Just how many landowners along Line 6B are displeased? There’s no way to know, despite Enbridge’s dissembling. A better question is how many unhappy landowners does Enbridge think is acceptable? We’ve talked to dozens. A number of them have told their stories here. How many others have chosen to simply suffer and stew silently (and perhaps helplessly)?
We raise these questions (again) because we happened to have occasion to speak with a Phase One landowner this afternoon that we don’t really know. We listened to him speak for a good 15 minutes about the awful experience he’s had with Enbridge, an experience that is still not over. (For the record, we did not bring the subject up.) At present, like so many others, he’s waiting and wondering to hear from Enbridge about any number of unsettled matters on his property. The takeaway from his 3-plus year experience with Enbridge: “These guys have treated us terrible,” he said.
As we’ve said before, for every unhappy landowner we know about who is frustrated with and angry at Enbridge, there are surely 5 more whom we have never met, who have never spoken a word publicly. This makes it awfully hard to believe Enbridge when they say they value landowner relationships.
A History Lesson for Brad Shamla
Looks like Enbridge needs another history lesson. To mark last week’s anniversary of the Marshall spill, Enbridge VP Brad Shamla penned an editorial that was published in the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Detroit News. A version of the op-ed also appeared as a “letter” (that is, a paid advertisement) in the Detroit Free Press (and probably elsewhere, we’re not sure).
It’s a fine-sounding letter, carefully crafted, we’re sure, by a whole committee of people in the vast Enbridge public relations department. The trouble is, it’s also disingenuous, starting with its very first sentence. See if you can spot the problem:
July 26, 2010, is a day that no one at Enbridge will ever forget.
Yep, that’s right: in an article whose central point is memory and commemoration, the importance of always remembering what happened in Marshall, Shamla gets the date of the spill wrong. July 26, 2010 is NOT the day the “Line 6B pipeline failed near Marshall.” As everybody knows, the failure occurred on July 25.
So what gives? Is it possible Shamla doesn’t know this? Is it merely a typographical mistake? Or might it be, once again, a willful distortion of the facts on the part of Enbridge? You won’t be surprised to learn that we think it’s the latter. Shamla (and Enbridge) date the spill on July 26, presumably, because it allows them to forget what happened the day before, when Enbridge ignored evidence of a problem with the line, ignored its own safety protocols, turned up the pressure on the line, and gushed oil out of the ruptured seam in Line 6B for 17 hours. Here’s the National Transportation Safety Board’s account of what happened:
On Sunday, July 25, 2010, at 5:58 p.m., eastern daylight time, a segment of a 30-inch-diameter pipeline (Line 6B), owned and operated by Enbridge Incorporated (Enbridge) ruptured in a wetland in Marshall, Michigan. The rupture occurred during the last stages of a planned shutdown and was not discovered or addressed for over 17 hours. During the time lapse, Enbridge twice pumped additional oil (81 percent of the total release) into Line 6B during two startups; the total release was estimated to be 843,444 gallons of crude oil. The oil saturated the surrounding wetlands and flowed into the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Local residents self-evacuated from their houses, and the environment was negatively affected.
So far from remembering the Marshall spill, Shamla and Enbridge are actually re-writing history in order to conveniently erase some key facts from the historical record– facts that point directly to the real causes of the spill and its severity.
This revisionism is part and parcel with all of the new measures Shamla touts as Enbridge’s response to the lessons they learned from the spill. Mainly, those measures consist of throwing a lot of money around. Don’t get us wrong, some of the measures Shamla describes seem like good things. But not one of them gets at the core of the problem. Not one of them addresses or acknowledges the principle reason (according to the NTSB) the Marshall spill was so very bad: Enbridge’s “culture of deviance” from following its own safety protocols. Prior to the Marshall spill, Enbridge had all the tools it needed to prevent the spill: detection equipment that found anomalies, control center rules that could have shut down the pipe right away. But Enbridge disregarded or ignored those things. Spending money on new equipment, putting in place new rules and protocols isn’t going to matter one little bit if Enbridge doesn’t change its culture. The former is easy; the latter is very difficult– even more difficult if you’re unwilling even to acknowledge the problem.
