Tar Sands Forum at Notre Dame

Tar Sands Forum at Notre Dame

Greetings! We’re sorry we’ve been neglectful around here the past few weeks. It’s been an eventful end-of-winter to say the least– we won’t bore you with any details. We do have a fair amount of new to update you on and we suspect that Enbridge is thinking about dusting off the bulldozers and getting back to work. For those of you at the beginning of the process: brace yourselves.

But for now, just a quick post with two items: you may have heard about the oil spill at the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, where some sort of “malfunction” caused a not insignificant amount of oil to spill into Lake Michigan. The exact number of gallons isn’t certain yet– but it’s rising. Nor is it clear whether the spill was dilbit (though the Whiting refinery is served by our very own Line 6B). You can read more on the story here and here and here.

While this incident is obviously troublesome, it’s also just in time for a forum that we’ll be participating in next week at Notre Dame University’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. We’ll be giving a presentation, as will our friends Beth Wallace, Steve Hamilton of Michigan State, and fellow landowner and Notre Dame professor Patricia Maurice. We’re especially grateful to Patricia for setting this event up. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll try to make it. We’d love to meet some of our readers in person. The event is Tuesday, April 1. Full details are available here.

The Enbridge “replacement project” playbook

The Enbridge “replacement project” playbook

As we mentioned earlier today, Enbridge just announced an enormous new project: the “replacement” of over 1,000 miles of new pipeline all the way from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin in the U.S. The project is yet another part of Enbridge’s strategy to out-Keystone Keystone XL, mainly by finding ways to transport tar sands oil across North America while also doing whatever they can to skirt regulatory processes. That’s what they did with Line 6B; it’s what they’re doing with Flanagan South; and it’s what they thought they could do with the Alberta Clipper.

Evidently, Enbridge president Al Monaco thinks there’s no question about this one. Here’s what he said on Tuesday during the announcement:

“It does not require a [new] presidential permit,” Mr. Monaco said on Tuesday. “Of course, Line 3 already operates under an existing presidential permit, so what we’re doing here is restoring Line 3 to its original condition.”

That statement may be more wishful thinking than fact; certainly it was an attempt to reassure investors. But the case might not actually be so clear as Monaco would like– or so we hope. That remains to be seen. We’ve also got our doubts that the project is simply a matter of “restoring Line 3 to its original condition.” That’s surely just a classic bit of Enbridge flimflammery: installing a brand new pipe is not, by any stretch of language or logic, restoration. It’s new infrastructure, which will most likely operate at much higher pressures and transport far greater volumes of product– presumably, mostly diluted bitumen– than the existing Line 3. If the current presidential permit is adequate for such a change in operations, there are even bigger problems with the permitting process than we thought.

In addition to those matters– about which there’s a great deal more to be said– what we’ve been thinking about since the announcement are all of the landowners along the Line 3 route. They’ll need to brace themselves. If recent Michigan history is any guide, they are in for a very unpleasant experience.

One bit of good news for all of those who will be affected by the Line 3 project, however, is that another group of landowners has recently lived through– is STILL living through– an Enbridge replacement project. And not only that, those landowners have spent a good amount of time documenting in as much comprehensive detail as possible exactly how Enbridge conducts itself on these projects: the way it (mis)treats and (mis)informs landowners, the way it (mis)communicates with the public, the way it (dis)regards local authority, the way it tries to evade state and local regulations, and more.

All of it–the whole Enbridge “replacement project” playbook– is documented right here on the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog. For that reason (forgive us for saying so), we don’t think the Line 6B blog has ever been more relevant.

We hope, we think, that Line 3 landowners can learn from our experience. Had we and our fellow landowners known going in all that we know now, we would have been much better prepared in every way for the long, painful nightmare that the “replacement” of Line 6B has been. For that reason, we want to do everything we can to reach out to Line 3 landowners, communities, and public officials in both Canada and the U.S. with the hope that they’ll spend some time here, using our experiences as a resource to protect themselves.

If you can– that is, if you know any landowners or groups in Canada or the Great Lakes region likely to be affected by this project– please let them know about us.


Guest Post: Reflections on Line 9

Guest Post: Reflections on Line 9

Today is a big day up in Canada. As we noted earlier this morning, the National Energy Board will announce its decision on the Line 9 reversal project this afternoon. To mark this occasion, we are pleased to bring you these reflections form our friend Emily Ferguson, keeper of the marvelous Line 9 Communities blog and resource, where this is cross-posted.

Reflections on Line 9

by Emily Ferguson

In anticipation of the Line 9 decision to be released March 6th, 2014, I can’t help but reflect about the year that has passed. It would have been about this time last year that my journey began.

The night I requested a Line 9 info package from Enbridge representatives at a public meeting – and was denied – was the night that started this incredible journey. As a student of environmental politics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, I was interested to understand where the pipeline was located and what the local issues were. I finished class, jumped on a bus, and grabbed a $40 cab to the remote meeting location – remember, I was a student.

The meeting consisted of a brief presentation by Enbridge and then questions from Conservation Halton Board members. After the meeting, I approached the five or so company representatives in the lobby. Although attempting to be outgoing, I was still a very much soft-spoken introvert. My hands were trembling as I approached Enbridge and requested a copy of the extra info packages they held in their hands – which had just been provided to Conservation Halton Board members.

After a very brief discussion where I was interrogated about my name, address, and “who I was working for”, I walked away empty handed. FYI – I got the info package anyways the next day from a contact on the Conservation Board. Hardly an “abrupt and confrontational approach” as described by Graham White of Enbridge in the January 2014 Toronto Star special report (who by the way I have never met and who was not present at that meeting).

