As some of you know, we were fortunate enough to participate in a forum about tar sands oil development in the Great Lakes Region a couple of weeks ago. Organized by our friend, fellow Line 6B landowner, and Notre Dame University professor Patricia Maurice and hosted by the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values.
Patricia and I were joined by MSU’s Steve Hamilton, who has been a consultant on the Kalamazoo River cleanup, and Beth Wallace, who you surely know by now. Each of us presented for 15 or so minutes and then we took questions from a wonderful and wonderfully-engaged audience.
We thought the event was a smashing success. The room was full and the audience interested, each of my fellow panelists was smart, passionate, and informative. We were even able to meet some people face to face whom we’ve only interacted with through the magic of the internet. It was wonderful to put some faces to some names. Our only regret (but not a surprise), no one from Enbridge attended. Still, the forum went so well that we are hoping to reprise it elsewhere in the months to come. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, you can watch the whole thing online, thanks to Prof. Greg Madey for filming and to Notre Dame’s engineering pubs/graphics crew for getting it posted online:
Thanks, finally, as well to all who attended and, especially, for Patricia for her warm hospitality and her hard work bringing everything together.
According to a report in the Chesterton Tribune out of Indiana, a forensic anthropologist has determined that the skull found by Enbridge contractors is at least 74 years old. That means that the matter is to be turned over to the Indiana DNR’s Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (which sounds like a pretty awesome division). Construction work appears to still be halted until the DNR can determine whether the area is a burial ground.
We wish we could start this little news roundup by telling you that Enbridge spokesperson Graham White has issued a public apology to Emily Ferguson for his apparently fictional account of her behavior at an informational meeting regarding Line 9. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear whether White has decided to abide by Enbridge corporate value of “Maintain[ing] truth in all interactions” (although it may be that “maintaining” truth is somehow different than just telling it).
But there’s other news to pass on. Inside Climate News has run its own story regarding the fallen pipe on Dave Gallagher’s property. Needless to say, reporter Maria Gallucci practices the same sort of quality journalism as her ICN colleagues. We only wish the article were a bit longer, as it raises some important questions that could be further explored, such as the lack of regulations (at either the state or federal levels) about pipeline proximity to dwellings, the shoddy work of the MPSC when approving this project, and, of course, the fact that what has gone on out at the Gallagher property is just an extreme version of the troubles endured by countless landowners along the Line 6B route. The article also, unfortunately, doesn’t shed any light on the question of whether the Smith-Manshum account of immediate on site inspection of the dropped pipe really did occur.
Speaking of construction accidents, news from Griffith, Indiana is that Enbridge crews accidentally busted a water main, draining the entire contents of one of the city’s water towers. Thinking back on some other accidents– the tree they dropped on that power line over the holidays, the sewer line they broke at an intersection in Howell a while back– we’re wondering just how common these sorts of accidents are on large-scale projects like this. It’s no clear whether this is routine or whether Enbridge’s contractors are especially accident prone. But even if they’re not particularly unusual, the messy realities of pipeline construction are clearly a far cry from the smooth, hassle-free portrait of the process that Enbridge painted for landowners and municipalities before it all began.
Finally, on the national scene, the Wall Street Journal this morning is reporting that the vast majority of pipeline leaks are not discovered by operators and all their fancy gadgets and doodads, all those high-tech devices they love to talk about, but by individuals on-site. We’re glad the WSJ has done the story, but they’re pretty late to the party. We’ve been talking about this for a long while, as have some of our very favorite reporters. The splendid Elana Schor, for example, was on it way back in August of last year. (Incidentally, Schor’s been getting a fair amount of television face-time lately (and more). We’re glad her voice is reaching national ears, as it should, but we’re also a little worried she’s moving over toward the dark side. We’ve all seen what the tv does to people…)
We’re already working on our series of posts following last week’s PS Trust conference (we think we’ll start by discussing everybody’s favorite federal regulatory agency!). But there’s a holiday coming up, so we’re not sure how soon we’ll get to the first one. Meanwhile, some more papers have picked up the story of the construction delays on phase two of the Line 6B replacement, including the suspension over to our east that we mentioned last week. There’s this one and this one, for example.