“We will not forget the Marshall incident,” Shamla tells Michiganders, which may be true. Unfortunately, the incident Enbridge has “memorialized,” the incident Enbridge vows not to forget appears to be a fictionalized version of the incident, only loosely based on actual events.
If you “like” us over on Facebook, you might know that on our annual vacation to Minnesota this year– yes, the one that takes us past the Enbridge offices in Superior, Wisconsin— we were lucky enough to speak to an extraordinary group of citizens embroiled in their own battle with Enbridge. The Friends of the Headwaters up in Park Rapids are concerned (and rightfully so) with the route Enbridge has proposed for its “Sandpiper” pipeline, which would transport crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota all the way to Superior. Along the way, it would pass through some of the most pristine, untrammeled, and beautiful areas in Minnesota– no, in the country– including the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Frankly, unless you’re an oil pipeline executive whose only concern is moving product as quickly and cheaply as possible, the route is totally bonkers.
We’ll have much more to say about Sandpiper and its companion project, the Line 3 “replacement” (both of which we’ve mentioned before), in the weeks and months to come; they’re both a part of the current North American crude and tar sands arms race. At present, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (the equivalent of our MPSC) is reviewing Enbridge’s approval request for Sandpiper. And the Friends of the Headwaters, because they are both rational and devoted to Minnesota’s stunning natural resources, are trying to persuade the PUC to reject Enbridge’s route and to protect the magnificent headwaters. The vast majority of informed Minnesotans appear to agree with them. As landowners who have lived through the “Enbridge experience” and as frequent visitors and admirers of Minnesota’s wonderful and fragile waterways, we fully support the work of the Friends.
For that reason, we were particularly thrilled to be invited to speak with them about our own experience. An impressive, curious, and thoughtful crowd of about 75 people showed up to the talk. They were full of energy and commitment, much of that we are sure owing to the example of Friends of the Headwaters President Richard Smith, who is one smart, cool dude (here he is all brilliant and sensible on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.”) Richard is collaborating with a whole bunch of awesome people, including Deanna Johnson and Barry Babcock, who were kind enough to take us on a fun, informative, gorgeous tour of the headwaters at Itasca State Park on a sweltering day. The company and the scenery were so good that the heat didn’t bother us a bit.
Our talk seemed to be well received; we tried not to go on too long. But the best part was the warm hospitality, the great generosity, and the commitment and enthusiasm of the Friends of the Headwaters. As observers of Enbridge expansion projects in the region, we’ve long admired the work the Friends are doing. Getting to know them in person only deepened that admiration, adding to it real fondness. We can’t thank them enough– for the invitation and for their efforts to protect and preserve Minnesota’s natural resources.
Best of all, their cause appears to be gaining steam, so much so that the PUC actually seems to be listening (at least a little) and Enbridge is doing what it does: lots of misleading p.r.
If you’ve spent much time here at this blog, you know we’re pretty big fans of Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman. Soft-spoken, unassuming, very smart and very tough, Thurman has been a thoughtful, responsive, and brave leader when it comes to protecting her township, its citizens, and its natural resources from Enbridge’s attempts to steamroll through them.
If only we could say the same about all township supervisors in Michigan. The ET Rover situation has provided two good (by which we mean disturbing) examples in the past month, one from our very own Supervisor, Bob DePalma of Groveland Township, the other from Bruce Pearson in Addison Township. Both strike us as rather blustery fellows, self certain and pretty free with their opinions. At the same time, they seem strangely eager to capitulate when pipeline companies come knocking.
Two years ago, we tried to enlist DePalma in efforts to address citizen concerns about Line 6B. At that time, we thought his attitude was pretty dismissive of landowners’ concerns. He seemed to think he knew in advance what those concerns were and therefore didn’t really both listening to them very carefully. But he did listen to Enbridge’s p.r. man at the time, Joe Martucci– and appeared to swallow whole every thing Martucci told him.
