Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

On the heels of recent news that Enbridge has long been in violation of safety requirements for its operation of Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac, our tireless friends over at the National Wildlife Federation have released the latest video in thei recent series of short documentaries about the Kalamazoo spill and its aftermath. They are teriffic. And they reveal how Enbridge’s cavalier (or brazen, if you prefer) attitude toward regulatory compliance is built into the fabric of their corporate culture. You can watch all three of the short films and read more over at the Wildlife Promise blog. But since the third of these just happens to feature this very blog– along with Larry Bell of the great Bell’s Brewery, who gives his version of a story I told in real time back in 2013— I’ve included it here.

More on the Marshall Spill “Settlement”

More on the Marshall Spill “Settlement”

As we reported last week, the Department of Justice and Enbridge have reached finally reached a settlement in the Marshall spill. For reasons we described in our post, we don’t think the settlement is at all satisfactory. And we’re not alone. In an excellent Smart Pig blog post, Rebecca Craven of the Pipeline Safety Trust also outlines some of the areas where the settlement appears to fall short. Our own view is that, in many ways, the settlement is quite advantageous to Enbridge.

However, there is one bit of good news in the settlement that we neglected to mention: it clearly prohibits Enbridge from ever re-using the original Line 6B. You might recall that this is something many of us in Michigan asked for repeatedly prior to construction of the new Line. But Enbridge always hedged. Now, that line will be decommissioned permanently, which is very good news indeed. Of course, even that injunction is less than ideal: it should have been part of the terms of approval of the new line and Enbridge should have been required to remove it, rather than leaving it in the ground.

Which brings us back to the consent decree. You see, as we mentioned in our last post, the proposed settlement contains a number of provisions relating to Enbridge’s Line 3 project in Minnesota, a project that might well induce in Michiganders a terrifying sense of déjà vu. Like Line 6B, Line 3 is old and deteriorating. The consent decree requires Enbridge to replace it and decommission the original Line 3. But this is in no way an onerous requirement for Enbridge and it certainly isn’t punishment. That’s because Enbridge already planned to “replace” the line. But as with Line 6B, they aren’t really “replacing” the line. Instead, they’re building a brand new one—an even bigger one—and they want to build it in a different location. Yes, you read that correctly: a larger diameter pipeline in a different location. To call that a replacement is an abuse of language. It’s also a very clever way of skirting the requirements of their presidential permit for that line—a replay of their Line 6B strategy.

But the Line 3 boondoggle is even worse than the Line 6B replacement. That’s because the consent decree does not require the permanent decommissioning of the original Line 3. Instead, it lays out a number of conditions that would allow Enbridge to continue to operate it. That’s deeply troubling. If that line is going to be decommissioned, we agree with our friends in Minnesota that it should be taken out of the ground, just as should have been done with Line 3 (in fact, you can support their efforts by signing this petition). But instead, the settlement leaves open the possibility of allowing Enbridge to operate both a new Line 3 in a new location and the old Line 3. As a result, Enbridge, cunningly, seems to have negotiated an agreement with the Department of Justice that essentially rewards them for the costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

But here’s the (potentially) good news: the settlement is not yet final. The public has 30 days to comment on it. We urge you to do so. In particular, we urge you to ask the DoJ to remove the Line 3 provisions altogether. After all, what do those things have to do with affairs in Michigan in the first place? You might also encourage DoJ to file criminal charges and to require Supplemental Environmental Projects that could benefit Michigan. Lastly, you might ask for some tougher requirements with regard to Line 5. Instead of giving them tacit permission to continue to operate those lines, Enbridge should have to generate a plan to shut down and remove those dangerous pipelines from beneath the Straits of Mackinac once and for all.

For more reasons you should oppose the Line 3 project and helpful links for commenting on the consent decree, visit this page from our friends at Honor the Earth.