And then there’s this one. If we had the energy, Joseph S. Pete’s article in the Times of Northwest Indiana (whatever happened to Lauri Harvey Keagle, who was doing such good work?) could easily be the basis of another of our “How Not to Write About Line 6B” posts. But to be honest, we haven’t got the energy; sometimes, it just feels too much like howling into the dark and empty wilderness. Suffice it to say that Pete did little more than type up a friendly Enbridge press release. Sigh.
Setting that aside, we just have one little question: aren’t any local reporters even remotely interested in asking the blatantly obvious question here about these delays? What environmental permits, specifically, has Enbridge not yet obtained and why have they not obtained them? Wouldn’t anybody covering this story think to ask that?
We’re trying to find out ourselves and will let you know if and when we learn anything.
Since this post will cover some ground that we’ve covered before, we’ll try to be brief. We’re risking repeating ourselves because this really gets our goat:
Yesterday, we read an interesting column by Jerry Davich in the Post-Tribune up in Northwest Indiana. The column isn’t bad. In fact, in many ways, it’s quite good– better than most, we’d say. It’s well written, thoughtful, fair-minded, and even, from our point of view, appropriately skeptical of Enbridge rhetoric. Even better, it gives plenty of air time to Nicole Barker of Save the Dunes, an organization we very much admire. Nicole and her team have been doing excellent and important work down in Indiana. The whole state owes them tremendous gratitude.
So what’s the problem? Well, once again, it’s the frame. The implied narrative of the story as Davich tells it is that the Line 6B project just pits groups like Save the Dunes against Enbridge. It’s a story of environmentalists versus energy– a simple, clear, compelling, dualistic narrative.
And what’s Davich’s position? Well, he seems to have some sympathy with the enviros like Nicole Barker, but then he (cleverly) allows Barker and Robert Thompson, executive director of the Porter County Plan Commission, to state what he describes as his own “contrarian opinion on this slippery issue”:
“It’s been quite a ride dealing with this for the past two years, and seeing the pipeline come through my area in LaPorte County is still shocking each time I drive by,” [Barker] told me.
This is where Barker unknowingly hints at my contrarian opinion on this slippery issue after I repeatedly hear similar concerns or complaints from many residents.
“Then again,” Barker noted, “I am driving by and it’s my car and my usage of fuel that is contributing to this.”
“So while it’s easy to point fingers, it’s a reminder that Northwest Indiana needs to do a better job of designing communities around people rather than vehicles.”
Thompson echoed this pragmatic, look-in-the-mirror reality check.
“As long as people are going to use their autos and we demand or want lower gas and oil prices, we are going to have companies trying to service that demand,” said Thompson, who rides his bicycle to work to avoid paying for gas.
“This is my choice. But if people are going to have the demand for oil and gas, we are going to see projects such as Enbridge in the area.”
Now, it’s hard to see just what’s “contrarian” about the position stated by Thompson here and endorsed by Davich. Spend 30 seconds in the comments section of any internet article about oil or gas production and that position will invariably be one of the first ones you encounter. Far from being contrarian, it’s just about the most obvious opinion available.
Just how obvious, how un-contrarian is it? Well, it’s the very first thing that Enbridge says, all the time. We’ve heard it over and over and over, from Joe Martucci (remember him?), from Patrick Daniel, from Tom Hodge. In fact, there is almost nothing Enbridge loves more than this version of the Line 6B story because they know it’s a way of framing the story that works to their advantage. Every time. Just look: even environmentalists like Nicole Barker and Robert Thompson concede the point! Enbridge wins!
