We’re playing catch-up today; strangely, 2014 has started out rather eventfully. Earlier today, we made a few remarks about the construction accident and its aftermath that took place on David Gallagher’s property. Among other things, it has yielded a rather troubling he said/she said situation. Needless to say, we have grave doubts about what Enbridge says about the incident.
But there’s been plenty of news otherwise:
Jennifer Bowman over at the Battle Creek Enquirer– who more or less owns the Enbridge Line 6B “replacement” project story these days– wrote an excellent piece on ongoing landowner troubles that appeared over the weekend. Among other things, we were grateful for her recognition that Enbridge’s problems with landowners run far deeper than just the terrible Gallagher situation (which certainly deserves the attention it’s gotten). These are systemic problems, not isolated ones. We even have a few things to say ourselves in the article.
But by far the most, um, interesting comments in Jennifer’s piece come from Jason Manshum. Recently, we’ve had some productive exchanges with Jason and are hopeful that they are a step toward some better communications with Enbridge. We don’t want to jeopardize that. But we still have to tell the truth. And the truth is that Manshum’s comments are so inapt that it’s not really clear just what in the hell he is talking about:
Manshum said the company has been working with landowners since before construction began, going over details and negotiating compensation. Property owners are each assigned a land agent to work with on a regular basis, he said.
“Those conversations begin long before construction,” said Manshum. “They continue during construction and once we go through hydro testing and the final restoration, those conversations will still be ongoing. Because at the end of it, we will go through the list of everything we outlined in the beginning with each landowner and check off the list to ensure that we have actually everything to the homeowner’s satisfaction.”
We understand that journalistic protocol requires Jennifer Bowman, who is a real pro, to solicit some kind of statement from Enbridge, but it has to be as painful for her to type up that sort of thing as it is for us to read it. At this point in the project, after all that has gone on, after all that’s been discussed, demonstrated, and documented with regard to Enbridge’s dealings with landowners is there anybody on the planet who thinks such hollow boilerplate is even remotely helpful or even the slightest bit honest?
In other Line 6B news, remember the protests that took place over the summer? The dude that skateboarded his way into a stretch of pipe? the group that chained themselves to some Enbridge construction equipment? Last week, hearings were held in both cases. The results were mixed. In the case of Chris Wahmhoff, who spent a day inside an Enbridge pipe, a Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge dismissed the charges against him. Wahmhoff celebrated the good news by immediately announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Yes, you heard that right: Wahmhoff is running for the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Carl Levin. Jennifer Bowman (who sure keeps busy!) has that story as well. And here’s more from the good folks at the DeSmog Blog. Unfortunately, Wahmhoff’s legal troubles may not be over. Evidently, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert is seeking to re-issue charges agains Wahmhoff, or so MiLive reports. What Gilbert thinks the citizens of Calhoun County or the state of Michigan could possibly gain from the prosecution of Wahmhoff is completely beyond us.
The news is not quite as good for the other four protestors. An Ingham County Judge has refused to dismiss charges against them. But apparently, simply allowing the prosecution to continue wasn’t enough for Judge William Collette. He also decided to take it upon himself to make some oddly petulant and legally irrelevant remarks. First, according to MiLive, there was this:
“I am tired of people coming in here seeking publicity for themselves,” he said and criticized the defendants and their supporters for organizing court protests. “I don’t like that.”
Then, as if that weren’t weren’t crotchety enough, he added this:
Collette said he is not unsympathetic to an environmental cause or environmental necessity. If someone were charged with trespassing for going out and stopping an oil leak, he would toss out such a charge.
If people think attaching themselves to machinery will change a corporate or government “mode of operation,” it is not going to happen, he said.
Now we’re not really sure why Judge Collette thinks anyone wants to hear his personal opinions about the effectiveness of various forms of protest and agitation for social change. Maybe he’s auditioning for a gig as a talk radio host. Or maybe there is an Ingham County law that we don’t know about prohibiting wrongheaded ideas about what will change corporate modes of operation. But if there is no such statute, then maybe Judge Collette should just keep his non-legal views to himself and focus on administering the law. In the meantime, we hope the protestors’ legal team can find a way to persuade the Court to let this matter drop.
Looking beyond Line 6B, you might also remember the recent letter that Senators Stabenow, Levin, and Dick Durbin of Illinois sent to PHMSA regarding concerns about Enbridge’s proposal to increase capacity on Line 5 running through the Straits of Mackinac. Well, PHMSA has written a letter to the senators in response. The letter reads, in its entirety:
It’s all good. Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about this.
Okay, maybe that’s not really the letter. But it may as well be. If you want to read the thing yourself, it’s here. PHMSA has very little to say other than to try and pacify Stabenow, Levin, and Durbin. Needless to say, it’s cold comfort for anyone who has serious concerns about Line 5 and the protection of the Great Lakes. For more, SURF on over to Beth Wallace’s blog where she discusses the letter in a little more detail, calling it– with devastating accuracy– mostly “jibber jabber.”
Finally, word last week from the EPA is that they are now considering enforcement options against Enbridge for the company’s failure to meet its dredging deadline. You will recall that in a desperate, dishonest attempt to buy more time following its own ham-handed attempts to have its way in Comstock Township, the EPA denied Enbridge’s request for an extension to complete the work. As a result, they’ve missed their Dec. 31st deadline and will likely face fines. Stiff ones? That remains to be seen.