A couple of weeks ago, you may recall that Enbridge announced, rather triumphantly, that they’re done with Phase Two (the final phase) of the Line 6B replacement. At the time, we pointed out that while they may be finished with the only part of the project that really matters to them– getting oil flowing through the pipe– the project is far from finished as far as landowners are concerned. In fact, a great many landowners on Phase One are STILL waiting for restoration to be completed. And they’ve been waiting a very long time.
The fact is, if Enbridge cared even half as much about the lives and properties of landowners as they do about their profits, they would have treated landowner concerns from the start with the same sense of urgency with which they treated their pipeline installation. But restoration and “making landowners whole” has always been, at best, an afterthought.
This morning, we’re pleased to say that someone is finally paying attention to this sad fact. The always-excellent Rebecca Williams at Michigan Radio’s Environment Report has the story.
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.
While Enbridge has decided to suspend construction activity over on the east side of Michigan, they are evidently continuing work to the west. We’ve been hearing from some more frustrated landowners over the past couple of weeks. A good example of that frustration– combined with more uncertainty and poor communication– is the subject of this latest installment of our ongoing series of landowner stories, in their own words. Exactly what’s happening in this particular neighborhood isn’t altogether clear; it appears to be testing of some sort. Whatever the case, it’s making landowners’ lives miserable:
December 7, 2013
Today, most of my day has been blown dealing with problems related to the Enbridge construction that is currently going on in my next door neighbor’s yard. We live on Dailey Road north of Edwardsburg, along the Enbridge Line 6B pipeline construction zone. Phase 1 and phase 2 construction zones meet in our neighbor’s yard. For the last several weeks, crews have been working 24 hours a day to prepare the new phase 2 pipeline segment to be joined to the phase 1 pipeline; i.e., to make the new pipeline segment active. This has involved pumping air and/or water through the pipeline (and who knows what else is being used?). The pumping noise has been extremely loud, 24 hours a day. On top of this, there has been a steady stream of trucks running all day and all night, making a huge amount of noise. We wake up constantly to the beep-beep-beep of trucks backing up. As one of my neighbors said, the noise is relentless.
This morning, I found a message on my cell phone from (?Joey Brockman?—hard to understand his name) at Enbridge warning us that sometime tonight or tomorrow night they would be blowing air and water out of the pipeline 300 feet into the air, that it would make an extremely loud noise, and that the water was likely to turn to ice. He wanted me to know that it was just water, not a contaminant, but that it would be very loud and ice would likely form. I spoke with some of the workers and then managed to connect with the person who had called me. He said that it would be air, not water, and would be extremely loud. I told him that Enbridge spokesman Tom Hodge had stated on WNDU evening news that in areas where Enbridge is working all night, they have been paying to put people up in hotels and asked why no such offer had been made to us and whether they would put us up in a hotel in anticipation of what they say will be an extremely loud noise at night. The Enbridge person said that if we wanted to stay in a hotel or to be compensated, our lawyer would have to call the Enbridge lawyers sometime on Monday. When I noted that would be after the fact, he said there was nothing they could do. He was giving us a courtesy call to warn us of the impending loud noise and associated activity but that he had no way of offering us a hotel or compensation. We’d have to wait until Monday and have our lawyer call Enbridge. Given that today is Saturday, and this is imminent, Monday will be too late.
I spoke with the local sheriff’s county dispatcher to find out whether there were any noise ordinances that could force Enbridge to do this during the day rather than at night. She told me that the same thing had happened about a year ago and that they had received a large number of phone calls of complaint and worry. She said to expect that it would be extremely loud, like a jet liner taking off right next to our house. An officer was very polite in saying that there was nothing they could do about it, but suggested that if it wakes us up, we videotape it, and that we call them if we feel that we or our home are in danger at any time. He said that we could try to file a complaint but that there are no noise ordinances in our township and that the prosecutor’s office would not prosecute Enbridge, anyways.