The problem is, as we’ve said before, that it’s a false choice and a lousy frame. For one thing, it’s a false choice because the idea that we would suddenly run out of fuel for our cars if Enbridge didn’t get to build its new pipeline is ludicrous. But let’s set that one aside. It’s a lousy frame because it obscures a whole host of other very serious problems with the Line 6B project, many of which (unlike our dependence on fossil fuels) could actually be solved rather quickly: the weakness of federal and state regulatory oversight, the granting of eminent domain to foreign corporations and the erosion of individual property rights, the disregard for local authority and ordinances, the terrible mistreatment of landowners by a rich and powerful multinational corporation.
Just to be clear: we are as concerned about the environmental threats posed by tar sands oil production as anyone. But these are the other issues at stake in the Enbridge project and they can’t easily be fit into the simplistic enviro vs. energy narrative. In fact, you can be the most die-hard drill-baby-drill petroleum-guzzling Hummer-driving energy advocate in the world and still think that the company building the pipeline should have to behave itself and respect the states, municipalities, and private properties through which it passes. That is, you can be in favor of the pipeline project but critical of how Enbridge is going about completing it.
We’re working on the second installment on our trip to Washington DC last week to meet with legislators and regulators. If you missed part one– about the meeting we did not have— please check it out.
In the meantime, some interesting articles and stories have appeared in the press in the past week or so. Here we go:
We’ve mentioned before Enbridge’s “Albert Clipper” expansion, which is currently going through the presidential permitting process, just like Keystone XL. This was one of the topics we discussed with representatives of the State Department last week. We’ll have a lot more to say about it in the weeks to come and we’ll likely be encouraging you to speak up once the public comments part of the review begins. For now, we”d just point you to this excellent op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Eric Hansen. It’s excellent. Here’s a little taste:
Connect the dots on Enbridge’s efforts to quietly network thousands of miles of pipelines — a system that would lock in both Wisconsin and our region as a major transportation corridor to ship tar sands crude oil overseas to the world market for decades to come — and a reasonable citizen would be outraged.
Profit and jobs would go to Canada. Crude oil would go overseas. Toxic risk would stay here, sprinkled throughout our region in the crude oil spills, air quality and public health impacts that would certainly come.
And speaking of Keystone XL (we talked with officials about that, too, in DC), it appears that some legislators are none too happy with some recent remarks by the President (if you missed them, they are here). Which legislators are displeased, you ask? Well, none other than the House Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton. Yes, that Fred Upton, the guy who represents Kalamazoo! Upton is among the most outspoken supporters of KXL– which, we suppose, gives him something to do since he certainly doesn’t spend any time whatsoever inquiring into what Enbridge is doing back in his home state and district. We’ve spent a fair amount of time here lamenting the appalling failure of leadership in this state when it comes to Enbridge– and we made that point repeatedly to the people we spoke with in Washington– but Upton, with the possible exception of Governor Snyder, might well be the worst offender. Given the district he represents, he should be leading the charge in looking out for the interests of Michigan landowners and the state’s natural resources. Instead, he’s leading the charge in hastening the transportation of more tar sands oil through the U.S.
Speaking even more of KXL and Enbridge, Pulitzer Prize winner Lisa Song has another excellent article over at Inside Climate News describing yet another Enbridge plan to out-Keystone TransCanada while almost nobody, as we’ve said many times, is watching. It’s more piecing things together, this time converting gas lines to transport tar sands oil. But it’s okay because you can rest assured that PHMSA will do almost nothing to ensure that the plan is safe and sound. The PSTRust’s Carl Weimer notes that “Operators don’t need permission from PHMSA to change the contents of a pipeline, and the conversion process doesn’t trigger environmental studies. Operators simply create a plan of operation that meets PHMSA’s pipeline safety regulations, he said.”
From Indiana, Jeff Harrell at the South Bend Tribune posted two articles this week about the Enbridge Line 6B project, placing them helpfully in larger contexts. It’s very solid work and we especially appreciate his focus on Native American concerns about the project. His first article begins, for instance, with representatives from the Pokagon Band of the Potawotami Tribe, who live on the Michigan-Indiana border.