Enbridge Ruins Lives, Gets Rewarded

Enbridge Ruins Lives, Gets Rewarded

We’re back from our period of dormancy to mark the sixth anniversary of the Marshall spill. (Yes, despite what Enbridge says, today is the anniversary!).

By now you have probably heard the news: last week the Department of Justice, at long last, has announced penalties against Enbridge for the devastating Marshall spill. Why it took six full years and why the penalties were a matter of negotiation, we will never understand. But setting that aside, we’ve got a few things to say about the substance of the so-called “settlement”:

First, you probably read that Enbridge has been “hit with a $177 million bill” or some such. Everybody seems to be seizing upon this $177 million figure, even those who have been most outspoken or dogged in documenting Enbridge’s misdeeds. But don’t believe it. Enbridge was not hit with a $177 million dollar bill. The DoJ levied a $61 million civil penalty— for violations of the Clean Water Act. They were also “hit” with another $1 million for another spill. And they are required to pay back another $5 million to the Oil Spill Liability Fund, which they drew from during the cleanup.

So why is everybody saying $177 million? Well, it’s because Enbridge and DoJ estimate that it’s going to cost Enbridge an additional $110 million to comply with a number of provisions in the settlement, many of them having to do with safety tests of their pipeline network and others having to do with repairs and other costs.

But it’s a real stretch to pretend that money is some sort of penalty. After all, most of what the DoJ is requiring of Enbridge— hydrotests to assess the conditions of their pipelines, for instance— is stuff you’d expect them to be doing anyway. It’s the normal cost of operating pipelines.

Even worse, probably the largest chunk of that $110 million has to do with the replacement of Line 3, an aging pipeline Enbridge operates which runs from Neche, North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin, which the consent decree requires. Trouble is, replacing that line is something Enbridge is already planning to do. So it’s a capital investment they are making anyway (or so they have hoped), regardless of what DoJ said.

Which brings us to our second point: as a provision in this settlement, the replacement of Line 3 is not a penalty. It’s a gift. In fact, it’s great news for Enbridge.

We told you a bit about Line 3 a long time ago. That proposed “replacement” project is an even greater boondoggle than the “replacement” of Line 6b was. That’s because Enbridge’s proposed route for the new Line 3 doesn’t even follow the same route as the original Line 3. It’s not a “replacement,” it’s new infrastructure. Enbridge wants to put that line in the same corridor as the proposed Sandpiper pipeline— a route that, as our friends at the Friends of the Headwaters know very well, is totally bonkers, as it threatens some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the state.

Even worse, the route for the newly proposed Line 3 is identical to the route of the Sandpiper pipeline, which, frankly put, is just plain crazy. Our friends at the Friends of the Headwaters have explained why repeatedly— and convincingly.

So here’s the problem with the DoJ provision: it may well be that Line 3, an aging pipeline, needs to be replaced (just as Line 6b did). But that fact does not mean that Enbridge ought to get to do whatever it wants, however it wants. But that’s going to be exactly what happens now. Enbridge will use that provision as a cudgel to beat any sort of questions or opposition to that project into submission. Any questions anybody asks Enbridge about the Line 3 replacement (such as its route) are going to be met with “we’re legally obligated to do this according to the Department of Justice, so just shut up.” Essentially, that provision gives Enbridge’s Line 3 plans federal blessing.

The third problem with the settlement is the failure of the DoJ to file any kind of criminal charges. Here it’s worth remembering some basic facts (all readily available in the NTSB report from 2011): Enbridge knew about defects in Line 6b for five years, but chose to do nothing about them. For years, Enbridge fostered a “culture of deviance” from its own safety protocols, which directly contributed to the Marshall disaster. As if that’s not bad enough, Enbridge’s control room operators knew there was a problem with Line 6b SEVENTEEN HOURS before shutting the pipeline down.

