2013 Year in Review

2013 Year in Review

Happy Holidays everyone!

We hope you’ve all enjoyed some time with friends and family and traveled safely (if you traveled) over the past week or so. And we especially hope that those of you in Michigan who had to suffer through the untimely power-outages found a way to keep warm. Miraculously, we were unaffected, although most of our neighbors had to wait until Christmas day for power to be restored. On the bright side, at least the ice storm wasn’t an inconvenience caused by Enbridge…

Speaking of Enbridge, we don’t know about you, but we haven’t received any holiday gifts this year (last year it was yummy cherry-related things). Evidently, they think they’re through with us, which of course is not at all the case, given the quality and timing of so-called “restoration” work this fall.

But we’re not looking forward right now. The end of the year is a time for reflection. So in lieu of something more original, we thought we’d try our hand at the traditional end-of-the-year Top Ten list. We’ve sifted through our archives for what we think are the most important and/or best posts of 2013. Here they are, ranked and everything:

10. Line 6B Earns Pulitzer Prize. One of the most exciting stories of the year– and it only ranks #10 because it’s not material original to this blog– was the announcement that scrappy online news outlet Inside Climate News won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. The prize was awarded to Elizabeth McGowan, Lisa Song, and David Hasemyer for their series of reports on the rupture and aftermath of Line 6B. If you’ve never read “The Dilbit Disaster,” please leave this blog now and devour every last riveting word (then come back). In addition to the quality of the reporting, we have been particularly impressed and appreciative with the way that the crack ICN team of reporters have stayed on the story, bringing some much-needed attention to the tribulations of landowners. We are especially grateful that this humble blog has appeared in some of their award-winning reports, as well as others in their continuing coverage. We take every chance we get to congratulate them and thank them for their outstanding journalism.

9. Pet Coke. You might recall those awful-looking piles of black powder that appeared on the banks of the Detroit River last spring, blowing dust onto people’s balconies and everywhere else. We certainly didn’t break the story; that honor goes to some Canadian reporters. But we followed it closely. Eventually, it made national news— although much of the concern in the national press had to do with the fact that the stuff was owned by the Koch Brothers, those bête noires of liberal groups. We were less interested in the partisan political side of the story, though, than with the fact that the petroleum coke is a byproduct of the tar sands refining process. And here in Michigan, we all know how the stuff that Marathon refines down to that nasty black soot got here in the first place: straight through Enbridge’s Line 6B. This story had a marginally happy ending; the piles were moved elsewhere. Unfortunately, the real problem is far from resolved. The stuff just went to foul up somebody else’s backyard.

8. Red Herrings. Perhaps the biggest, or at least the most important, story of the year (for reasons we’ll describe in a later entry) was the Michigan Public Service Commission’s approval of phase two of the Line 6B replacement way back in January. At that time, the Detroit Free Press’s Eric Lawrence wrote a couple of articles, one of which featured– to our surprise– a couple of very Enbridge-friendly landowners. Of course, as we’ve said for a long time, we don’t begrudge any landowners good experiences with Enbridge. In fact, we wish every landowner had a good experience with them; that’s why we started this blog in the first place. But what bothered us about these two particular landowners (one of whom Enbridge adopted for a while as a sort of mascot) were their terribly ill-informed and misleading remarks about the possible fruits of the project and about their fellow landowners. We took these misleading remarks– very similar to the comments of plenty of other know-nothings about the project– as an occasion to point set the record straight.

7. How Not to Write About Line 6B. Among the things that have most gotten under our skin over the past year and a half has been either the lack of press coverage of all things pertaining to the Line 6B “replacement” or the poor quality of it. Of course, this isn’t to say there hasn’t been some good coverage as well (see #10 above): at the local level, Susan Bromley of the tiny Brandon Citizen and Jennifer Bowman of the Battle Creek Enquirer, for example, have done some excellent work (I could name others as well). On the other hand, there has been some truly hapless coverage and/or opinion offered as well: witness this woeful op-ed from Indiana, for instance. Late this summer and this fall, we saw some more subtle examples of how not to write about the project– not examples of people stating opinions about things they know very little about, but well-intentioned reporters covering the story simplistically, without adequate knowledge or context– coverage that, in our view, does a terrible disservice to the public and to people directly affected by the project.