Inevitably, Jason Manshum shows up in the article with more absurd, misleading remarks. He’s back to complaining about the “tar sands” term again: “Manshum calls the term “tar sands” “… a misnomer, a slang word associated with this type of crude by opponents.” But of course, this is total baloney. The industry itself used that term for decades until someone in Manshum’s line of work (spin doctoring) decided back in the 1960s that “oil sands” sounded friendlier.
Harrell’s second article, which unfortunately (we don’t hold him responsible for this) bears the very stupid headline, “Pipeline Has Support, Opposition” (they could have just said, “Humans Agree, Disagree”), considers Line 6B in relation to KXL, which we’ve been trying to convince reporters to do for a very long time. Manshum’s on board for this one, too, assuring us all that pipeline corrosion is not a problem with diluted bitumen:
Enbridge’s Manshum cites the U.S. Department of Transportation’s investigation into the spill to dispute the claim that the line broke from abrasive tar sands oil corroding the inside of the pipe.
“One thing they made crystal clear was that the rupture was not caused by internal corrosion, but on the outside, or the exterior of the line related to the coating,” Manshum says.
Strictly speaking, of course, what Manshum says is true. But it’s more than a little ironic that he’d cite the NTSB report, since what it also shows is that Enbridge ignored the pipe’s exterior defects and that their “culture of deviance” from safety protocols contributed tremendously to the Marshall disaster. Honestly, we sometimes wonder how Jason Manshum can sleep at night.
Lastly, Jennifer Bowman has a lengthy and interesting article in the Battle Creek Enquirer about Enbridge’s home buyout program in Marshall. It’s a piece that we imagine is quite pleasing to Enbridge, since Bowman talks with some people who had very positive experiences with Enbridge. She spoke also with some unhappy landowners, but they are more or less portrayed as greedy whiners. We find this entire situation quite fascinating and disturbing in many ways, though we confess we don’t know enough about it to make many confident pronouncements. We also think that Bowman’s article leaves a great many questions unasked; we’re going to think and learn more about this and discuss it more in a later post (hopefully). For now, just one little observation:
What is it with people that makes them so uncharitable toward others? Why the need to belittle those whose experiences differ from their own? We’ve seen this sort of tactic– from fellow landowners!–before. And we see it again from Wayne Groth, who gets lots of ink in Bowman’s article. Groth believes he got a good deal from Enbridge– and we’re very glad for that; we wish it were the case with everyone. But then he has to go and say this:
“The ones screaming the loudest are probably the greediest,” Groth said, “and they’re looking to cash in. They remind me of damn trial lawyers that want to sue for money and put the company out of business.”
In all seriousness: does Groth really know this? Does he even know who is “screaming” loudly, much less what those (imaginary) screamers are screaming about or for? We doubt it. This sort of talk just makes him seem like a guy with very little imagination, very little ability to adopt the perspective of someone else a person whose mindset is, “I got mine; screw the rest of you.” And that’s just downright unneighborly.
There is some interesting– and promising– news out of northern Indiana this week. As you may recall, the hardworking folks at Save the Dunes have been trying to ensure that the Line 6B replacement does not harm sensitive wetlands. In that effort, they have been talking with local officials in LaPorte County. Now the LaPorte Herald-Argus reports that LaPorte County officials plan to “require a review of the project because it appears to fall within the regulations of its joint zoning ordinance.”
The wind in LaPorte County’s sails comes from a recent federal court decision. On March 25, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court issued a ruling in Maryland stating that federal law does not preempt the enforcement of local zoning laws. (Super legal nerds can read the ruling here.) Specifically, the Court upheld an earlier court ruling dismissing a complaint from Washington Gas Light Company declaring that the National Gas Pipeline Safety Act (PSA), the Natural Gas Act (NGA) and state law preempt Prince George County zoning plans. Washington Gas therefore sought an injunction preventing the county from enforcing its zoning laws.