Letting Enbridge off the criminal hook is a slap in the face to the families whose lives were ruined by Enbridge’s documented negligence. Here we’ll just quote our friend Susan Connolly:

“Six years have passed with questions unanswered and concerns remain,” Susan Connolly, a local Michigan mother whose children suffered rashes as a result of the Kalamazoo spill, said in a statement. “The fines related to the Clean Water Act should not be in the form of a ‘settlement’ discussed and agreed to between the agencies and the at fault party. The maximum penalty should be ordered, criminal penalties assessed, and a Michigan Pipeline Trust created.”

Fourth, the feds missed an opportunity to make some lasting good out of this disaster. It is common in cases like this one, where businesses reach settlements with the feds for failures to comply with environmental laws, to create what are called Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP), which are designed to help protect the environment. In a state as reliant on its marvelous natural resources, it is frankly shocking that the settlement included no SEPs of any kind. This is a travesty.

Finally, the settlement includes a whole bunch of provisions related to Line 5. Mostly, these have to do with conducting tests to assess the condition of the lines and repairing any defects or problems with the pipelines’ supports or coverage. On the face of it, these seem like good measures (although, again, these are things Enbridge ought to be doing already). But as with Line 3, these provisions simply give Enbridge federal cover. In this case, cover to continue operating those lines indefinitely, when nearly everybody— even those whose judgement is generally suspect— now recognizes that those lines ought to be shut down and decommissioned permanently. But now Enbridge gets to pretend like the federal government has given its approval for them to continue to operate Line 5. And, unfortunately, they’re right about that. They’ll now tell everybody that these federal mandates preempt any and all state and local authority.

As we (and plenty of others) have said repeatedly, the Marshall spill was not just an accident. It was not an honest mistake. It was the result of systemic problems and preventable actions. Those problems and actions destroyed properties, uprooted families, affected individuals’ health in ways we still don’t even understand. The DoJ’s consent decree does not even come close to redressing those actions; it certainly won’t do anything to deter Enbridge from continuing to operate as it always has. Quite the contrary: given the modesty of the penalty and the friendly Line 3 and Line 5 provisions, the consent decree, six years in the making, rewards Enbridge’s behavior.

Breaking: DOJ Announcement Today

Breaking: DOJ Announcement Today

After six long years of negotiations—yes, we said negotiations!–the Department of Justice will announce fines against Enbridge for the Marshall spill. The news is almost certain to be infuriated. We’ll have more to say after the announcement and the Enbridge p.r. stunt that follows.

Here’s the Freep story announcing the pending announcement.

When Did the Marshall Spill Happen?

When Did the Marshall Spill Happen?

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. 


The Anniversary to Not Celebrate

The Anniversary to Not Celebrate

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.

“Life Amongst the Tar Sands” (Video)

“Life Amongst the Tar Sands” (Video)

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.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility

While you’re all probably on pins and needles waiting to learn what made the #1 spot on our 2013 Year in Review Top Ten List, we’re prolonging the suspense to weigh in on another topic. You see, Enbridge has done its own review (though they’re a year behind) and just released its 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. So that you don’t have to– and trust us, you don’t want to– we’ve taken a look through it.

Mostly, it’s a lot of foggy, unspecified claptrap and self-flattering puffery delivered in barely comprehensible corporate-marketing jargon, full of sentences like this: “Enbridge manages the impacts of our operations on communities through three areas of enterprise-wide activity that have complementary programs and practices.” That sort of thing goes on for 205 pages. Just how bad is it? Well, the word “impact” (or variants of it) occurs on 71 of those 205 pages, usually multiple times; on one page, for example, the word is used 12 times, which yields painful sentences like this: “These measures will be implemented within five years of the impact occurring.”

