Earlier this month Enbridge announced that they were ready to begin restoration work on the segment of line 6B between Griffith, Indiana, and Stockbridge, Michigan. That’s (semi) good news for all those landowners on Phase Two. But there’s just one problem: Enbridge hasn’t completed restoration work on Phase One. We’ve been hearing from some of our fellow landowners who are wondering what’s going on. We’ve been wondering the same thing ourselves, since this is currently what our property looks like. Trust us, that black silt fence is not of our own design and making.
Of course, nobody from Enbridge has taken any steps whatsoever to inform us or our fellow landowners of when, if ever, anyone from Enbridge will return to complete the job. Tired of waiting– and, frankly, increasingly concerned about all the troubles that barren swath of land is causing, from weeds to water runoff– we called our land agent yesterday to see if we could get some answers. Here’s how that phone call went (note: not an exact transcript, but very close):
Us: What can you tell us about when crews will be back to restore our property.
Agent: Well, I heard they were going to start restoration in June, but I don’t know where they’ll start or when they’ll get to you.
Us: What do you mean, “you heard”? Don’t you know?
Agent: Well, it’s what I heard.
Us: Heard from whom?
Agent: Well, that’s what Enbridge says.
Us: Who at Enbridge said that?
Agent: Well, I don’t know. The higher ups. I heard it from talking to construction crews.
Us: Construction crews? Wait. You’re telling me that Enbridge doesn’t communicate with you, the people who are supposed to communicate with landowners?
Agent: Well, I just heard they were going to start restoration in June, but I don’t know where they’ll start or when they’ll get to you.
So, after a 10 minute conversation, we knew no more than we did before we called. And that’s because Enbridge’s land agents, the people whose job it is to keep landowners informed, don’t seem to know anything and therefore cannot keep landowners informed. And that appears to be because Enbridge, bafflingly, doesn’t tell them anything. It is the most perverse system imaginable. We can only assume that Enbridge supervisors in charge of land agents are either utterly incompetent or simply hostile to landowners, the people with whom their office is supposed to cultivate productive relations. Beyond those possibilities, we have no idea what is to account for these persistent problems and, honestly, we’re tired of speculating. What we do know, however, is that those of us on Phase One have been dealing with this kind of poor communication and indifference from Enbridge for more than two full years now. And there appears to be no real end in sight.
We’re running a contest! Everyone is eligible. For details, please read on:
For a while now, we’ve been meaning to tell you that Enbridge has started its very own blog! Trust us when we tell you that it is every bit as good as you might imagine. In fact– no offense to all the marvelous sites we visit regularly— it’s pretty quickly becoming our favorite blog ever. It’s so good, in fact, that if we had the time, we’d write about it almost every day. Why? Well, many reasons. For example, there’s the incomprehensible corporate claptrap:
“This means we have a unique opportunity to collaborate with the various components of our value chain,” she adds, “on the role that CSR practices and market-based innovation can play in reducing carbon emissions and improving other aspects of environmental performance.”
There’s the fact that it appears to be written for an audience comprised of junior high school kids:
Energy is as essential to sustaining life today as water. Energy cooks our food, grows our crops, and provides the sustenance we need to lead active lives.
There’s the lineup of authors, which is supposed to make us believe that these Enbridge executives are typing up these blog entries themselves, as opposed to the Enbridge marketing team, which must mean that all Enbridge executives are taught to write in the same bland voice, full of corporatized, hollow slogans:
Our strength is in our people.
As North Americans, we owe our economic and social progress to fossil fuels.
We believe we need to be part of the solution to issues like climate change and we’re working hard to make a difference.
Working together, we will achieve our target of top industry performance.
There’s even the shameless attempt to exploit adorable dogs to persuade people to their point of view (seriously, who would do that?).
But by far, the best post yet comes from (is attributed to?) Leon Zupan, Enbridge’s Chief Operating Officer, Liquids Pipelines, who recently tried his hand at an extended metaphor. According to Zupan, pipelines are a lot like people and many of Enbridge’s employees are a lot like doctors. It goes like this:
First off, let me say that I am conflicted, as most of our pipelines, other than the original four lines, are older than me. I know that the regimen we follow to keep our lines in top shape definitely exceeds my personal regimen of exercise and diet.
Pipelines have some similarities to us:
- They have to have a health check;
- They may need some preventive work and the occasional professional treatment, and;
- If properly looked after, they can last a very long time, maybe an active working life longer than many of us.
We have some of the best pipeline “physicians” in the world working for Enbridge, and coupled with a team of external consultants and repair specialists, we do an industry-leading job of ensuring all of our lines are healthy and fit for purpose.
It goes on in this vein for a few more paragraphs before concluding on a sort of wistfully humanizing note, as Zupan says that he should “aspire to be as fit as the pipelines I look after.”
Now, it just so happens that we love a belabored metaphor. And we love it even more when the metaphor is terribly ill-conceived, as this one is. In fact, it got us thinking about some of the other ways that pipelines are just like people. So much so, that we thought it might be fun to make it a contest. So what do you think? How are pipelines like people?
We asked the crack Line 6B blog staff and they came up with these:
- Sometimes pipelines are mistreated and neglected by the people who say they’re taking care of them.
- Pipelines, like people, often do not fit the perfect ‘mold’ – they are not able to be inspected by the latest ILI devices, having a few too many curves or dips or divets.
- Pipelines are like people: stuff’s supposed to go in one end and out the other end. It’s bad if it comes out in the middle.
- Or, if Enbridge wants to be serious about the health care metaphor, consider this: the U.S. still does not have universal health care for all of its citizens. 14 percent of Americans remain uninsured. But that’s still a better situation than for hazardous liquid pipelines, where only about 42% of them are subject to rules that require periodic “health check” inspections. As for other 58% of them, operators aren’t required to take them in for check ups or “occasional professional treatments” ever. EVER. Until they fail, and then they have to fix them – much like the uninsured going to the ER. One would think that both ought to get some preventive care, no?
So there’s your challenge: how are pipelines like people? pipeline operators like doctors? (surely someone can cook up a good malpractice joke!). We’ll conduct the contest over at the Line 6B blog Facebook page. The winner, determined by the number of “likes” will receive bragging rights and admiration!
Submit your entry over on our Facebook page.
If recent reports are accurate– and we have no reason to doubt that they are– the brand new Line 6B is up and running between Griffith, Indiana and Ortonville, Michigan, pumping ever-greater volumes of diluted bitumen across the region. This is great news for Enbridge and their customers; more profits for everybody!
Landowners on the other hand? Well, news is not so good for them. As we pointed out a few weeks ago, they are rather low on Enbridge’s list of priorities. We, for example, have been trying to get some basic information about perfectly legitimate matters regarding restoration and equitability— but we’ve been put off. Other landowners are in a similar holding pattern, wondering when they can expect to see their properties restored and their other concerns addressed. But landowners don’t know whom to call and Enbridge isn’t making any effort whatsoever to communicate with us. Clearly, Enbridge has more “important” matters to attend to.
Here’s just one illustration of Enbridge’s careless, neglectful attitude toward landowners. Just as it is through ours, oil is now flowing through our friend Dave Gallagher’s property. Enbridge was in a mighty rush last fall to make sure that happened. But the result of that haste, evidently, is a deeply insulting disregard for Dave’s property. Here’s how Enbridge has left it: not just unrestored, but littered with trash and refuse. We know Dave’s property is not the only one that’s been left in such disarray. If you’ve got pictures of your own that you’d like to share, please contact us. We’d be happy to document your discontent as well.
Not exactly our idea of neighborly.