6. IJNR Kalamazoo River Institute. Speaking of journalists, in May, we had the wonderful opportunity to join a large group of them as part of a program hosted by the extraordinary Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. Among other things, we had the opportunity to take a canoe trip down the Kalamazoo River. It was our first trip to the river and the sites affected by the spill, like Talmadge Creek; it was our first eyewitness view of the cleanup. The IJNR experience was fantastic, but the experience of the river– which, at first glance, seem impressively clean, was rather eerie. In this installment of the series, we explain why.

So there’s your bottom five. We’ll save the top five for a second installment– coming very soon.

News roundup

News roundup

Although there hasn’t been a whole lot of news directly related to the Line 6B replacement lately, we’ve been putting together a list of notable items worthy of your attention. We present them here, bulleted (in honor of Carl Weimer) and in no particular order:

  • From Canada, Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal project– which has been somewhat contentious and has lots of landowners reasonably wary— took a step forward by earning the approval of a Quebec National Assembly committee. On the bright side, our friend Richard Kuprewicz is on hand to apply a little pressure to Enbridge’s rosy claims. Specifically, Rick suggests that Enbridge might want to do some hydrotesting on that line to ensure its safety. In response, Enbridge whines about how much that would cost them.
  • Also from Canada, a Prince George paper reports this week on Enbridge vice-president of pipeline integrity Walter Kresic telling a Northern Gateway Community Advisory Board about all of the fancy new tools and gadgets (perhaps they’ll use these on Line 9) they use to check the integrity of their pipelines. Most striking about his remarks is this howler about the Marshall spill: “The [inspection] technology wasn’t as good as it should have been,” he said. “Any of the new tools would have seen [the problem]” Technically speaking, that is surely a true statement. What makes it outrageous, however, is that it implies that the older technology failed to detect problems on that line. But that, of course, is just plain untrue. The fact is, as we’ve noted many times– it’s all right there in the NTSB report– that OLD tools saw the problems on that line FIVE YEARS before it ruptured. But Enbridge chose not to act on those findings. The problem in Marshall– we all know it by now, which is why it’s astonishing to hear Enbridge executives still peddling this technology-will-save-us nonsense– wasn’t with the technology, it was with Enbridge’s callous, hapless safety culture.
  • Back in the states, we were very interested in this story from South Portland, Maine. The City Council there voted to prohibit the shipment of tar sands oil through the city’s port. This is a story with all sorts of important and fascinating dimensions. For instance, it’s a pretty good illustration of how failures of leadership at the state and federal level are leaving municipalities to attend to these matters for themselves. It’s also interesting in terms of the role of local authority (there was a panel on this topic featuring the great Rebecca Craven at last month’s PS Trust conference) as these large corporations seek to expand tar sands production all over the country and beyond. Unsurprisingly, the American Petroleum Institute seems to want to limit that authority as much as possible. In response the Council’s decision, API shrieks and thumps its chest like a big gorilla putting on some threatening display.
  • Over at the terrific DeSmog Blog, our new friend (we met at this year’s PS Trust conference) Julie Dermansky has an excellent report on the great landowners panel featuring our other friends Ann Jarrell, David Gallagher, and Jennifer Baker. Like those landowners did at the conference, Julie nails it.
  • There’s been a little bit of Keystone XL news this week as well. Inside Climate News reports on a letter to President Obama signed by a number of U.S. and Canadian celebrities and notable figures urging the President to reject TransCanada’s permit. Our favorite names on the list? Rocker Joan Jett, whose I Love Rock ‘n Roll was the very first record album we ever bought, and Yann Martel, author of the excellent novel Life of Pi.
  • And speaking of KXL and people we admire, Omaha.com has a story about a bunch of courageous, principled landowners in Nebraska who steadfastly refuse TransCanada’s ever-lucrative entreaties. Our friend Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska has the money quote: “Our landowners are stubborn and independent, which is good,” Jane says. Those landowners have our respect, admiration, and support.
  • Closer to home, you may have seen the story this week about some large “tar balls” discovered in the Kalamazoo River (as reported on in two excellent Canadian outlets, The Tyee and the Vancouver Observer). Some concerned activists found the creepy-looking rocks in the river recently and were understandably alarmed. It turns out, however, that the rocks are actually natural formations. Of course, there are still plenty of unsettled questions about the effects of the spill and cleanup on the river and on people’s health. But it appears that there are not, in fact, giant tar balls in the river (whew!).
  • Speaking of citizen activists, those tireless MICATS are urging people to turn out to support the “felonious 4” activists who were arrested earlier this year for their protests that stopped work at Enbridge construction sites. They’d like to see charges against the activists dropped. So would we. If you’d like to support them, the hearing is set for January 15 at the Ingham County Courthouse.
  • Finally– and we hope you’re sitting down for this one– our friend Beth Wallace has apparently started her very own blog! Evidently, guest-blogging here just wasn’t enough for a hero like her (although she’s welcome to post here as often as she likes!), so she has struck out on her own. Her first post is a follow-up to the recent excellent news about the letter Michigan’s U.S. senators wrote to PHMSA about Enbridge’s Line 5 that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. Needless to say, what Beth has to say on the matter is crucially important and hits the bullseye.
Cass County Work Update