After wasting a good part of the day on various phone calls, and talking with some neighbors, here are my thoughts.
First, this is another example of Enbridge’s dishonesty when dealing with the public. Enbridge spokesman Tom Hodge said on WNDU evening news last week that in areas where Enbridge is working overnight, they are putting local residents up in hotels. That is not happening here. As one of my neighbors put it, it’s a complete lie. Many of us have been woken up repeatedly at night and the noise has been relentless. Now, they are even warning us of an extremely loud noise and air (potentially with water/ice) spouting 300 feet upwards, sometime in the middle of the night. But when asked, they say there is no way to put us up in a hotel… have our lawyer call Enbridge’s lawyers to ask (but after the fact). This is another clear example of an Enbridge lie; their PR person is saying one thing on the nightly news but something completely different is being experienced by the people who actually live along the pipeline. Even when we are warned of an extremely loud noise and ask for a hotel, they say there is no way to do this.
Second, people who live along the pipeline have essentially no rights. Even if a problem occurs, our local sheriff’s office tells us that unfortunately there is nothing they can do because the prosecutor’s office is unlikely to act against Enbridge. I must say that our local sheriff’s officers seem to be very good, caring people.
Third, the people who are working along the pipeline are making huge amounts of money (one worker today told me he is making $150,000 a year) but the people who live here are seeing our home life and property values decimated but are receiving no compensation. Enbridge and its workers care only about making a lot of money. They are not ethical in their treatment of the people who live here and pay taxes.
Fourth, Enbridge just can’t get its story straight. First, they leave a message warning of water fountaining up 300 feet and forming ice. [Think about this… high pressure water and ice cascading on our neighbor’s property with the potential for ice to be pushed at high pressure towards our home.] But, when I question their contention that it is completely safe, they change their story to say that it will involve no water, only air. But, even a blast of air coming out of the pipeline may not be ‘safe.’ Pipelines have all sorts of coatings, some of which can contain hazardous chemicals that can get into either air or water at high pressure.
Fifth, what does this mean for our future? After they are done connecting up the pipelines, they will have to start cleaning out the old pipeline, which is full of contaminants from decades of operation. How long will that go on? How noisy will it be? I can only assume it will be happening here, as they haven’t told us anything one way or another. How are they going to protect local families from potential air- or water-borne contaminants coming out of the old pipeline as they clean it? Obviously, they will say it is safe, but how can we believe them? As a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, I have learned about the long history of companies telling people that things are safe when they are not. They have given us no information.
Sixth, I have informed WNDU repeatedly that what Tom Hodge said on their news broadcast was not correct. I even sent them a video with sound of the horrendous noise and commotion at night. But, they have not done a follow up story questioning the PR that was broadcast on evening news. Why aren’t local journalists questioning Enbridge’s PR machine? Will they respond to my news tip about what is supposed to go on here sometime over the next two nights? Will that response be something more than an Enbridge PR person telling lies?
Seventh, is Enbridge doing this at night because they don’t want people to see it? I’ve asked for them to tell me exactly when it will be happening, but they said it was too fluid to predict the timing. On the other hand, they say it will be at night… which can only be because they don’t want it to be during the light of day when people would see it and be able to videotape it easily. I could buy them saying that it will be sometime over the next 48 hours—but they are not sure exactly when. But to say it will be AT NIGHT means that they are purposely doing it in the dark to keep people from seeing and taping what they are doing. That is scary.
Eighth, the workers on our neighbor’s property are working in an extremely noisy environment. Yet, they often are not wearing ear protection. I’ve noticed when I’m out in my yard that I can often see them walking around without any ear protection. When I was there this morning, one of the workers showed me his ear protective gear in a brand-new, un-opened package. So, who is supervising to make sure that all of the proper safety regulations are enforced? I have earaches/ringing in my ears today after only being next to the site for 5 minutes. But, they are there for hours on end and not always wearing ear protective gear. What other safety regulations are they not following? I plan to call OSHA on Monday to make a complaint. BTW, there were no ‘no trespassing’ signs or other warnings anywhere near the site, and I was not asked to leave. I left on my own accord because of fear of damage to my ears. What if I had been a child?