But the Court rejected Washington Gas’s complaint, noting that the federal laws apply to matters of safety, not to siting and routing. The Court ruled:
the PSA does not preempt the County Zoning Plans because the PSA only preempts safety regulations and the County Zoning Plans are not safety regu- lations; and (3) the NGA does not preempt the County Zoning Plans because the NGA only preempts state and local laws governing interstate natural gas operations and, per the NGA, Washington Gas is a local distribution company.
In our view– and, evidently, in the view of the LaPorte County attorney– this ruling bodes very well for the efforts of local municipalities to have some input into the Line 6B project. Our regular readers might recall that, just like Washington Gas, Enbridge’s response to local governments has always been “pipelines are regulated at the federal level”– a misleading claim at best, as we’ve discussed before on more than one occasion. And had the 4th Circuit Court’s ruling been handed down some months ago, it might well have helped Brandon Township and Howell Township enforce their ordinances, which like the Zoning Ordinances of Prince George County do not attempt to regulate pipeline safety. Looking ahead to Phase Two of the Line 6B project, this ruling might yet be of some use not just to LaPorte County in Indiana, but some Michigan townships as well– if you’re on Phase Two, you might mention this to your township supervisor. The ruling might also be of some help to POLAR in its ongoing cases (about which we hope to post in detail later today).
We will keep you updated on matters in Indiana. For now, we’d just like to commend folks down there, especially Nate Pavlovic and Michael Hollcraft, and County Attorney Shaw Friedman, for their dedication to the protection of valuable ecosystems.
Sorry to post this a little late, but this webinar, conducted by our Hoosier friend Nathan Pavlovic of Save the Dunes might be of interest to some of you. We plan to attend. From Nate:
Yet another government report, released at the end of last month, has raised worrying facts about pipeline safety here and across the country. Save the Dunes and our partners are working to raise awareness about such safety concerns around Enbridge’s pipeline, which could threaten our environment and quality of life if a spill were to occur. The good news is that there are concrete steps that should be taken now to reduce the risks associated with this project. But we must ensure that these steps are implemented.
To provide the latest information and to show how you can help improve the safety of the new Enbridge pipeline, Save the Dunes will present a free webinar tomorrow, February 21stat 10AM CST. The presentation will last for approximately 45 minutes with questions to follow, and will be hosted by 219 Green Connect, a resource for NW Indiana Green News, Events & Education.
Registration for this free event is required. To register, please visit our website: Save the Dunes will Host Webinar on Tar Sands Oil Pipeline.
If you are unable to attend, Save the Dunes will post a recording later in the week. We’ll surely bring you a report as well.
After a quiet stretch on the Line 6B front, things seem to have begun to rumble a bit lately– mainly because of the MPSC phase two decision. So we’ve been as busy here at the blog as we’ve been in a little while. In fact, we hope you’ve had a chance to look at our series on the MPSC proceedings, not to mention our response to some recently discovered Enbridge supporters and the surprising appearance of some outspoken state legislators.
But mostly, we hope you’ve taken a spin through our most recent post about the MPSC. Frankly, we think it may be the most important thing we’ve written here. After all, we’ve known for a long time that Enbridge more or less gets to do what it wants around here. But to think that this Canadian corporation is also effectively rewriting our state regulations!– well, that’s almost more than we can take. In fact– and we try not to ask this very often– if you’re able, please share that post with others through whatever channels (email, Facebook, that Twitter thing, online news comments sections) you see fit.
Anyway, we’re unlikely to have time to post any more this week, even though we’ve got other stuff to share with you. For one, we met with Brandon Township supervisor Kathy Thurman today (a hero and a genuine state treasure!) and learned some interesting things about their agreement with Enbridge (for a refresher, take a peek back at the series). And for another, on our way home, we spent some time snapping photos of construction activity in Brandon. So you can expect a slideshow of photos at some point as well.