It turns out, though, that DePalma isn’t just dismissive of reasonable landowner concerns– the concerns of his own neighbors and constituents. He also, evidently, thinks rather contemptuously of them. Here, for instance, is what he told Brandon Citizen reporter Susan Bromley in her article about ET Rover:
“This is still America,” said DePalma. “They can’t come through your property if there isn’t an easement. If they have an easement, the jurisdiction is probably identical to Enbridge. Half the people who had the Enbridge pipeline running through their yards didn’t even know they had it (prior to Enbridge returning and saying they were putting a new pipeline in).”
We’re not really sure what he’s talking about with the “this is America” or the “jurisdiction” stuff, which strikes us as oddly nonsensical–and a little uninformed. Sure, pipeline companies can’t come through your property without an easement. But the whole point is that in America, those same companies are routinely granted the power of eminent domain, which means they can acquire an easement on your property whether you want them to or not.
DePalma’s last sentence is even worse– because it is mean-spirited and insulting. We have no idea what makes him think that half of landowners didn’t know about their easements; nor do we believe that it’s even remotely true. What DePalma possibly has to gain by disparaging landowners– again, many of them his very own neighbors and constituents– by implying that they’re a bunch of ignoramuses is completely beyond us. Perhaps we’re misconstruing his point here or maybe we’ve got his tone wrong. However, as we said above, he never seems to have bothered to try and understand why some landowners might be unhappy about either pipeline project.
While DePalma appears to think landowners are ignorant, Bruce Pearson thinks they’re just greedy. Here’s what Pearson told CJ Carnacchio of the Clarkston News at the ET Rover open house in Richmond:
“When Enbridge came through here, not everybody was happy until the checkbooks opened up,” Pearson said. “Then all of a sudden about 80 percent of the people, you never heard from them again.”
Honestly, we don’t know what Pearson is talking about here either. What’s strange is that Pearson himself is a landowner along Line 6B and along the proposed ET Rover route. Yet he seems to lack the imagination to understand that money might not be the only consideration for landowners. He also seems, like DePalma was with Enbridge, eager to believe whatever pleasing story Energy Transfer tells him:
In the end, Pearson believes construction of the Rover Pipeline is inevitable.
“It’s going to come through no matter what, I know that,” he said. “I don’t think (residents are) going to stop it from coming through. I don’t think there’s going to be a point where you’re going to stop the whole project.
“I think they’re just going to have to move it around and accommodate people.”
In the meantime, Pearson advised property owners who are along the proposed pipeline route to be good negotiators with ET Rover/ETP when it comes time to talk compensation.
He said the amount a person receives depends on “how tough you are.”
“They’re inconveniencing you,” Pearson said. “You take what will make you happy. Don’t worry about them. They’re billionaires. You’re not hurting them one iota.”
Things like crop damage, tree damage and loss of hunting privileges can all be factored into the compensation, according to Pearson.
“Make yourself happy because when they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said.
Pearson may or may not be right that ET Rover is inevitable; the deck is certainly stacked in favor of the pipeline company. But it’s far from a certainty. The truth is that Pearson’s position is the easy one, the complacent and compliant one, even the cynical one: just shrug your shoulders and try to get paid. Whether it’s the position of a thoughtful public steward and a courageous leader, one who cares about things other than money– things like the public interest, private property rights, and the environment– is another question altogether.
As most readers of this blog know, today marks a terrible day. On July 25, 2010, Enbridge’s Line 6B ruptured, spilling over a million gallons of tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The spill was not an “accident”; it was the result of neglect, mistakes, poor choices, negligence by Enbridge employees, and a “culture of deviance” from safety protocols at the company as a whole. There’s nothing to celebrate about this day. A better way to mark this occasion is to re-visit and re-read the NTSB report on that spill. It is a parade of horrors. Or, if that’s too much for you to take, you can get a taste of it by looking back at the three part series we did on that report a couple of years ago. There you’ll get the highlights (by which we mean the low lights, of course).
Or even better, head on over to the Pipeline Safety Trust’s “Smart Pig” blog, where they do a brilliant job putting the spill into the appropriate perspective. For our part, we’re on vacation and trying (not very successfully) to not think about such things for a while.