Cass County Work Update

Last week, we brought you the latest in our series of “Landowner Stories,” this one from our friend Patricia Maurice over in Cass County. Enbridge has been working furiously over there, often late into the night and making all sorts of terrible racket. In the process, they’ve been distressing landowners like Patricia who have little to no idea of what’s been going on and why they have been working all night. This is part of the pattern of poor communication that we’ve been talking about here on the blog for more than a year. Why Enbridge can’t understand that the vast bulk of landowner anxiety, distress, and worry– not to mention bad feelings toward Enbridge– could be eliminated simply by keeping people honestly informed, we have never been able to fathom (though we have worked hard at fathoming).

For a long time, the bizarre dynamic that has followed from Enbridge’s failure simply to keep people informed is that people wind up contacting us, at which point we try to contact Enbridge, even though Enbridge long ago appears to have adopted a policy of not communicating with us about most matters (with the exception of things that happen on our property, causing a frenzy of emails and phone calls on our part to everyone we can think of…). The end result is that nothing really gets answered, everybody winds up even more frustrated, and we have no choice but type up long blog posts about how awful Enbridge is at communicating with landowners.

Lately, however, this seems to have changed a little. Specifically, Enbridge spokesperson Jason Manshum seems to have been given the green light to actually respond to us (we noted this last month). And he has continued to do so. (We have no idea what prompted this remarkable change.) This is a genuinely positive step forward and we think that Manshum would agree that our correspondence has been pretty painless and perfectly amicable; we’re polite and everything!– though we are also persistent and don’t accept non-answers. The crazy thing is that this is almost all we have ever asked for: honest, open, prompt, forthright communication. That alone could solve so very many of Enbridge’s problems with landowners. (Again, why they haven’t just taken our word for that and corrected the problem is beyond anyone’s comprehension). As we said to Jason just today: if this keeps up, we might just run out of things to blog about…

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that Manshum explained the Cass County situation to us. They have been doing various tests on the pipe over there, hydrotesting in particular. The thing about hydrotesting a pipeline is that once you start, you can’t stop until the test is completed (which takes some time). And when other inline inspection tools (like smart pigs) run through a line, the line has to be constantly monitored until those tools are removed. So that means– particularly on these short winter days– that the tests might well need to run through the night. We ran this explanation through some of our knowledgeable expert friends and it is indeed true (it’s in the actual federal regulations). We’re grateful to Jason Manshum for explaining the situation to us.

Of course, this doesn’t explain everything that has had Patricia concerned. And it certainly doesn’t change the fact that not having explained this or anything else to residents of the area like Patricia Maurice caused those residents all sorts of sleepless nights and all kinds of (possibly) needless worry and turmoil. That remains inexcusable.

Breaking News: Michigan Pols Speak Out!

Breaking News: Michigan Pols Speak Out!

As longtime readers of this blog know, we think that the silence and inaction of Michigan’s elected officials at both the state and federal levels in the three years since the Marshall spill has been shameful. In fact, the seeming indifference of one prominent Michigan political figures was a large part of what caused us to start this blog in the first place. And the situation is even worse when one considers how other states and municipalities have responded to disasters like the one in Marshall. In Bellingham, Washington, they started the Pipeline Safety Trust. In San Bruno, California, the city filed suit against PHMSA and the state overhauled its Public Utilities Commission. In Mayflower, Arkansas a U.S. Representative has taken up the cause of affected residents. And in North Dakota, the governor is forming an advisory panel on pipeline safety. In Michigan after the Kalamazoo River spill? Nothing.

