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.