Now, here’s a coincidence: the very same week that Energy Transfer Partners announced a massive new pipeline construction project that will affect a large number of Michigan citizens– including, evidently, many Line 6B landowners– state officials announced the formation of a new pipeline safety task force.
You might think that’s good news– and at first glance, we thought so too. But then we saw who is on that task force, or rather, who is NOT on it. The task force is made up entirely of representative of the very agencies that have thus far failed to protect landowners, municipalities, and the environment. Frankly, it’s outrageous.
For that reason, just this morning, we sent the letter below to Attorney General Schuette and Michigan DEQ Director Dan Wyant. Please feel free to share.
Dear Mr. Wyant and Attorney General Schuette,
This week, the Texas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer announced plans to build a new network of pipelines to transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania across the country. Nearly two hundred miles of that pipeline network would traverse Michigan, much of it crossing through the property of Michigan citizens already reeling from the recent replacement of the Enbridge Line 6B pipeline. During the latter project (which is still not complete), landowners have been mistreated, lied to, misinformed and have watched helplessly while Enbridge uprooted their lives, destroyed their property, and abused its easement rights. Many local officials had similar experiences, as Enbridge evaded local ordinances and treated townships and municipalities with disregard (at best) or disrespect (at worst). To my knowledge, neither the Attorney General’s office nor other state officials or agencies have taken even the slightest interest in this series of events .
I mention these facts as important background and context for your announcement, also this week, of a new pipeline safety task force. Although it is a very late-arriving development, I welcome this news, especially considering the many oil and gas expansion projects planned or already in progress across the state.
Having said that, it is more than a little distressing to learn that the task force that has been assembled includes not a single landowner advocate, local official, or other member of the general public (much less a representative from an environmental or conservation group)– all people who have a profound stake in protecting public health and the environment. Landowners and local officials, in particular, are on the front lines of these pipeline projects. They are the people who assume virtually ALL of the risks of these expansions (yet earn none of the rewards). They are also the people most familiar with the conditions on the ground– private property and natural resources– where many of these pipelines will be placed. In addition, they are the same citizens, as you well know, whose interests your positions exist to protect. They deserve a seat at the table and a strong voice in these matters.
I realize that pipeline operators’ dealings with landowners and local governments may not be central to the task force’s mission. However, recent experience has shown clearly that the way pipeline companies treat these stakeholders reflects the way they operate their pipelines, which affects the safety of those pipelines. Given the terrible incident in 2010 in Marshall, I’m sure you can appreciate the many and varied concerns Michigan citizens have about further oil and gas development in our state. Those concerns include a widespread perception that state officials and regulatory agencies are working more on behalf of corporate interests than on behalf of ordinary citizens. Routing and permitting decisions, for instance, already in effect exclude the very people who are most directly affected by those decisions. Excluding these citizens from this task force will only further alienate them and do little to change perceptions that state agencies fail to understand the affects their decisions have on the daily lives of regular people.
It is worth noting that a great many Michigan citizens have been working toward the goals the task force has set for itself for quite a long time. In fact, there are currently three Michigan residents (including myself) on the Board of Trustees of the national Pipeline Safety Trust. In addition, the recent “replacement” of Enbridge’s Line 6B has created a large group of citizens with first-hand experience of pipeline planning, permitting, and construction. Their experience is an invaluable resource. In short, you should have no trouble finding any number of committed, knowledgeable, thoughtful, and collaborative-minded members of the public to participate on your task force. I implore you to seek them out.
Thanks to the extraordinary staff at the Pipeline Safety Trust, we have a little more information about the proposed route for the ET Rover natural gas pipeline. That map (reproduced below)– it’s not very detailed– and some additional resources for landowners are available at the PS Trust website.
We’ll also link to that information and more on our Facebook page. If you are interested in this project or concerned about whether and how it will affect you (and you’re a social media user), please stop by and “like” us. We can post speedier updates on all of this there.
Yesterday, we broke the news of a new natural gas pipeline project that will potentially affect Line 6B landowners (how many? we don’t know). The project will transport natural gas tracked from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in West Virginia and Ohio to points around the country and Canada.