Sadly, Line 6B continues to be invisible to Michigan officials. Another Enbridge pipeline, however, finally has them taking some notice. You might recall that our friend Beth Wallace (hero) of the National Wildlife Federation has been working very hard to raise awareness of the threats to the Great Lakes posed by Enbridge’s Line 5 running beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Indeed, that danger was one of the topics we discussed with staffers on our trip this summer to Washington, D.C.

Well, finally, due in no small part (perhaps entirely!) to Beth’s efforts, Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have sent a letter to PHMSA asking the agency to ensure that the line is safe. The Free Press has the story. The full letter is available here.

This is a good first step. We applaud Senators Stabenow and Levin for this effort. We’re still a little apprehensive– PHMSA doesn’t exactly move quickly. But this is nevertheless a heartening bit of news.

News of the Weird, part 4

News of the Weird, part 4

A long time ago, we started a series of “weird” Line 6B news items. Honestly, we kind of forgot about it. But an odd report from the Times of Northwest Indiana has given us reason to revive the series:

Apparently, a bunch of construction workers got into something of a scuffle on Monday. The reasons for the altercation aren’t altogether clear, though it appears to have something to do with layoffs. However, because we have heard so many strange, somewhat troubling stories–  ultimately unverifiable (which is why we’ve never written about them)–  about Precision Pipelines, we can’t help but wonder what else might be going on. We have no idea, of course, but it would be interesting to get to the bottom of this.

We do know this, though: we don’t like seeing unhappy workers any more than we like seeing unhappy landowners. In fact, in our view, the labor practices on this project is one of its biggest un-covered and unwritten stories (a whole series of them, we suspect). If we had more time and an investigative team, we’d be all over it. Perhaps a young, hungry, enterprising, creative, hardworking journalist wants to take on that job (yeah, we’re looking at you Jennifer Bowman).

“Can we ever believe anything Enbridge says?”

“Can we ever believe anything Enbridge says?”

While Enbridge has decided to suspend construction activity over on the east side of Michigan, they are evidently continuing work to the west. We’ve been hearing from some more frustrated landowners over the past couple of weeks. A good example of that frustration– combined with more uncertainty and poor communication– is the subject of this latest installment of our ongoing series of landowner stories, in their own words. Exactly what’s happening in this particular neighborhood isn’t altogether clear; it appears to be testing of some sort. Whatever the case, it’s making landowners’ lives miserable:

December 7, 2013

Today, most of my day has been blown dealing with problems related to the Enbridge construction that is currently going on in my next door neighbor’s yard. We live on Dailey Road north of Edwardsburg, along the Enbridge Line 6B pipeline construction zone.  Phase 1 and phase 2 construction zones meet in our neighbor’s yard. For the last several weeks, crews have been working 24 hours a day to prepare the new phase 2 pipeline segment to be joined to the phase 1 pipeline; i.e., to make the new pipeline segment active. This has involved pumping air and/or water through the pipeline (and who knows what else is being used?). The pumping noise has been extremely loud, 24 hours a day.  On top of this, there has been a steady stream of trucks running all day and all night, making a huge amount of noise.  We wake up constantly to the beep-beep-beep of trucks backing up.  As one of my neighbors said, the noise is relentless.

This morning, I found a message on my cell phone from (?Joey Brockman?—hard to understand his name) at Enbridge warning us that sometime tonight or tomorrow night they would be blowing air and water out of the pipeline 300 feet into the air, that it would make an extremely loud noise, and that the water was likely to turn to ice.  He wanted me to know that it was just water, not a contaminant, but that it would be very loud and ice would likely form.  I spoke with some of the workers and then managed to connect with the person who had called me.  He said that it would be air, not water, and would be extremely loud.  I told him that Enbridge spokesman Tom Hodge had stated on WNDU evening news that in areas where Enbridge is working all night, they have been paying to put people up in hotels and asked why no such offer had been made to us and whether they would put us up in a hotel in anticipation of what they say will be an extremely loud noise at night. The Enbridge person said that if we wanted to stay in a hotel or to be compensated, our lawyer would have to call the Enbridge lawyers sometime on Monday. When I noted that would be after the fact, he said there was nothing they could do. He was giving us a courtesy call to warn us of the impending loud noise and associated activity but that he had no way of offering us a hotel or compensation. We’d have to wait until Monday and have our lawyer call Enbridge. Given that today is Saturday, and this is imminent, Monday will be too late.