Two quick items for landowners and citizens who do not want to see the ET Rover project ripping through our state and who do not want to see yet more private property taken for corporate profits:
First, Keith Matheny this week ran an excellent and very important story in the Detroit Free Press on ET’s argument to FERC just two years ago that additional natural gas supply in this region is not needed. It’s a version of the story we ran here a couple weeks ago. ET Rover appears to have no real answer to this obvious contradiction and appears to be pretending like it doesn’t exist. In our view, Matheny’s story isn’t getting nearly the kind of attention it deserves. After all, FERC is going to be persuaded to deny this application, ET Rover’s about face is in all likelihood going to be a crucial part of the argument, perhaps the most crucial part. Please share the Free Press story widely. Tell everyone about it.
Secondly, our friends over in Brandon Township are holding a citizens’ meeting for people concerned about ET Rover. This is not a company-sponsored event; it’s organized by concerned citizens and landowners. If you’re worried, please consider attending. And bring copies of the Detroit Free Press and the blog story we just mentioned. Everyone needs to know about it! The meeting is July 24 at 7 pm at the library, 304 South Street, Ortonville.
Evidently, Enbridge still isn’t finished thumbing its nose at Brandon Township. According to the latest from ace reporter Susan Bromley at the Clarkston News, Enbridge has been disregarding a township ordinance limiting hours of construction operation. Enbridge, true to form, says that the ordinance doesn’t apply to them– a tune they’ve been playing for a very long time.
Of course, in the scheme of things– that is, compared, say, to a spill– starting up noisy construction vehicles might not seem to be a big deal. But this little incident illustrates a number of points we’ve made around here ad infinitum:
Like it would kill them to just wait until 7 am to start up their trucks. Sigh.
Like many of you, we attended one of ET Rover’s Open Houses this week. The Fenton Township Hall was packed to bursting with concerned citizens. And what did we learn? Practically nothing. Instead of handing out helpful, specific, and detailed information, ET Rover provided landowners with t-shirts and tote bags– some of which were cleverly repurposed.
We spent some of our time, along with our friends Beth Wallace and Robert Whitesides, passing out copies of the Pipeline Safety Trust’s Landowner’s Guide, in hopes that property owners will take an active role in informing themselves of their rights and of the process for approving (or not) a natural gas pipeline project. From what we could tell, the vast majority of landowners were deeply skeptical, if not outright hostile, toward the idea of another pipeline tearing across southeastern Michigan. Of course, there was the one guy (he is inevitable) who asked us how we were going to heat our home. But since we don’t own a home in Canada, we didn’t quite understand his point.
At the meeting and since, we’ve had some conversations with some energized landowners and their neighbors about what can be done to prevent this project from happening and protect their property and the environment. We hope to collaborate with those people– that’s YOU– in the months to come. But for now, here’s a quick list of action items to consider:
Talk to your neighbors. Make new friends, get others involved. In order to influence the process, a large number of voices need to be heard. Information needs to be shared. Reach out to others, enlist them, inform them. Citizens communicating with other citizens is powerful and vital. Some of that communication is already happening here and over on our FB page. Keep it going. Share links to both.
Talk to your local officials. It’s one thing for individual landowners to protest; it’s quite another for townships, municipalities, and counties to do the same. We could have used much more of that– a half dozen or more Brandon Townships— during the Line 6B replacement. Resolutions from local governments can be very powerful.
Fire up your pens and your computers. Write letters to your local elected officials, your state and federal representatives, the governor’s office. Letters to the editor of your local newspaper can help inform your fellow citizens. Emails and phone calls to local reporters can do the same. And everyone will need to write to FERC (more on that below).
Just say no. If you are a landowner along the proposed route and are opposed to this pipeline, tell ET Rover no when they seek your permission to survey your land. That is your right. You do NOT have to allow them to conduct their survey on your property and they can’t legally do so without your permission. Refusing them access to your property will send them a clear and unequivocal message– and make it difficult for them to solidify their plans.
Contact FERC. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the agency that oversees natural gas pipelines. ET Rover will have to file an application with FERC for this project. If approved, FERC will issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which will give ET the power of eminent domain. As part of that process, FERC collects comments from citizens. At that point, it will be crucial for as many people as possible to let the agency know their views. And in our view, the most important point to make to FERC is that, by Energy Transfer’s own admission, there is no need for this pipeline.