Finally, what kind of Christmas are we going to have? Will the incessant noise and worry (of potential contamination—and who knows what else could happen at a major construction site?) go on all through Christmas as it did through Thanksgiving? Will they offer a hotel or (better yet) compensation? After all, who wants to spend Christmas in a hotel rather than at home? Can we ever believe anything Enbridge says?
This is only one tiny part of a long saga of our problems with Enbridge. This is a company that is making billions of dollars and that is running a dangerous pipeline. It should be treating local citizens honestly and with integrity. It should be following safety guidelines strictly. It should be doing everything it can to protect the local homeowners and the environment. It’s good that Enbridge actually called to warn us in advance; but a warning is not enough to provide homeowners the ‘peace of mind’ that Enbridge keeps talking about. And, I suspect the warning was not for our sakes but for theirs… it could be embarrassing to have a bunch of panicky homeowner phone calls to the police in the middle of the night (which apparently happened before).
December 10, 2013
This morning, we were woken up very early to an extremely loud, piercing noise throughout our house. Once it was bright enough, I walked out and took photos of the site, where Enbridge is discharging vapor into the atmosphere. The smell was quite strong and organic, which caused me to start having an asthma attack. I took a number of short videos and some photos, although it is hard to get clear shots because the work is happening on the other side of large mounds that Enbridge has created.
I called the sheriff’s office and told them about the extremely loud noise and organic smell and the fact that Enbridge may be violating Michigan ordinance 750.352 Molesting and disturbing persons in pursuit of occupation, vocation or avocation given that I am trying to work at home today. I told them that the air pollution was causing an asthma attack. They said they could not do anything about it. I had to cancel a phone conference because of Enbridge’s activities, so it in indeed affecting my work.
I also called the PHMSA hotline and voiced my concerns that Enbridge is venting something from their pipeline activities that is causing not just a huge amount of noise but also a very bad smell in the air. They said they would inform the EPA.
Enbridge has been making a huge amount of noise all day and all night for weeks as they work to link up Line 6B Phase 1 and Phase 2 on our neighbor’s property. Despite the fact that Tom Hodge stated on WNDU nightly news that they are putting people up in hotels in areas where they are working all night, no such offer was made and when we asked an agent who called this weekend, he told us they could not do anything. This is causing massive disturbance for our family. Our son keeps getting woken up at night which is a serious problem when he has school (or SAT tests!) the next morning. We are also woken up repeatedly, and when we try to work from home we are often disturbed. This morning, it is completely impossible to get any work done because of the loud noise and air pollution, and my phone conference had to be postponed. I am about to head out because of this.
I would like to go outside and hold up a sign along the road protesting Enbridge’s unethical treatment of homeowners but the air pollution and noise are too overwhelming. Enbridge has created enormous problems for our family for months. When will this stop? When will they begin to act in an honest, ethical manner? When will they put enough money into engineering (noise reduction, pollution reduction, etc.) that they won’t cause such problems for local families?
Patricia Maurice, Cass County, MI
Just a very quick update: despite our plea from yesterday: as of today, no one from Enbridge has contacted us to get the name and number of the landowner we mentioned yesterday who has standing water and ruts on his property and would just like to get some simple information about the status of restoration– even though we can tell you with absolute certainty that someone (and probably more than one person) from Enbridge read that post.
So once again, Enbridge missed an easy opportunity to do something right, something decent, something that would have cost them nothing more than an email and a phone call. Evidently, they just don’t care.
One of the things we’ve said here many times is that Enbridge is largely in charge of what we write here at the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog. That is, if they didn’t just keep doing the same things over and over and over, we wouldn’t continue to have material to write about. After all, it’s not as if we’re just making things up.