After that exchange, I instantly felt a need to know more and the responsibility to ensure others had the information as well. If I was going to discuss the info with affected communities, I needed to know who those affected communities were! So I went home and started mapping the pipeline …

To be honest, I could not be more grateful for the individuals at Enbridge – you know who you are – for denying a young, timid student access to public information. You gave me the motivation to dig for the answers and to connect with communities through the sharing of information. It was at this point I found the strength to continue the journey. I was ready for the challenge.

I quickly discovered that Line 9 travelled straight through the small community I grew up in – Glenburnie, Ontario. I was shocked! Having lived in that community for over 17 years, my family and friends had no idea there was an oil pipeline running next to my beloved country public school. I started a website with the intention to educate the Glenburnie community. You can actually still see my original website at www.line9glenburnie.wordpress.com.

However, within 5 minutes of its creation, I was already thinking much bigger. If my community didn’t know about the pipeline, how many other communities were in the dark? Line 9 Glenburnie rapidly developed into Line 9 Communities. The success of www.line9communities.com has been overwhelming! I poured my heart into writing factual articles about the project application and entire history of Line 9, but the main attraction was – and continues to be – the pipeline maps.

Line 9 Communities was launched March 17th, 2013. By that time, it became very apparent that my Grandma was beginning to lose her courageous battle with cancer. She keenly followed my journey with enthusiasm, and supported my ambition to learn and teach others. By April 18th, she was hospitalized. She asked me what I was going to do about the pipeline. She didn’t agree with the secrecy and the lack of information around the Line 9 project. She pushed me to do more. On April 19th, I sat by her bed side and applied to be an Intervenor in the Canadian National Energy Board hearing on the project. Once the application was submitted, she said “Good! You’re going to get in!” At sunrise on April 22nd– Earth Day – she was gone.

People say things happen for a reason. I firmly believe that. As she peacefully took her last breath, she held my hand and repeated my name over and over. The following week, we held a small memorial at her final resting place – less than 600m from the pipeline. My participation in the NEB Line 9 hearing became so much more. I was now working in her memory.

In the January 2014 Toronto Star report, Mr. White (Enbridge) labelled me as a “stringent opponent of the project and an activist”. Although I do not label myself as an “activist”, I do believe in having your voice heard about a social cause. And if by “stringent” Mr. White means “not allowing for any exceptions or loosening of standards” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, then I whole heartedly agree. Why would Mr. White expect anything less than communities along the line to demand Enbridge meet existing standards of operating a pipeline in Canada?

Through the summer of 2013, I was immersed in reading regulatory documents, submitting information requests to Enbridge, keeping up with media coverage and building the Line 9 Communities website. In October 2013, final oral arguments were given in Toronto, Ontario. As I wore my Grandma’s gold angel pin, I delivered what will always be one of the most powerful speeches of my life.

The final hearings were incredibly inspiring. There were so many groups standing united and highlighting the poor consultation and questionable safety of the project. First Nations, Métis, neighbourhood organizations, government and individual citizens brought their concerns to the NEB.

After the NEB process was complete, I continued to network with all the incredible people I had met along the way. One word could describe the whole journey – community. Enbridge Line 9 has re-connected me with my childhood community and the pipeline route has provided me a path to connect with other communities and hear their stories.

Reflecting on my journey, I have realized how much I have grown as a person in the last year. I am no longer timid in approaching large players and asking the tough questions. I have a strong interest in encouraging active engagement in social and environmental causes. Through the support of others along the ride, I now personally understand what it means to be empowered. Moving forward, my goal is to take the valuable lessons learned over the past year and use my experience to help encourage others to find their voice and make a difference.

Regardless of the NEB decision to be released March 6th, 2014, www.line9communities.com will continue to unite and be a forum for communities to raise awareness and promote discussion.

Some things really matter, and Line 9 is definitely one of them!


News Roundup: MICATS free and more

Good news from Ingham County, the three Michigan CATS who have been in jail, remanded needlessly and gratuitously by a chest-thumpin judge, have been released. At their sentencing yesterday, they were given probation for a year. We’re glad that these committed individuals can finally return home to their family and friends and continue their good work.

In other news this week, the AP’s John Flesher has an excellent story about Line 5 under the straits of Mackinac. The story has been getting lots of national play, attention that is much deserved (and, we should add, a credit to our friend Beth Wallace, who has done so much to get this story in the public eye).

In other Enbridge news, the company just announced plans to embark upon yet another “replacement” project. This one would “replace”– by which Enbridge means installing new pipe– Line 3, which runs for more than 1.,000 miles between Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin. It’s not entirely clear whether this project will trigger the presidential permit process, since it crosses an international border. Enbridge, we’re sure, will call it an “integrity driven” project in hopes of avoiding that– just as they did with Line 6b. We’ll post more about this later today. In the meantime, you can read more at DeSmog Canada and SURF Great Lakes.

One other notable Enbridge item: the National Energy Board in Canada will announce its decision today on the Line 9 reversal. In anticipation of this decision, we’ve got something special coming today from our Canadian friend Emily Ferguson. Stay tuned later this morning for that!

Lastly, the New York Times this week ran a deeply disturbing cautionary tale about the failures of our regulatory systems. Although the story is about the handling of coal ash in North Carolina, we see in it so much of the short-sighted, weak-willed, corporate-driven mindset that typifies pipeline safety regulations and regulators, betraying the public interest. If you want to know why we’ve spent so much of our time writing and thinking about seemingly dull regulatory matters– like the MPSC and PHMSA– this story is why.

Finally, the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog now has its very own Facebook page. Please head over there and “like” us!