Finally, we’re looking for ways to reach phase two landowners, in both Michigan and Indiana. If you know anyone along the route, please let them know about us as a resource. Enbridge ROW agents are surely going to be buzzing like bees now that they’ve got MPSC approval. We want landowners to be as informed and protected as possible during their negotiations. Plenty of good people are doing important work in terms of environmental protection in Indiana; we’d just like to see plenty of landowner protections in place as well.
We work pretty hard here at the Line 6 Citizens’ Blog to keep our cool. It’s not always easy. Case in point: yesterday, we linked to a recent editorial piece by Doug Ross of the Times of Northwest Indiana. To be frank, the piece is so bad, so reliant upon Enbridge talking points (he appears to have taken almost everything he says from one of Enbridge’s brochures, like this one) , and demonstrates such an astonishing ignorance of even the most basic facts of the Line 6B “replacement” project and citizen concerns about it, that we could hardly believe a reputable paper would publish such a thing (and make no mistake about it, reporters at that paper have done some excellent work).
What doesn’t Doug Ross understand? Let’s take a look:
The most extraordinary thing about Ross’s op-ed is that there is no mention whatsoever of Marshall. Ross seems to think that Enbridge just one day decided to make an enormous capital investment in a new pipeline because they just care so much about safety. Here is what Ross says:
The company should be commended for recognizing the need for a new pipeline, to both minimize the danger of leaks and to increase the flow capacity.
Enbridge “should be commended for recognizing the need for a new pipeline”? Honestly, in the six months or so since we started reading, researching, documenting and discussing all things related to Line 6B, this has got to be the most extraordinary statement we’ve heard yet. Ross seems to be suggesting that the replacement project is some sort of preemptive action on the part of Enbridge, when in fact everybody knows– everybody, that is, except Doug Ross– that the ONLY reason Enbridge is replacing Line 6B is because in 2010 the old pipeline ruptured, spilling more than a million gallons of diluted bitumen into Talmadge Creek. Prior to that spill (frankly, it makes us angry to have to rehearse this yet again), Enbridge disregarded known defects in the pipe. Why? That’s not entirely clear, but one reasonable theory is that it’s because they did NOT want to make the sort of capital investment they would have had to make to repair those defects.
But what about after the spill– the most expensive inland spill, we would remind Doug Ross, in U.S. history? Did Enbridge then “recognize the need for a new pipeline”? Well, no, they did not. In fact, just two weeks after the spill, Enbridge sought permission from PHMSA to restart the line. And PHMSA denied their request, finding Enbridge’s plans for a safe restart inadequate. Soon after this, Enbridge began a number of “integrity digs” to replace or repair sections of the pipe here and there along the route (including in our neighborhood). It wasn’t until later, in August of 2011, that Enbridge applied to the Michigan Public Service Commission to “replace” the pipeline. Why? Well, Enbridge likes to say it’s because replacing it would mean fewer maintenance activities on the old pipe and less disruption to landowners (which may or may not be true)– a claim that Ross is all too happy to parrot: ” Installing a new pipeline means less maintenance, so there would be fewer disruptions to property owners,” Ross writes.
But more importantly, the real reason Enbridge decided to replace the pipeline had very little to do with landowner disruptions or safety and everything to do with making money. Here’s what Enbridge says in their application to the MPSC:
Enbridge has conducted numerous discussions and meetings with its shippers regarding their current and future transportation requirements on Line 6B. These discussions have played an important role in Enbridge’s decision to replace the remainder of the Line 6B pipeline segments because shippers have expressed a present need for additional pipeline capacity. However, with Line 6B expected to operate at pressures below the previous maximum operating pressure, the available pipeline capacity on Line 6B would be reduced. By replacing the remaining segments of Line 6B with new pipeline, Enbridge will be able to achieve the original ultimate capacity and also provide the pipeline capacity necessary to meet its shippers’ current transportation requirements.
What’s interesting here, however, is what Enbridge does NOT say. Why was the existing “Line 6B expected to operate at pressures below the previous maximum operating pressure”? Enbridge’s way of putting this makes it seem like that is a fact beyond anyone’s control, as if operating pressures just sort of ebb and flow like the tides. But the truth of the matter is that Enbridge was under a corrective order from PHMSA to reduce operating pressure. And why were they under that corrective order? Because the pipeline had just ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of diluted bitumen into Talmadge Creek!