I spoke with the local sheriff’s county dispatcher to find out whether there were any noise ordinances that could force Enbridge to do this during the day rather than at night. She told me that the same thing had happened about a year ago and that they had received a large number of phone calls of complaint and worry. She said to expect that it would be extremely loud, like a jet liner taking off right next to our house. An officer was very polite in saying that there was nothing they could do about it, but suggested that if it wakes us up, we videotape it, and that we call them if we feel that we or our home are in danger at any time. He said that we could try to file a complaint but that there are no noise ordinances in our township and that the prosecutor’s office would not prosecute Enbridge, anyways.

After wasting a good part of the day on various phone calls, and talking with some neighbors, here are my thoughts.

First, this is another example of Enbridge’s dishonesty when dealing with the public.   Enbridge spokesman Tom Hodge said on WNDU evening news last week that in areas where Enbridge is working overnight, they are putting local residents up in hotels.  That is not happening here.  As one of my neighbors put it, it’s a complete lie.  Many of us have been woken up repeatedly at night and the noise has been relentless. Now, they are even warning us of an extremely loud noise and air (potentially with water/ice) spouting 300 feet upwards, sometime in the middle of the night. But when asked, they say there is no way to put us up in a hotel… have our lawyer call Enbridge’s lawyers to ask (but after the fact).    This is another clear example of an Enbridge lie; their PR person is saying one thing on the nightly news but something completely different is being experienced by the people who actually live along the pipeline. Even when we are warned of an extremely loud noise and ask for a hotel, they say there is no way to do this.

Second, people who live along the pipeline have essentially no rights.  Even if a problem occurs, our local sheriff’s office tells us that unfortunately there is nothing they can do because the prosecutor’s office is unlikely to act against Enbridge. I must say that our local sheriff’s officers seem to be very good, caring people.

Third, the people who are working along the pipeline are making huge amounts of money (one worker today told me he is making $150,000 a year) but the people who live here are seeing our home life and property values decimated but are receiving no compensation. Enbridge and its workers care only about making a lot of money. They are not ethical in their treatment of the people who live here and pay taxes.

Fourth, Enbridge just can’t get its story straight. First, they leave a message warning of water fountaining up 300 feet and forming ice. [Think about this… high pressure water and ice cascading on our neighbor’s property with the potential for ice to be pushed at high pressure towards our home.] But, when I question their contention that it is completely safe, they change their story to say that it will involve no water, only air.  But, even a blast of air coming out of the pipeline may not be ‘safe.’  Pipelines have all sorts of coatings, some of which can contain hazardous chemicals that can get into either air or water at high pressure.

Fifth, what does this mean for our future? After they are done connecting up the pipelines, they will have to start cleaning out the old pipeline, which is full of contaminants from decades of operation. How long will that go on? How noisy will it be?  I can only assume it will be happening here, as they haven’t told us anything one way or another. How are they going to protect local families from potential air- or water-borne contaminants coming out of the old pipeline as they clean it? Obviously, they will say it is safe, but how can we believe them? As a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, I have learned about the long history of companies telling people that things are safe when they are not.  They have given us no information.

Sixth, I have informed WNDU repeatedly that what Tom Hodge said on their news broadcast was not correct.  I even sent them a video with sound of the horrendous noise and commotion at night. But, they have not done a follow up story questioning the PR that was broadcast on evening news. Why aren’t local journalists questioning Enbridge’s PR machine?  Will they respond to my news tip about what is supposed to go on here sometime over the next two nights? Will that response be something more than an Enbridge PR person telling lies?

