Enbridge Disregards Another Local Ordinance

Enbridge Disregards Another Local Ordinance

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.

 

Enbridge Continues to Struggle with the Truth

Enbridge Continues to Struggle with the Truth

We’re continuing our tardy news roundup, which we started yesterday. There, we called your attention to some recent news articles form Macomb County describing some residents’ concerns about Enbridge’s work on Phase Two, which is about to kick into high gear in the eastern part of the state.

This morning, another local article appeared, describing a recent open house hosted by Enbridge in Washington Township. We will say this much: it’s good to see that Enbridge is reaching out to residents to some degree. They certainly did no such thing in our part of the state prior to construction on Phase One. So this sounds like an improvement.

Having said that, we suspect that the Enbridge officials there didn’t spend much time explaining to landowners the realities of how the work will proceed: the poor communications they’ll likely get from Enbridge land agents, the noise and the mess and the mistakes they’ll have to endure, the need to remain vigilant so that construction agreement violations don’t go unnoticed and unrectified, and much more. Instead, Enbridge surely painted a very rosy picture, one that doesn’t bear much resemblance to actuality.

What makes us say this? Well, not just experience– though that experience speaks volumes, we think. Also, it’s because of a couple of the remarks of Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith. First, Smith digs up this old chestnut:

“Overwhelmingly a good majority of landowners are understanding and we have good relationships with them,” she said. “But there is always going to be concern.”

Regular readers of this blog may recall the time that Jason Manshum said the same thing (you’ve got to hand this much to Enbridge, they are disciplined about staying “on message”). And when he did, we wrote to him asking for some actual evidence to back up that claim– but that was back when he was not replying to our emails. Another time, we ourselves actually tried to generate some data on this question, but concluded that it’s almost impossible to really know. The point here is that (a) Jennifer Smith, no more than Jason Manshum or Tom Hodge, really doesn’t know whether “a good majority of landowners are understanding.” This is just a pleasing story Enbridge likes to tell itself and the public; and (b) this odd talking point makes it seem as if, like a political candidate running for office, Enbridge only cares about winning over a simple majority. Evidently, when it comes to landowner satisfaction, they like to set the bar extremely low.

The other troubling remark from Jennifer Smith– well, not so much troubling as rather astonishing in its complete disregard for facts– is this:

Smith said safety is the main concern for those in and around the project, and for workers on the project itself. She said Enbridge has been sensitive to ordinances and regulations every step along the way.

We won’t quarrel with the point about safety (although we could). But the second point, about Enbridge’s sensitivity to local ordinances and regulations? Well, that is simply a clear, plain, demonstrable untruth. In fact, it’s so untrue, that Matthew Fahr, the reporter on the story, or his editor  ought to issue a correction. We’ve spent the better part of two years discussing Enbridge’s disregard for and evasions of local ordinances, laws, and regulations. In fact, in our post just yesterday, Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman herself provided a very clear example of how Enbridge was absolutely NOT “sensitive” to one of Brandon’s ordinances:

“There have been a lot of concerns,” she said. “There have been some issues. We ended up shutting them down at one point, because they were in violation of a woodlands agreement.”

We think that most people will agree that “in violation of” is very different from, perhaps even the opposite of, “sensitive to.” So either Jennifer Smith simply has no idea what happened in, say, Brandon and Howell Townships or– and we hope this isn’t the case, because it would be much, much worse– she DOES know and is therefore willfully and deliberately misleading people in a shameless attempt to pacify them. In either case, we are sad to say that the good people of Washington Township were clearly not always accurately informed. So while it’s good that Enbridge is holding these open houses, they still appear to have plenty of work to do to ensure that those open houses are genuinely and honestly informative– and not just spin sessions.

 

 

 

Enbridge Hauls its Baggage East

Enbridge Hauls its Baggage East

We are currently working on a very important post about a deeply troubling matter that might affect a number of Line 6B landowners. Please stay tuned for it in the next couple of days. As we await some more information– as you know, we strive to be accurate– we thought we’d begin our long overdue and ever-growing news roundup. It’s going to take a few posts.

Now that spring is here (knock on wood!) and the ground has begun to harden a little, Enbridge is getting back to work to our east, putting in the remaining section of pipeline that will run from Ortonville to Marysville, Michigan. Unsurprisingly, that means unhappy landowners. We’ve found some of the local news coverage so far quite interesting:

Over at the Macomb Daily, reporter Lara Mossa quotes our hero Brandon Township Kathy Thurman in an article about Enbridge’s return to work in that area. In her typically restrained way, Thurman recalls some of Brandon’s troubles last year (see our archives) and even talks a little tough:

“There have been a lot of concerns,” she said. “There have been some issues. We ended up shutting them down at one point, because they were in violation of a woodlands agreement.”

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, on the other hand, neither reports nor foresees any problems. But his remarks about Enbridge are hardly a ringing endorsement:

“I know they have had problems in other townships, but, for the most part, they are going through very large parcels of land,” he said, adding that much of it is old gravel mines. “It’s not like they’re going through subdivisions. I have not had any complaints. Enbridge has been somewhat cooperative.”

In Bruce Township, according to another Macomb Daily article, residents are (understandably) unhappy with Enbridge’s planned destruction of a number of very tall trees near the Ford test track. Weirdly, Macomb County Road Commissioner Bob Hoepfner thinks that Enbridge’s offer to replant twice as many crappy little trees as the mature ones they’re cutting down is “generous”:

Hoepfner said Enbridge was more than within its rights to do the work on that designated portion of land and offered the county a “two for one” deal to replace all trees that would be removed immediately rather than do their work and see the trees die later.

“They showed us what needed to be done and we agreed with them,” said Hoepfner. “It was a generous offer. Cutting the roots would kill them and the right thing to do is to have them removed.”