At present, very little detailed information is available, although we’re hearing from lots of landowners. We’re working hard to find out as much as we can as fast as we can. We do have a little more information in the form of a news article from the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch. Apparently, Energy Transfer has made the official announcement of the project. Here is the part that will directly affect Michiganders:
Additionally, ETP expects to construct an approximately 195-mile segment from the Defiance area through Michigan and ultimately to the Union Gas Dawn Hub (Dawn) near Sarnia, Canada providing producers with access to diverse markets and end-users in Michigan and Canada with access to Marcellus and Utica supplies.
We can’t say for sure, but given the fact that Line 6B landowners in Howell and Fenton have been contacted and the line will run to Sarnia, it sounds to us like they want to use the Line 6B corridor. However, we’ve yet to verify that. If we can find that out soon, you can bet we’ll let you know.
The other bit of information we have (from the letter sent to landowners) is that three open houses will be held in Michigan. The are as follows:
Monday, July 14 at the Fenton Township Hall in Fenton, 5:30-7:30 pm
Tuesday, July 15 at the Village Conference Center of the Comfort Inn in Chelsea, 5:30-7:30 pm
Tuesday, July 15 at the Lois Wagner Memorial Library in Richmond, 5:30-7:30 pm
A brief footnote about obtaining further details about all of this: we’ve called the contact numbers that Energy Transfer has listed for more information. Conveniently, the individuals listed are “not in the office” today. Imagine that.
We’ve just gotten some terrible news. Some already battered Line 6B landowners have received letters this week from a company called ET Rover Pipeline (a division of Energy Transfer) announcing a natural gas pipeline project that, if the company has its way, will traverse some Line 6B properties– snuggled up cozily, evidently, right alongside the shiny new Line 6B (and, in some cases, other pipelines already in place).
It’s a deeply disturbing letter, not least because of its triumphant tone, which describes the project as if it is already a done deal– even though it’s at the very beginning of the process. One can only assume this is a deliberate strategy to make landowners feel helpless; it has almost certainly further demoralized them.
And make no mistake about it, this pipeline project is the result of one thing: fracking. Here’s how the letter describes it:
Please join ET Rover Pipeline LLC (ET Rover) for an informational Open House regarding the construction and operation of the Rover Pipeline Project. The Rover Pipeline Project will be a new interstate natural gas pipeline that receives gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio and traverses through Ohio and Michigan, and terminates at the Union Gas Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada (Rover Pipeline).
The Rover Pipeline will consist of approximately 200 miles of pipeline laterals from the tailgate of natural gas processing plants and approximately 365 miles of mainline pipe in Ohio and Michigan, and 15 miles of mainline pipe across the border to the Union Gas Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada. ET Rover will also need to build compression and metering stations along its route. Because of significant increases in the domestic natural gas supply due to shale gas production, the U.S. is no longer dependent on foreign sources. The construction of the Rover Pipeline will provide new natural gas pipeline infrastructure for your area.
Natural gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which requires companies to hold these open houses prior to filing their applications for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. So despite the letter’s attempt to pretend that this project is inevitable, it’s really only at the very beginning of the process. What that means, however, is that it’s time to speak up and speak out before already abused and demoralized Michigan landowners have to endure a replay of the Enbridge nightmare from which, if they’re lucky, they have only just now awoken.
At this point, information is quite scarce. But we’re working on it. Rest assured we will keep you informed as more details become available. We’re preparing for action.
Whatcom Creek, Bellingham, Washington
Today marks a terrible anniversary. 15 years ago on this day, the negligence of a pipeline operator caused the deaths of three young people, changing their families’ lives forever. In the wake of that tragedy, the Pipeline Safety Trust was created to help prevent other families from having to endure the same horrible loss. The staff at the Trust works tirelessly and thanklessly to advance that cause. We’re humbled and proud to be associated with such a remarkable, committed group of people.
Fittingly, the Trust’s Executive Director Carl Weimer reflects on that awful event today in today’s inaugural post for the Trust’s brand new blog, “Smart Pig.” Please read it and share it with your friends. Everyone should know the story of Bellingham.
Read it here.