Seventh, is Enbridge doing this at night because they don’t want people to see it? I’ve asked for them to tell me exactly when it will be happening, but they said it was too fluid to predict the timing. On the other hand, they say it will be at night… which can only be because they don’t want it to be during the light of day when people would see it and be able to videotape it easily. I could buy them saying that it will be sometime over the next 48 hours—but they are not sure exactly when.  But to say it will be AT NIGHT means that they are purposely doing it in the dark to keep people from seeing and taping what they are doing. That is scary.

Eighth, the workers on our neighbor’s property are working in an extremely noisy environment. Yet, they often are not wearing ear protection.  I’ve noticed when I’m out in my yard that I can often see them walking around without any ear protection. When I was there this morning, one of the workers showed me his ear protective gear in a brand-new, un-opened package.  So, who is supervising to make sure that all of the proper safety regulations are enforced?  I have earaches/ringing in my ears today after only being next to the site for 5 minutes.  But, they are there for hours on end and not always wearing ear protective gear. What other safety regulations are they not following? I plan to call OSHA on Monday to make a complaint. BTW, there were no ‘no trespassing’ signs or other warnings anywhere near the site, and I was not asked to leave. I left on my own accord because of fear of damage to my ears. What if I had been a child?

Finally, what kind of Christmas are we going to have?  Will the incessant noise and worry (of potential contamination—and who knows what else could happen at a major construction site?) go on all through Christmas as it did through Thanksgiving?  Will they offer a hotel or (better yet) compensation? After all, who wants to spend Christmas in a hotel rather than at home?  Can we ever believe anything Enbridge says?

This is only one tiny part of a long saga of our problems with Enbridge.   This is a company that is making billions of dollars and that is running a dangerous pipeline. It should be treating local citizens honestly and with integrity.  It should be following safety guidelines strictly.  It should be doing everything it can to protect the local homeowners and the environment.  It’s good that Enbridge actually called to warn us in advance; but a warning is not enough to provide homeowners the ‘peace of mind’ that Enbridge keeps talking about. And, I suspect the warning was not for our sakes but for theirs… it could be embarrassing to have a bunch of panicky homeowner phone calls to the police in the middle of the night (which apparently happened before).

December 10, 2013

This morning, we were woken up very early to an extremely loud, piercing noise throughout our house. Once it was bright enough, I walked out and took photos of the site, where Enbridge is discharging vapor into the atmosphere. The smell was quite strong and organic, which caused me to start having an asthma attack.  I took a number of short videos and some photos, although it is hard to get clear shots because the work is happening on the other side of large mounds that Enbridge has created.

I called the sheriff’s office and told them about the extremely loud noise and organic smell and the fact that Enbridge may be violating Michigan ordinance  750.352 Molesting and disturbing persons in pursuit of occupation, vocation or avocation given that I am trying to work at home today. I told them that the air pollution was causing an asthma attack. They said they could not do anything about it. I had to cancel a phone conference because of Enbridge’s activities, so it in indeed affecting my work.

I also called the PHMSA hotline and voiced my concerns that Enbridge is venting something from their pipeline activities that is causing not just a huge amount of noise but also a very bad smell in the air. They said they would inform the EPA.

Enbridge has been making a huge amount of noise all day and all night for weeks as they work to link up Line 6B Phase 1 and Phase 2 on our neighbor’s property. Despite the fact that Tom Hodge stated on WNDU nightly news that they are putting people up in hotels in areas where they are working all night, no such offer was made and when we asked an agent who called this weekend, he told us they could not do anything.  This is causing massive disturbance for our family. Our son keeps getting woken up at night which is a serious problem when he has school (or SAT tests!) the next morning.  We are also woken up repeatedly, and when we try to work from home we are often disturbed.  This morning, it is completely impossible to get any work done because of the loud noise and air pollution, and my phone conference had to be postponed. I am about to head out because of this.

I would like to go outside and hold up a sign along the road protesting Enbridge’s unethical treatment of homeowners but the air pollution and noise are too overwhelming. Enbridge has created enormous problems for our family for months. When will this stop? When will they begin to act in an honest, ethical manner?  When will they put enough money into engineering (noise reduction, pollution reduction, etc.) that they won’t cause such problems for local families?

Patricia Maurice, Cass County, MI

Odds and Ends

It’s the end of the semester for us, which is why we’ve been a little quiet this past week. There are all sort of final tasks to attend to this time of year, not least of which are piles of student papers to grade. Wish us luck that they are all brilliant and trenchant!