In addition to the above, you can inform yourself by taking advantage of the resources available from FERC and the Pipeline Safety Trust. Their Citizen Guide and Landowner’s Guide, respectively, are important resources. Even more information is available at their websites: FERC and the Pipeline Safety Trust.
Energy Transfer just can’t seem to make up its mind.
Less than a year ago, ET was telling everyone, including federal regulators, that they had more pipeline capacity than they needed to serve Michigan– so much capacity, in fact, that they sought permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to abandon one of their natural gas pipelines. Now, not even a year later, they are preparing to ask FERC for the power of eminent domain so that they can install an even bigger pipeline into and through Michigan– and perhaps right through your property. Does that make sense to you?
Let us explain. Back in 2012, Energy Transfer applied to FERC for permission to abandon a 770-mile stretch of their Trunkline pipeline, a 30-in gas line that ran from the Gulf of Mexico to Michigan so that it could be converted to carry crude oil. This application did not please energy companies in Michigan, especially Consumers Energy. So those companies protested, as did Michigan’s elected officials, including Senators Stabenow and Levin. Even Governor Snyder and the Michigan Public Service Commission cried foul. Consumers and others worried that abandoning Trunkline– which delivered as much as 60 percent of the gas used by Consumers– would negatively affect the reliability of the state’s natural gas supply and perhaps drive up costs.
Energy Transfer adamantly (and sort of snidely) dismissed all of those concerns, including– get this– “environmental concerns… about having to build another pipeline in the future if this one is abandoned.” In fact, Energy Transfer even went so far as to cast Consumers and Michigan state officials as a bunch of hysterical Chicken Littles. That’s not a joke: they actually told FERC, in response to these protests, that “the sky is not falling.” They said a lot of over things to FERC as well, all to reassure them that abandoning Trunkline would have no effect on natural gas supplies in Michigan. For instance, they said:
• Trunkline’s natural gas delivery capacity into the state of Michigan will remain the same both before and after the proposed abandonment;
• Sufficient capacity will remain post-abandonment for Trunkline to meet all of its firm contracted-for capacity, thus ensuring continuity of service;
• No shippers will experience any change in service or harm in terms of quality of service;
In addition, Energy Transfer specifically rejected (several times) claims that “Trunkline should be required to hold unneeded capacity in the unlikely event that it may be needed at some speculative and undefined future date.”
Unsurprisingly, ET got its way in this matter. FERC approved their application to abandon Trunkline, making possible its conversion from shipping natural gas to shipping crude oil. And here’s the punch line: which oil transportation company do you suppose took over Trunkline to ship that crude oil. We’ll give you one guess….
Yep, you’re right: Enbridge. So ET gets to abandon a natural gas pipeline, making it possible for Enbridge to use the same pipeline to ship more crude (and make more money), at which point ET turns around and proposes to build a NEW, BIGGER natural gas pipeline so that they can ship more fracked natural gas through Michigan to foreign markets (and also make more money). How’s that for salt in your wound?
But the important point here is this: if ET Rover has its way, FERC will approve this new project (FERC always approves these applications) and grant them a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. That Certificate would give ET Rover the power of eminent domain, which will mean that landowners in Michigan (and elsewhere) will not have any choice in whether or not ET Rover crosses their property. However, those same landowners will be entirely justified in wondering how FERC could possibly think that this project serves the “public necessity” not even a year after agreeing with Energy Transfer that there is no public necessity for increased natural gas capacity into Michigan.
Of course, ET is going to say that this project is just a matter of responding to their customer’s demands– and that may be true. But FERC’s charge is not to give in to every demand of natural gas developers; its charge is to determine “public necessity.” They need to be reminded of that crucial distinction. (We should also mention, because ET certainly will, that Rover is not a direct replacement of Trunkline; the routes are different. However, they serve precisely the same markets.)
So here’s what is important to take away from this:
First, this pipeline is NOT, according to ET’s own admission, a “public necessity.” It is nothing more than a land grab to allow natural gas fracked from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to pass through your property while offering you and your fellow Michigan citizens very little, if any, benefit. That gas is destined primarily for Canada. We’re just a freeway. That’s bad enough. But more importantly, the fact that FERC (and ET) already concede that that there is no need for this project should, on its own (and self-evidently; its weird that we even have to say it), preclude any approval saying there is a public need.