So no, Enbridge ought NOT to be “be commended for recognizing the need for a new pipeline.” They were forced by circumstances–circumstances created by their own neglect and operational failures, according to the NTSB– and by financial exigencies to replace the pipeline. Had Marshall never happened, you can bet that there would be no replacement project.
Let’s consider some of Ross’s other claims. Ross says that “What has brought so much public attention to this project is the need to expand the easement through people’s yards and fields.” This is only partially true. Certainly the expansion of the easement is a (totally valid) concern for many landowners, one to which Ross appears not to have given much thought. In some cases, that easement is astonishingly close to people’s homes; in other cases, it will disrupt portions of people’s property– trees, gardens, and other spaces– that mean a great deal to homeowners. Yet even considering that, the real problem isn’t that Enbridge needs (or wants) additional easement rights. The problem is the way they’ve gone about acquiring those rights in so many cases: strong-arming landowners, negotiating in poor faith, misleading and misinforming people. Stories of bad behavior and bad faith dealings abound along the Line 6B route; we’ve documented many of them here (and heard dozens more that we have not written about).
What’s more, the additional easement is just one of the many things that “has brought so much public attention to this project.” There’s also Enbridge’s use (or taking) of additional temporary workspace, their flouting of local ordinances and state laws, their general litigiousness, their refusal to meet and talk with local municipalities (until forced to do so), their unfair and disrespectful treatment of landowners and local officials, their violations of construction agreements— all the things that we and others have been documenting for months. Has Doug Ross bothered to look into any of this? Did he have even one conversation with anyone other than Tom Hodge and Enbridge spokespersons before writing his editorial?
Oh, but there’s more. Ross also repeats Enbridge’s claim that “building the new pipeline will create more than 1,000 temporary and permanent jobs, which,” Ross says, is “a big plus in itself.” Ross seems to think that these will be local jobs, even though Enbridge doesn’t even make that claim; instead, they just say, vaguely, that “Many workers will be drawn from the local workforce.” How many? It’s impossible to say. Enbridge can’t (or won’t) even say. They only speculate with the help of some mathematical magic. (Unscientifically, we can tell you that we’ve spoken to about 30 construction workers in our area and so far only 3 have been from Michigan.) At best, Enbridge’s claims of job creation and local economic benefits are unverifiable– and thus hardly a basis upon which to build a trenchant argument in support of the project– unless you’re as gullible as Doug Ross.
Two quick final points:
Cheerfully, Ross says that “This is a necessary project, and public input — which Enbridge has sought out and is receiving — is essential.” It is true that Enbridge has done a relatively good job seeking public input in Indiana with regard to Phase Two of the project. But it’s pretty clear to us up here in Phase One– where Enbridge did no such thing— that they’ve done so mainly because of all the push back and bad press they’ve received. In other words, the public input they’ve sought in Indiana is, in part, just damage control.
Lastly, Ross says that the Line 6B project “is not the Keystone XL pipeline, but a smaller project with major economic and environmental potential,” which once again just goes to show how little he really knows about this. As one of the commenters to his op-ed notes, Line 6B is part of one of the largest crude pipeline systems in the country and will be transporting the same tar sands oil that has been the source of such concern about Keystone.
So what to take away from all of this? The point of this post is not really to argue that Doug Ross is wrong. After all, his version of this matter is so simplistic as to make that a moot point. As we have said countless times, we ourselves do not “oppose” the replacement of Line 6B. Rather, the point of this post is that Doug Ross doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He does not appear to understand the history or the context of the project; he doesn’t show that he understands the range of concerns that reasonable people have about the project; and he seems not to have made the slightest attempt to verify or question in any way the claims made by Enbridge about the project. And yet, despite all of that, he still thinks he is in a position to make confident pronouncements about it.