
Well, once again, things aren’t going so well for Enbridge– and they only have themselves to blame. As usual, Inside Climate News has more details on the story of Enbridge’s violations of a DEQ permit (and we’re so glad to see that David Hasemyer is back on the case!) while discharging water from their hydrotest into Ore Creek. As we noted before, our friend Jake McGraw blew the lid off this matter with his disturbing video of rust-colored water fouling the creek.
We were pleased to see Tyrone Township Supervisor Mike Cunningham talking tough about Enbridge (and we hope he’s backing that tough talk up):
“They think they can come in and do it their way without regard to the local and state rules,” said Tyrone Township Supervisor Mike Cunningham. “But they have to follow the rules.”
The township and Cunningham have butted heads with Enbridge for a year over whether the company should be required to follow local zoning regulations.
“They sometime take for granted they can do what they want,” Cunningham said. “They’ve dropped the ball so many times and they dropped the ball on this one.”
And we were bemused to by the (unsurprising) evasions of our old pal Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer. He’s full of banalities, of course, but Hasemyer points out more than once that Springer and Enbride have no explanation whatever for why they didn’t take the simple measures (like having an on-site monitor) required of them by the DEQ permit. Hasemyer also quotes our friend and fellow landowner Dave Gallagher, who nails it when he says, “It makes you think in terms of their long-term concern for the environment and the people who have to live with their pipeline in their backyards.”
But the money quote comes from the inimitable Carl Weimer, Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust:
Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Bellingham, Wash., said the incident signals a disconnect between the public image pipeline operators try to promote and the reality of their conduct.
“It doesn’t take many times hearing their PR people say ‘We are going above and beyond the regulations’ and come to find out they aren’t,” Weimer said. “It doesn’t take many of those instances when the reality is different from the promises to undermine the public’s trust.”
Weimer said the nation’s pipeline regulations aren’t that onerous and companies like Enbridge can easily afford to comply with them.
“They keep messing up on things they should be doing right,” he said. “It’s one of my frustrations that the industry has the resources and the technology to comply and they choose not to do so.
Elsewhere, Midwest Energy News has a fascinating and important story this week about yet another Enbridge strategy to build a Keystone XL-like network of pipelines to the Gulf Coast. We’ve been talking about Enbridge’s under-the-radar, permit-evading strategies for months, trying (mostly in vain) to get some of the eyeballs focused so intensely on KXL to turn in Enbridge’s directions. Karen Uhlenhuth’s fine article should be getting a great deal of attention. The bottom line: Enbridge has found yet another loophole that may allow them to escape public scrutiny and regulatory oversight:
Enbridge is trying to use a regulatory shortcut known as Nationwide Permit 12 that might allow it to get its pipe in the ground before it provokes the sort of opposition now marshaled against Keystone XL.
Credit for uncovering this “shortcut” goes to the Sierra Club, which is working hard to bring the details of this project to light.
There is also more news this week on the bizarre scheme to get Enbridge to purchase and remove Ceresco Dam. The Battle Creek Enquirer has the story.
And finally, this weekend’s rally at the Mackinac bridge is getting lots of well-deserved press. Let’s hope for a big turnout and lots of attention to the potential dangers to the Great Lakes posed by Enbridge’s aging pipe under the straits.
Dearest Line 6B readers,
Wanna get involved? This week, you’ve got two opportunities. Check them out:
- At noon on Sunday (July 14th), “Oil and Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes” will be held at Bridge Park in St. Ignace (just over the Mackinac Bridge). The rally is to call attention to the dangerous aging pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge that runs under the straits of Mackinac. Our friend (and official hero!) Beth Wallace has worked very hard to bring attention to this serious threat to the health of the Great Lakes. And 350.org founder Bill McKibben will the be the keynote speaker at the rally. If you’ve got time and want to take a drive up the the beautiful bridge, please try to attend. More details can be found here. (And when the rally’s over, we recommend you go get yourself a burger at Clyde’s!)
- Or if you’d rather just make a phone call or write a letter, our marvelous friends at the Pipeline Safety Trust are working this week (and testifying before a congressional committee) on pointing out some serious deficiencies in a piece of legislation known as the “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act.” This is an industry-friendly, landowner-unfriendly bill designed to “streamline” the approval process for interstate pipelines. As you can imagine, the Trust– and we agree vehemently– thinks this is a bad idea. If you’ve read anything here about the pitiful state of federal pipeline regulations or the Michigan state regulatory process, you already know that the last thing these processes need is “streamlining” (which is really just another term for deregulation!). In our view, they are already WAY too streamlined. To take just one little example that we’re sure you’ll find alarming, the bill would simplify the process for eminent domain authorization, making it that much easier for private companies to take indiviuals’ property, severely limiting landowners’ ability to protect their rights. Members of the committee currently considering the bill can be found here. Please write to your representative and urge them to work on behalf of landowners and ordinary citizens, not large corporations!
First, a disclaimer: we know that plenty of people along the Line 6B route have it far worse than we do. We’ve said this numerous times. And this blog and our efforts to get Enbridge to shape up have never been about us or our personal situation. We tell stories about what’s happening in our backyard because it’s what’s closest to us (obviously); our difficulties are merely meant to stand for greater difficulties that so many others along this route have experienced.
Second, a second disclaimer: we are also aware that Enbridge is not in control of the weather. It’s true that they have the power to control creeks and rivers and that the product that runs through their pipe can eat islands (right, Josh Mogerman?), but we’re pretty sure they can’t control when and how much it rains.
And lately, it has rained a lot. Which brings us to the point of all of this: it evidently isn’t enough for Enbridge to destroy almost all of our trees and most of our perennial garden. It looks like they want to take what’s left before they leave as well. You see, after they installed the pipe (the first time) and began to restore our property, spreading new topsoil and all, they left a very large, empty slope. And with nothing planted in that enormous plot of dirt, that meant there is nothing to keep all of the water from rainfalls from running straight down into what’s left of our garden. And that’s not good. In other words, they may not be able to control the rain, but they should be able to control erosion and runoff.
It gets worse. As we’ve told you recently, Enbridge had to come back and tear up that plot of land all over again. They have re-installed and re-buried a long section of pipe. But they have not yet cleaned up, which means that right now, our topsoil is in one big pile, leaving only a large swath of subsoil. So now, when it rains– and it’s been raining a lot– all of that rainwater, mixed with lots of dirty subsoil, is draining right down into what’s left of our garden.
The result of all of this: well, plants are dying. Here’s what the last bit of our garden looks like today:
And here’s a close-up of some dying plants, which were doing just fine this spring:
Now, in this particular spot, heavy rains have caused puddles like this in the past; it’s a low spot in the yard. However, we can tell you that we’ve never had quite this much standing water and, even more certainly, that standing water has NEVER been nasty and brown.
Here’s a shot from behind, which shows the rivulets of runoff draining into our plants.
And perhaps worst of all, here is our cherry tree, which we planted a few years ago. Up until a month or so ago, it has been thriving. Now it is all but dead, from drowning.
And so it goes, one thing after another. Brace yourselves, phase 2 landowners. They’re coming your way.
It’s no secret that Michigan has had its troubles recently; the state, especially our economy, is in pretty rough shape in all sorts of ways. But we still love it here. And if you asked us for the two biggest reasons why, we would cite (1) its astonishingly beautiful natural resources: the Kalamazoo River! the Upper Peninsula!, Sleeping Bear Dunes! the thumb region!; and (2) its exciting and delicious variety of locally produced craft beer: Arcadia! Shorts! Right Brain! North Peak! Bell’s!
In the past few weeks, Enbridge has gone and messed with both of them.
Of course, they’ve been fouling up our natural resources, directly (the Marshall spill) and indirectly (the Detroit River’s pet coke mess), for a while now. But apparently, that’s not enough for them. Last week, we linked to a report and a video (taken by the indefatigable Jake McGraw, who deserves serious credit here) of the nasty-colored discharge from Enbridge’s Line 6B hydrotest pumping into Ore Creek. Well, the DEQ has now looked into the matter. And what did they discover? Well, they found Enbridge guilty of 11 violations– that’s right, ELEVEN– of their permit. You can view the notice here. Now this is truly extraordinary: with their track record in this state, with so many of us watching their every move, with all of the bad press and criticism they’ve received over the past three years and on this project in particular, with all of their statements about making things right and being good neighbors– with all of this and they STILL can’t just abide by some simple regulations? Here again is an occasion (these occasions seem never to end) to ponder the imponderable: why can’t Enbridge do better?
(Of course, in this instance, one reason they can’t do better is that they don’t really have to. After all, what repercussions do they have to face from the DEQ? A cessation of their activities? A disabling fine? Criminal charges? No, none of the above. Instead, they’ve been ordered to “submit a written plan.” That’ll teach ’em a lesson!)
But as bad as that news is, it gets worse. They’ve also recently gone and angered Larry Bell. Yes, that Larry Bell, the guy who brews what might be the best beer on the planet: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. What’s got Bell upset? Well, it seems that Enbridge, in complying with the EPA’s recent order to continue cleaning up the Kalamazoo River, has embarked upon a work plan without bothering to notify or consult any of the locals, including the local government, about it (sounds familiar, right?). And that has Larry Bell and other residents and business owners concerned about the effects that work might have on their business and their lives.
It’s just one thing after another, with no apparent end in sight. And it’s one thing to mess with landowners, to flout local authority, to disregard regulations, and to dissemble and make hollow pronouncements to the public. But to go and mess with our beer? That’s just cruel.