Secondly, Michigan elected officials, including Governor Snyder, need to be reminded of the position they took on Trunkline a year ago. That is, they should still be concerned about the environmental concerns of building a new pipeline– and they should join landowners, vocally, and publicly, in opposing ET Rover, which again, is not a project designed or projected to benefit Michigan and its citizens.
Finally, as much as landowners should make their concerns about and objections to this pipeline known to ET Rover and its representatives– at their open houses and elsewhere– the real pressure here needs to be put on FERC. Like so many other regulatory agencies, they appear to be little more than an arm of industry. However, the people need to remind them– loudly, persistently, forcefully, and repeatedly– that they work for us, the public, not for private interests.
The ET Rover project is beginning to receive a fair amount of local press attention. The Clarkston News and the Brandon Citizen have run articles. We’re glad to see our old friend Susan Bromley on the case! Bromley spoke with another of our friends, Protect Our Land and Rights (POLAR) legal defense fund founder Jeff Axt. If you don’t know about Jeff and POLAR, please check them out. They’re likely to be an invaluable resource for landowners who don’t want ET Rover on their land. Please consider joining and supporting them.
Detroit Free Press reporter Keith Matheny also has an article this morning (reprinted in the Lansing State Journal). There’s not much new information coming from ET Rover on the project (more on that in a minute), but we were glad to read the remarks of two people we admire very much, Josh Mogerman and Beth Wallace:
But some don’t see the benefit for Michigan.
“It’s consistent with the growing trend nationally that puts more and more risk in people’s back yards for the movement of fossil fuels,” said Josh Mogerman, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“This project has very little benefit for Michigan,” added Beth Wallace, a board member with the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust.
In all of these articles, the ET Rover spokesperson quoted is Vicki Grenado. We don’t know much about her, other than that she appears not to be an ET employee, but a public relations professional hired by ET. That fact shows, as her remarks are virtually indistinguishable from the sort of stuff we’ve heard from Enbridge spokespersons for years. In one article, she even delivers this old chestnut: “We want to be a good neighbor and business partner in these communities.”
At any rate, we mention this because we happened to have our own encounter with Vicki Grenado over the weekend while trying to obtain some more information about this project. We are grateful to her for responding promptly (twice!), but the exchange was nevertheless, you might not be surprised to learn, a frustrating one– which does not bode well for landowners. Here’s how it went:
Like others of you, we’ve been trying to get some more precise information about the project and especially the proposed route. Because that information is not available on the ET Rover website, we wrote to the person listed at the site as the landowner contact. A couple of days later, we received an email from Ms. Grenado, telling us that she does not have the route information we requested and referring us to the ET Rover website for more information. That’s right: the landowner contact at ET referred us to a p.r. person who then referred us to the same website whose lack of information is what caused us to contact them in the first place.
So we replied, noting that some landowners had already been given more detailed maps of portions of the route (we posted one here just the other day). At which point, Ms Grenado simply said that maps would be available at the upcoming open houses. But of course, if we wanted to wait until the open houses to see the maps, we wouldn’t have written in the first place.
In fairness, Vicki Grenado (like all those Enbridge p.r. soldiers) is just doing her job, a job (as we’ve learned from Enbridge) that mainly consists of supplying people (landowners, local officials, the press) with as little information as possible while pretending to be helpful. However, Energy Transfer is going to need to understand that landowners in Michigan are weary of this sort of thing– and wise to it. If ET thinks they can come up here and blow a lot of smoke, provide vague or evasive answers, say a lot of pleasing-sounding things about being good neighbors, expect people to trust them and then think that landowners are just going to accept all of that without skepticism, without further questioning, without demands for more transparency, more honesty, and more openness, they’re going to have a very rough time indeed.
The original letter sent to landowners by ET Rover contained a web link for more information. That link did not work. Up and running now, however, is a splashy new ET Rover web page. It’s not terribly helpful. The information it provides, including a map and a “citizens guide” is quite general and lacks detail (the Pipeline Safety Trust’s Landowner’s Guide is much more helpful, as is FERC’s citizen guide.)