But if you can get past the atrocious corporatized prose, the most striking thing about the Report is the almost complete and total absence of any mention whatsoever of the Line 6B replacement project– an exceedingly bizarre omission considering the fact that it amounts to a nearly $3 billion capital investment for Enbridge. Of course, the Report does mention the Line 6B rupture in Marshall a handful of times, but beyond that, there isn’t a word about the fact that Enbridge spent most of 2012 constructing a brand new Line 6B through a significant stretch of Michigan. Obviously, this is a curious omission for a number of reasons. But let’s focus on just one:

Enbridge spends a lot of time in the report explaining how it conforms to the guidelines set forth by the Global Reporting Initiative, which is apparently a pretty big deal. We’re not quite sure why and a quick visit to the GRI website isn’t much help. Here’s how they describe their mission. We’ll award bonus points to anyone who can make heads or tails out of this:

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a leading organization in the sustainability field. GRI promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a way for organizations to become more sustainable and contribute to sustainable development.

Evidently, if you repeat the word “sustainable” enough times, magical things will happen; you may even be safely returned home to Kansas.

Anyway, according to Enbridge’s CSR Report, one of the “tests suggested by the GRI” to ensure completeness of information is that “The report does not omit relevant information that would influence or inform stakeholder assessments or decisions, or that would reflect significant economic, environmental and social impacts.” Again, the prose here is terribly and needlessly unclear, but the gist of it seems to be that if you leave out pertinent information in your report, people might not be able to trust what you are saying. Which is one of the reasons why it is so very strange that Enbridge would leave out information as relevant to their corporate conduct in 2012 as the major project they started in Michigan.

This omission is most disturbing when it comes to the section of the Report on “Community and Landowner Relations” (including a section titled– what else?– “Assessing Impacts”). There, Enbridge says that its philosophy “is to be as transparent as possible with our stakeholders. . . We accomplish this by undertaking timely, honest and open communication with them and with communities located near planned projects that may have an impact on them.” And how, exactly, does the report go about assessing the transparency, timeliness, honesty, and openness of its communications? Well, it doesn’t. It does provide a “Scorecard” that purports to provide “results” of these efforts. But there’s no score recorded on the scorecard; there’s no data and barely even one single example of how Enbridge has communicated honestly or openly with landowners.

Even worse is Enbridge’s discussion of the “public concerns” over three of its most high-profile projects: Northern Gateway, the Line 9 reversal, and the Marshall spill. That discussion is titled “Challenges and Our Responses” and it is Enbridge’s attempt to demonstrate how they deal with “contentious issues and projects.” Here is the entirety of what Enbridge has to say about the “contentious issues” associated with the Marshall spill and its aftermath (which presumably includes the replacement of Line 6B):

On June 24, 2013, an individual protesting oil pipelines and spills disrupted the rebuilding of Enbridge’s 6B pipeline south of Marshall, Michigan (close to where the pipeline ruptured in 2010), for several hours.

Yep, that’s it. According to Enbridge, the only “challenge” associated with the Marshall spill, the ongoing cleanup, and the replacement of the line is Chris Wahmoff’s now-infamous protest. Nothing about the challenges before the MPSC; nothing about the POLAR lawsuits; nothing about the dozens and dozens of condemnation cases and other legal disputes with landowners; nothing about the protracted battle with Brandon Township; nothing about the innumerable stories of land agent misbehavior, poor communication, line list violations, or general landowner dissatisfaction that we documented all throughout 2012 and 2013 (you’ll find discussions of all of that here in our archives). Enbridge simply pretends like none of this ever happened. Instead, once again refusing to take an honest look at its own conduct or its critics and still working from the Pat Daniel playbook, Enbridge would have readers of its Corporate Social Responsibility Report believe that concerns about its activities in Michigan can be boiled down to a single, isolated environmental radical climbing inside a pipe one day. Rest assured that they treat the reasonable, diverse concerns about their Canadian projects just as dismissively.

We keep thinking that this sort of delusional behavior is unsustainable, but nothing we say seems to have much impact.