But residents and Township Supervisor Richard Cory (no, not that Richard Cory!) think otherwise and say not-so-fast:

“None of us will ever live long enough to ever see those trees provide enough shade over the road like it has now,” said one resident of the proposal to replace the mature trees with new ones after completion of the project.

Cory later asked if residents wanted to fight to have the trees remain intact; the overwhelming response in unison was “we want the trees to stay.”

What the township will base its fight on is a letter Cory read aloud at the meeting from attorney Benjamin Aloia to Enbridge representative Mike Ashton.

Cory said the letter, dated March 10, 2014, was apparently in response to a proposal from Enbridge to remove the trees.

“The Road Commission did not approve or authorize any work whatsoever within the Road Commission’s 36 Mile Road statutory 66-foot full-width right-of-way under this permit,” Cory read to the residents. “The removal of trees was not expressly permitted by the Road Commission with the three-mile stretch of 36 Mile Road in question.”

Finally, from Marysville, the Times Herald reports on some landowners feeling abused by Enbridge. Despite a rather insulting headline– “People Gripe About Enbridge”– the article gives a fair hearing to the concerns of some landowners who appear to have received the same sort of treatment we’ve documented here exhaustively.

What’s the takeaway here? We imagine Enbridge and/or Enbridge apologists would dismiss all of this by saying that any large project is going to run up against some complainers (a notion that, unfortunately, the last story’s headline seems to enforce). But those so-called “gripers”– Brian St. Clair, Thomas Leen, and Judy Robertson, not to mention all those concerned Bruce Township residents– have an awful lot of company. What this says to us is that Enbridge still, after all this time, hasn’t learned anything or is simply incapable of changing its ways.

Something Positive

Something Positive

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We have always said that we’ll give credit to Enbridge if and when it’s due. It’s not our fault there’s more bad to report around here than good. But this morning, we’ve got something good to report.

Yesterday, we went for a walk at one of our favorite places nearby: the Shiawasee Basin Preserve in Davisburg. A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that they were installing some nice new limestone paths. That work appears to be complete now. And these signs have appeared:

 

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You remember the Environmental Stewardship Program. Enbridge announced it almost a year ago during their settlement agreement with Brandon Township. It’s a very good program, offering $10-15,000 dollar grants to all townships and municipalities all along the Line 6B route for “green” projects. The go-getters in Springfield Township have already put (at least a portion of) that grant money to good use. The path looks great.

 

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So thank you, Enbridge.

Of course, we should also thank Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman because without the stand Brandon took last year, we don’t think there would be an environmental stewardship program.

Anyway, your own local officials should know about this. In fact, please contact them and ask if they’ve got any plans for that money– and then let us know. (We’re writing our own Township Supervisor this morning.) It’s our understanding that residents are eligible to apply for it as well, as long as the use benefits everyone and is related to a green project. In fact, we would very much like to make this a new series: how municipalities are utilizing these funds. Heaven knows we could all stand to see some good things come out of all of this.

That would be a series even Enbridge would like!

 

Comstock tells Enbridge: “No.”

While Enbridge works hard this week to woo the press (much more on this coming up later), they’re also taking some lumps. Comstock Township, like the EPA last week, has considered Enbridge’s request and then told them “no.” Late last night the Township Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny Enbridge special zoning for a dredge pad as they continue to clean up the Kalamazoo River. Lindsey Smith at Michigan Public Radio has the story. Evidently, residents and Bell’s Brewery owner Larry Bell were mighty pleased with the outcome.

Because we don’t know enough about the issue, we never really took a strong position on the dredge pad matter, except to say that in general we think it’s good policy to defer to local authority and community desires on such matters. We’re pretty big fans of local autonomy when it comes to the protection of landowners and natural resources. In fact, Enbridge’s callous disregard of local authority and concerns has been one of the major themes of this blog for more than a year. With that in mind, we’ll indulge in one little observation:

It now appears that Enbridge is going to have real trouble meeting the EPA mandated deadline for this latest round of clean up. And they probably think it’s all Larry Bell’s fault. But they have no one to blame but themselves. This dredge pad situation is a nearly identical replay of what happened on phase one of their project. They tried (despite their stated values) to take the easy way out and circumvent local ordinances. And what happened? Just like in Comstock Township, some brave local officials and concerned citizens cried foul, causing Enbridge to slow down, then scramble to make nice so they could resume their work after some long and painful (to Enbridge) delays. The result? The whole thing took far more time and created far more acrimony and bad feelings than it would (or should) have if Enbridge had simply gone about it thoughtfully, respectfully, and cooperatively in the first place.

In this context, the Comstock Township just demonstrates yet again that Enbridge appears incapable of learning from its mistakes.

Construction slideshow

Construction slideshow

A busy week at our day job– papers! midterms!– prevented us from blogging last week; we’re sorry for the silence. We’re also planning to play a little catch-up around here regarding Line 6B matters over the next several days. And in case you are not caught up, we might be so bold as to remind you take a peek– and share– our recent post about the way Enbridge has effectively rewritten important Michigan state regulations. Oh, and if you didn’t see the recent unfortunate, uninformed and misleading remarks of some of Enbridge’s landowner-supporters (how disappointing that they wouldn’t support their real neighbors!), that’s worth a look, too. So is Lisa Song’s excellent recent piece over at Inside Climate News.

More immediately, we’ve got more to report about our recent chat with Kathy Thurman over at Brandon Township, where we learned some interesting things– like the fact that Enbridge has already violated the agreement they signed back in December. In the meantime, while we’re working on that and a couple of other things, here’s a slideshow of pictures we took on a quick tour through Brandon Township following our meeting with Supervisor Thurman: