To all of the wonderful, kind, generous, interesting, honest, smart, committed, good, decent people we have met and friends we have made (and there are a great many from Michigan and all over the country; you know who you are) as a result of this crazy, painful pipeline project:
We are genuinely and earnestly thankful for you. You have made the last year and a half bearable. Thank you.
We’re already working on our series of posts following last week’s PS Trust conference (we think we’ll start by discussing everybody’s favorite federal regulatory agency!). But there’s a holiday coming up, so we’re not sure how soon we’ll get to the first one. Meanwhile, some more papers have picked up the story of the construction delays on phase two of the Line 6B replacement, including the suspension over to our east that we mentioned last week. There’s this one and this one, for example.
And then there’s this one. If we had the energy, Joseph S. Pete’s article in the Times of Northwest Indiana (whatever happened to Lauri Harvey Keagle, who was doing such good work?) could easily be the basis of another of our “How Not to Write About Line 6B” posts. But to be honest, we haven’t got the energy; sometimes, it just feels too much like howling into the dark and empty wilderness. Suffice it to say that Pete did little more than type up a friendly Enbridge press release. Sigh.
Setting that aside, we just have one little question: aren’t any local reporters even remotely interested in asking the blatantly obvious question here about these delays? What environmental permits, specifically, has Enbridge not yet obtained and why have they not obtained them? Wouldn’t anybody covering this story think to ask that?
We’re trying to find out ourselves and will let you know if and when we learn anything.
What a conference! Once again, the remarkable folks over at the Pipeline Safety Trust— Carl Weimer (at right, in the goofy hat), Rebecca Craven, and Samya Lutz put together a fantastic two days for industry representatives, regulators, and landowners and other citizen advocates. We’re home and still a little giddy over the experience, not to mention deeply gratified to have the chance to meet and learn from so many wonderful, interesting people. Like last year, we were reminded– despite all of our attempts to appear knowledgeable and authoritative– of just how little we know. We learned a lot and have much to continue to think about. We are so grateful to the Trust for their efforts arranging this kind of event and for giving us the opportunity to be a part of it.
In our heads, we are already composing a series of posts. But we can’t get to all of it at once. We need to digest and ruminate and cogitate. If you’d like to read another account of the conference, take a look at Emily Krajack’s post over at C.O.G.E.N.T. (and check out the awesome website while you’re at it; it’s indispensable for anyone who is at all concerned about fracking). As for us, for now we’ll just mention some highlights, some of which we’ll discuss in more detail in the coming days. Here they are, in no particular order and–in homage to the relentless, oppressive Power Point slides we endured for a full two days– in handy bullet point format:
- Rebecca Craven. Period.
- Carl Weimer speaking bluntly and critically in the most amiable, disarming way imaginable. How he pulls that off is either magic or genius. Probably both.
- The cookbook– just you wait!!
- Catching up with new friends from last year: Robert Whitesides, Randy Stansberry, Mike Holmstrom, Linda Phillips, Emily Krafjack, Ben Gotschall, Glenn Archambault
- Making new friends: Julie Dermansky, Ann Jarrell, Jennie Baker (total badass), Chuck Lesniak, Lois Epstein
- Talking homebrew and Tommy Tutone with Rick Kessler
- Bill Byrd saying far less objectionable things than usual– and quoting Mark Twain!
- The KXL activist from Texas interrupting the evening reception to raise a toast to a world without fossil fuels
- San Francisco city attorney Austin Yang reminding PHMSA that delegation does not mean abdication
- David Barnett of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters calling for more industry transparency
- Rich Kuprewicz on “wild ass guesses”
- Whiskey with Josh Joswick telling of his fascinating youthful travels–on bicycle!
- Learning about Liam’s fly-fishing class from Bruce Brabec
- Learning about smoked salmon and Lummi Island from Samya Lutz
- Learning about Shawn Lyon’s Hoosier roots
- Craig Pierson using Shawn Lyon as a napkin at Cafe du Monde
- The traditional post-conference taxi ride to the airport with Mike Holmstrom
- The waiter at the airport restaurant repeatedly calling Beth Wallace “baby” (and somehow not getting himself slapped)
- Fellow Line 6B landowner Dave Gallagher calling out Enbridge reps by name
- Mayflower, Arkansas resident Ann Jarrell leaving not a dry eye in the building
Is it possible that we’ve turned a corner?
Today, the nearly unspeakable happened. We had to pinch ourselves at first just to make sure we weren’t dreaming. You see, for the first time in several emails over a period of months, we received a reply from Jason Manshum. Yes, you heard that right– an actual reply! And not just one reply: he also responded to a follow-up.
We are grateful that he took the time. After all, we understand that replying to us can be a little tricky and seemingly risky. We have not hesitated to criticize when criticism is warranted. At the same time, however, we don’t withhold praise and gratitude when that is warranted. Bafflingly, this is the thing Enbridge never seems to have understood, despite available evidence. And we don’t play games. We’re not looking to bait or trick or ambush or play gotcha or anything else. All we have EVER wanted is honest, direct, straightforward, good faith communication. We’ll also add that however much we may be critical here– we’re just calling ’em like we see ’em– we also strive to be fair and unfailingly polite in our communications with Enbridge representatives; in fact, we have never been anything but.
In other words, none of this is very complicated.
Anyway, we asked Jason about the segmenting and capping matter that we mentioned the other day. At first blush, the information seemed rather odd and unclear (though the lack of clarity may have been partly the reporter’s fault) and it was certainly not something we’d ever heard before. Manshum’s explanation is as follows (we’re paraphrasing):
The way the deactivation works, the old pipe is not just capped at either end of the long 200-plus mile stretch (one end in Griffith, Indiana and the other in Marysville, Michigan). Rather, as portions of the replacement line are complete, the old sections are deactivated, capped, and the new segments put into operation. In many cases, this capping takes place at pumping stations (which makes sense to us), but not always. So currently, portions of the replacement line are already in operation, such as the 5 miles stretch outside the Marshall pumping station.
Obviously, we are no experts. But none of this strikes us as particularly troublesome or irregular. It is a little strange that this wasn’t explained to us clearly from the start and it doesn’t ease any of the original, longstanding concerns so many of us have had from the beginning of all of this. On the other hand, we also don’t think it’s cause for any additional concerns– unless someone explains to us otherwise.
So thank you once again to Jason for clearing this matter up. See how easy that was? Perhaps this little exchange will open the door to a new phase of ongoing, cordial, transparent communication. It would certainly be appropriate, given that we’re on our way to a conference devoted to fostering just that kind of communication.
It’s that time of year again! This week, the Pipeline Safety Trust will once again host its annual conference in New Orleans. Among other things, that means Executive Director Carl Weimer will drown his frustrations and celebrate his recent electoral victory in hot, heaping piles of sugar-coated fried dough! He may even once again don that silly hat.
But when not feasting on beignets, Weimer and the other conference participants will talk about all manner of pipeline safety matters– from public awareness to regulatory oversight to… well, to some technical matters that few people this side of Mike Holmstrom and Robert Whitesides can comprehend. There’s also bound to be plenty of drama and tension: will PHMSA beg the public’s forgiveness? will the pipeline company representatives leave a tip for the waitstaff at Cafe du Monde? will the Exxon people even show their faces? will Rebecca Craven get vertigo from the carousel bar at the Hotel Monteleone? will Beth Wallace be detained at the airport by Homeland Security? will anyone from Enbridge so much as glance in our direction? will Larry Springer be there at all?
We’re not giving a presentation this year, although our friend David Gallagher will be there with, no doubt, some more horrifying pictures of construction right outside his living room. And we can’t wait to meet the tireless Ann Jarrell from Mayflower, Arkansas and citizen-activist Jennifer Baker from Vermont. These heroes will be on this year’s landowners panel, which I will moderate. (I’m still casting about for just the right pithy, cutting remark to kick off the session.) The whole thing will be webcast, just like last year. Consider tuning in. It’s quite fascinating and way more entertaining than you might think.
We will, of course, report on matters as best we can. We might even tweet the occasional Tweet, since the Trust went to all the trouble of making up a fancy, cutting-edge Twitter hashtag. If you’re into that sort of thing, it is: #PSTconf2013. The action begins at 9 am on Thursday and continues through Friday.