(Maddening) news roundup

(Maddening) news roundup

Yesterday, the three year anniversary of the spill in Marshall brought with it, as we pointed out, some excellent reports by some of our favorite reporters and writers– Dave Hasemyer, Lindsey Smith, Jacob Wheeler, and Josh Mogerman, to name a few.

By contrast, today, the day after the anniversary, has brought us some reports that are to, a greater or lesser extent. just plain maddening.

Take, for instance, the anniversary story released today by UPI, the people, you might recall, who think Beth Wallace is a “global warming advocate.” Unlike the group we mentioned above, the UPI typist couldn’t be bothered to do anything at all except quote back the hollow phrases served up to them by Jason Manshum. In fact, that’s the story’s lead:

There’s always a chance of failure when dealing with mechanical equipment and oil pipelines, Canadian pipeline company Enbridge said.

A couple of paragraphs later, the story offers up the same disingenuous load of hay about “mechanical equipment” from Jason Manshum that we discussed yesterday. Which really just raises one question: wasn’t UPI once a reputable news service?

Less maddening from a journalistic standpoint, but still a little maddening, is this item from a local paper covering Macomb County in Michigan, through which phase two of the Line 6B replacement runs. The headline of the story, oddly, is “NTSB report harshly criticizes Enbridge for oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.” This confused us a little at first, considering the fact that that report was released one year ago this month. But once we got our bearings, we realized that the story is a very good thing. The good citizens of Macomb and St. Clair counties need to know about that report, even  if it’s a year old. So we commend The Voice and reporter Jim Bloch, who does a nice job of summarizing the report, for running the story. He even includes the really important stuff, like this:

The report condemned the “culture of deviance” that characterized Enbridge operators, pointing to “systemic flaws in operational decision-making.” The company’s operating culture was one “in which not adhering to approved procedures and protocols was normalized.”

Bloch also has a second story in The Voice, reporting on a meeting between some Enbridge reps and the Marysville, Michigan city council. It mainly consists of Enbridge saying, as they always do, “hey, none of this is any big deal; don’t you worry.” But at one point, Enbridge project manager Doug Reichley says this extraordinary thing:

“The original pipeline was built in the late ‘60s,” said Reichley. “We’ve had some repair issues and some maintenance issues, so we thought it best to replace the entire thing.”

That’s right. On the third anniversary of the most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history, Reichley says they’ve “had some repair issues.”

The last two maddening items from today are of the déjà vu sort. The Minnesota Star-Tribune has a truly infuriating story about Enbridge violating the terms of some environmental permits:

Enbridge Energy said Friday it will pay a $425,000 fine to settle federal allegations that it made illegal discharges into wetlands and rivers while testing two Minnesota pipelines, including one being upgraded to carry more crude oil.

The violations pertain to the discharge of water during testing of the lines in 2009 and 2010. Sound familiar? It should. Because that’s exactly what happened in Michigan a few weeks ago when Enbridge discharged some rust-colored water into Ore Creek, violating ELEVEN conditions of its MDEQ permit. We believe this constitutes a pattern. The fact is, as our friend Beth Wallace pointed out, that Enbridge treats these matters simply as the cost of doing business. To which we would add that our regulations are so weak and the fines issued for these violations are so small that there is no disincentive for companies like Enbridge to violate these permits. So as much as we want to point out that Enbridge is a very bad actor, we also hasten to add that the systems we have in place compound the problem: they are too weak to force companies like Enbridge to behave.

We also did a double-take when we read that “Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said the company didn’t admit to the violations, but decided to settle the case and avoid litigation.” It’s not just that we remember our own not-unpleasant encounter with Terri Larson at the PSTrust conference back in November (though we have a strong hunch that she was subsequently told to stop replying to our emails). It’s that this also seems to be a pattern with Enbridge. Long time readers might recall that when Enbridge finally reached a “consent agreement” with Brandon Township, they did not admit that they’d violated an ordinances or that they were required by law to seek consent. Enbridge is nothing if not recalcitrant.