But there is a bit of pipeline news to share, including a personal item we’ll tell you about soon.

The latest Enbridge news, unfortunately, isn’t so good. Ace reporter Jennifer Bowman over at the Battle Creek Enquirer reported this week that Enbridge is suing the owner of a farm along the Line 6B route to gain access to his property for activities related to the spill cleanup. In its suit, Enbridge claims that the landowners have been recalcitrant and unwilling to reach an agreement. Knowing how Enbridge negotiates with and treats landowners, we’re more than a little skeptical about Enbridge’s claims in this matter, although the full details of the situation aren’t entirely clear. At the very least, dragging yet another landowner into court doesn’t seem like a very good p.r. move, given Enbridge’s already damaged reputation in this state.

1240392_710258498998527_1316263201_nWe’ve also gotten word that construction activity has begun to heat up on our friend David Gallagher’s property. And evidently, it’s off to a rocky start. Dave tells us that crews tried to begin work before installing some agreed-to seismic monitoring equipment. We fear that this is only the first of a long stretch of headaches Dave, like so many others have endured, is going to have to attend to in the weeks and months to come.

Another landowner, our friend Patricia, has also contacted us with some terrible, ongoing noise and mess over in her neighborhood– again, just one in a long litany of difficulties she’s had to put up with. That story will be the next installment of our ongoing series of landowner stories. Expect it very soon.

Lastly, we’re still working on the first of our series of posts about last month’s PS Trust conference. If you haven’t seen them already, the video presentations are available for viewing. If nothing else, we strongly recommend, where you can hear from the above-mentioned Dave Gallagher, along with two other remarkable pipeline-company-created activists.


Tough Month for Enbridge

Tough Month for Enbridge

November wasn’t really Enbridge’s month. And no, we’re not just talking about another poor showing at the Pipeline Safety Trust conference (we’re working on bringing you much more on that!). We’re talking about the news this week that both the MDEQ (go figure!) and the U.S. E.P.A. both gave Enbridge a little business this week.

Following–at long last– that discharge incident from earlier this year– you remember, the one where Enbridge violated 11 different conditions of its permit— the MDEQ is requiring that Enbridge improve its environmental practices (duh!). We can’t say we’re especially impressed with the MDEQ, but at least this is something. Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Dave Hasemyer, whose work is always first-rate, has the full story over at Inside Climate News. The money quote comes– of course!– from the indefatigable Beth Wallace:

“You shouldn’t have to have someone with a video camera out there discovering these violations in the first place,” Wallace said. “It could have been avoided.”

Wallace said that even with the agreement her group still isn’t confident that Enbridge will carefully monitor its work.

“The company has burned this region and will continue to burn this region,” she said. “The DEQ needs to be more proactive instead of reacting to things when they happen.”

The other bit of bad news for Enbridge is that the E.P.A. has denied its request to extend the December 31st deadline for dredging on the Kalamazoo River. And it’s not just that E.P.A. denied the request: they also called “b.s.” on Enbridge’s reasons for asking. The excellent Lindsey Smith at Michigan Radio has more. And you can read the E.P.A.’s letter here. Here’s the best part:

In particular, U.S. EPA believes that Enbridge has continuously failed to prepare adequate contingency plans for a project of this nature. For example, U.S. EPA acknowledges that failure to obtain a site plan approval for use of the CCP property for a dredge pad was a setback in the timely completion of the work in the Delta. However, Enbridge failed to prepare any contingency plans recognizing the possibility of such an occurrence. Enbridge has known since at least the middle of July 2013 that there was serious opposition to its proposed use of the CCP property. When it became clear in August 2013 that opposition to the site use might delay the project, U.S. EPA directed Enbridge to “conduct a more detailed review of your options in short order.” Although your letter claims that Enbridge “has considered such alternatives,” your logs indicate that Enbridge did not hold initial discussions with the majority of these property owners until long after the final decision to abandon plans for use of the CCP property.


Finally– though this one (unlike the others) really is just an accident– the Free Press is reporting this week that Enbridge crews dropped a tree on a power line over in the Marysville area last Wednesday– evidently ruining more than a few people’s Thanksgiving dinners– although evidently they picked up the tab for about 50 at a restaurant. They’ll also pay for damages.