But there are two interesting things to note about the ET Rover website:
First, in the list of open houses, the July 14 meeting in Fenton (according to the letter they sent) is not listed. We don’t know if this is an oversight or a change in plan. We’ll seek clarification; you should too.
Secondly, check out the “Open House Boards” at the bottom of the page. This gives some indication of how the open house will be run (or so it appears): as a series of manned stations. As we described in our post yesterday, thanks to some clever Wisconsin citizens, this is not the sort of forum that will be most advantageous to landowners. We urge our fellow landowner to ban together.
Bits of information on the proposed ET Rover project have been trickling in, none of it verified with any absolute certainty. Here is what we have learned (or heard) since our last post:
- If you’re on Line 6B and you’re like us, it crossed your mind that this project might re-use the now-abandoned old Line 6B that is sitting idle in your back (or front yard). We never really thought that was very likely, but the fact that Enbridge has recently partnered with Energy Transfer to convert a gas line to crude made us a little nervous. So we wanted to Enbridge to go on record on this matter. Yesterday, Jason Manshum verified that “there are no plans to use the original Line 6B for this other project.” We’d have preferred that he put that a bit more directly, but it appears that we can (more or less) rule out the possibility of recommissioning the old Line 6B. That’s good news.
Unfortunately, Energy Transfer has not returned our two phone calls (no idea why), so the other information we have to share is coming from other landowners. Here’s what we’ve been told:
- The ET Rover route will NOT use the Line 6B corridor or easements, although it will loosely parallel the route, running north of Line 6B (how far north, we can’t say). Energy Transfer will be seeking NEW 60 foot easements from landowners and, presumably, municipalities. That’s not such good news. The image above shows a portion of the route running through a portion of Howell– and right through a subdivision! Line 6B is several hundred feet to the south of the blue ET Rover line in the image.
- According to the ET representative in one of our readers’ phone calls, the letter was sent to anyone in a 500 ft. radius of the line. If the proposed line runs through your property, it appears you would have received an additional letter and perhaps (even likely) a phone call asking for permission to survey your land. It is our understanding that many landowners are refusing that request. Please note that you DO NOT have to allow them to access your property to survey. You can just say no.
- This is the very beginning of a long process (please refer to the resources at the Pipeline Safety Trust website describing the FERC approval process). Energy Transfer has not yet fulfilled the requirements to file a permit application with FERC. The process can take a couple of years to run its course. That said, it’s best to inform yourself, make your wishes known, and organize with your neighbors and your local officials early.
- A reminder that the first of the ET Rover open houses is July 14 in Fenton. It is likely that company officials and/or land agents will conduct the open house informally, preferring to speak to landowners individually rather than collectively. This is NOT to your advantage. We strongly recommend that landowners gather together to make the open house a group affair. That way, everyone can hear everyone’s concerns and continuity of information will be assured. For reference, here is part of an account of how shrewd landowners in Wisconsin prevented Enbridge from controlling information in a similar fashion:
It was a combative format Enbridge was attempting to avoid when it originally organized the meeting to be an open-house format, with residents asking questions one-on-one with Enbridge representatives. However, some of the more than 75 attendees, including many political candidates who empathized with the crowd, were unhappy with the format and quickly began setting up chairs for a group presentation, succeeding in turning the session into two-hour group question-and-answer session. The group, closely monitored by two Jefferson police officers, then proceeded to drill the company representatives on everything from the company’s safety procedures to the pipeline welds, the content of the material flowing through the pipelines and their environmental record.
Lastly, if you are as concerned as we are not just about your own property and the treatment of your neighbors, but about pipeline safety in general, please take a moment to share (or even adapt) the open letter we wrote to Attorney General Schuette and DEQ Director Wyant regarding the newly proposed Michigan pipeline safety task force. The fact that the assembled task force does not include any landowners, property rights advocates, or conservationists is unconscionable. The only way to ensure that landowners do not continue to suffer at the hands of these energy expansion projects is to give them a prominent voice in the process. Regular citizens need to put pressure on their elected officials, at all levels, to make this happen. We’ll try to post more updates to our Facebook page as we receive them. Please stop by and give us a “like.”