Lastly, Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith, who’s doing great work, spent a long, late evening at the Comstock Township Planning Commission last night, as the commissioners considered whether to approve Enbridge’s dredging plan. Based on Lindsey’s fine report, it sounds like it was an interesting, if a little exhausting, meeting. But the déjà vu moment for us in the story was this:

Tracy presented the plans to the township’s planning commission after apologizing for not coming sooner. Enbridge set up a lot of equipment at the location near Morrow Lake in June, without getting township approval.

“There is a small slice of time here, that’s no excuse for not coming you to begin with,” Tracy said.

He also apologized to planning commissioners who said they were kicked off the proposed site when they attempted to see it.

This, too, is part of a pattern with Enbridge, something we have seen (and pointed out) on numerous occasions. Enbridge shoots first and aims later. They plow forward, doing whatever they want, and then later, pretending to be innocent and sincere, they issue apologies or offers to fix whatever problems they have caused. It’s a very convenient strategy– for Enbridge– and far too many regulatory and governing bodies have allowed them to get away with it for far too long. Here’s hoping Comstock Township does not do the same.

Lastly, here’s something really interesting for this anniversary. When the spill happened in Marshall 3 years ago, a lot of committed people took lots of different forms of action. This included a small local paper called the Michigan Messenger, which did a lot of vital reporting in real time and did a great job of trying to hold Enbridge’s feet to the fire. Through the magic of the internet, a great deal of that reporting lives on. So if you really want a look back upon that nightmarish summer, hop a ride on the internet wayback machine.


(Not so) Happy Anniversary!

(Not so) Happy Anniversary!

In case you haven’t heard, this week marks one full year of existence for the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog. This has put us in a reflective mood. And to celebrate, after thanking some of the marvelous friends we’ve made in the past year, we’ve planned to re-visit what we think (a little self-indulgently; we hope we’ll be forgiven!) some of our greatest hits– which is really just a way of pointing out what we think are some of the more revealing episodes in the life of the Line 6B replacement project. But we’re on vacation this week and, to be honest, golf has sort of taken precedent over reviewing. Which just means that we’ll be dragging this anniversary out a bit longer than we thought we would.

But today marks another, far more important anniversary, the anniversary of the event without which the Line 6B “replacement” and, hence, this blog never would have existed in the first place. Yes, it was three years ago today that the Line 6B pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan and began spilling what would eventually be more than a million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

This is an anniversary that is not worth celebrating.

But it is a good day to read through the NTSB report on the incident, just to remind ourselves of who is responsible for that disaster; it wasn’t a matter of mere mistakes. Nor was it a failure of technology. It was the inevitable result of Enbridge’s “culture of deviance.” It’s all right there in the report.

To commemorate this day, various news outlets are looking Back. Most notably, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dave Hasemyer of Inside Climate News (we’re so glad he’s back!) has an excellent, lengthy article this morning that everyone should (and will) be reading. We make a brief appearance, as do our friends Steve Hamilton, Deb Miller, and Dave Gallagher. But the money quote comes Robert LaForge, whose property next to Talmadge Creek was affected by the spill so badly that he had to sell it to Enbridge– for far less than a fair price, in his view.

LaForge’s message for Enbridge? “Go to hell.”

Over at Michigan Radio, there’s an informative interview with Lindsey Smith. As always, she’s knowledgeable and clear.

Up in Canada, Brenda Gouglas is also looking back on the past three years. Having observed Enbridge’s actions since the spill, she’s wary of their rhetoric meant to assure Canadians about the Northern Gateway Project. In her fine piece this morning in the Vancouver Observer, she asks, “Can Enbridge be trusted.” Guess what the evidence suggests.

One last item of note: the Comstock Township Planning Commission will consider Enbridge’s permit tonight. You can bet Larry Bell and plenty of others will be there to urge the commissioners to deny it. They’re expecting a full house. Wish we could attend!

(Not so) Happy Anniversary!