Today is a case in point. We were perfectly content to have an Enbridge-free day, to give them (and ourselves) a little respite from all of these tales of landowner dissatisfication (and make no mistake about it, folks at Enbridge our among our most loyal readers!). But our fellow landowners keep sending us unhappy emails, looking for help, looking for information that they’re not getting, though they should be, from Enbridge. What are we to do?
So here’s what we learned today: just like us, many landowners on phase one have no idea what’s currently going on. Enbridge sent their contractors out to do restoration, did a half-assed job about it (forgive our language), and then disappeared, leaving all sorts of problems behind and no one for individual property owners to talk to about those problems. We’re experiencing this ourselves. Our last right of way agent retired and the person we contacted in his stead to help address some restoration matters we’re experiencing seems to have gone awol. He promised a call “in a couple of days” almost two weeks ago. Why? We have no idea.
And so it is with a distressed landowner who wrote to us today from over in Howell. Enbridge has left huge ruts and a gigantic bowl of water (and it’s not like it’s been raining lately!) on his property, among other things. And he has nowhere to turn. No one to call (no one, at least, who will return his calls). He is feeling “frustrated” and “ignored” (his words). He just wants some basic information, some simple communication. But from Enbridge: nothing. And this is what he’s left with:
We received another email today from a landowner on phase two. She’s also feeling frustrated, but also lied to and misled. She has a situation in which Enbridge told her, repeatedly, for months that they would be boring beneath the road that leads into her cul-de-sac, rather than cutting a ditch across it. Then, right before construction began this week, they informed her that they’d have to cut in after all. But they also assured her they would do so in such a way that would still allow access into the cul-de-sac so that she could, you know, get to her house. So what happened next? Well, they went ahead and cut across the entire road. Just look; it’s all blocked off:
So here’s the thing: Enbridge can posture and tell pleasing tales and pretend like they care and give assurances until they’re blue in the face. But the facts on the ground could not be more clear: Enbridge leaves landowners in the dark, tells them misleading stories, ignores their phone calls, and creates more and more bad feelings, leaves more and more landowners frustrated and helpless. These aren’t the grumblings of revolutionary environmentalists or people who just like to bitch and whine (one of the landowners who wrote to us today said he hasn’t said anything up to now because he doesn’t like to complain; we believe him!); they’re not even windbag bloggers. They’re just regular people who don’t want to stir up trouble, but just want to get on with their lives.
It’s become quite clear to us that people at Enbridge like Doug Aller and Mike Harris, the people whose specific job it is to make sure that landowners are dealt with respectfully, are unwilling to do anything at all to fix these persistent problems; they won’t even return emails or phone calls. So what is it going to take to get someone higher up the payscale, someone like, say, Mark Sitek or Stephen Wuori or Al Monaco to take these matters seriously? To show some real leadership and make sure that the people down the line take care of business in a way that is commensurate with the corporate rhetoric? Do they just lack the integrity and honesty to face this situation for what it is, to live up to their own stated corporate values? Do they lack the simple human decency that would otherwise compel them to not accept that the landowners in Michigan feel helpless, frustrated, and abused?
So, Enbridge readers, this one is for you: if there is ANYONE at your company who cares even the tiniest bit about the frustrated man with the ruts and standing water on his property who is frustrated and just wants to know what in heaven’s name is going on with restoration, please contact us here and we will give you his name and number (without a word of acrimony or criticism or any carping whatsoever about ourselves and our own situation; we promise) so that he can just obtain some basic information and maybe get a decent night’s sleep.
Since it’s been a little while since we’ve posted any, you may have thought we were done with our series on landowner stories (don’t forget about our previous installments!). But we’ve got more! Discerning readers have probably already seen plenty of patterns, plenty of similarities among these landowners’ experiences. Those patterns suggest that we’re not just talking about a handful of mistakes here. Rather, we’re talking about some persistent, widespread, and systemic problems. Does Enbridge have the integrity to own up to them? To take responsibility? To change its ways?
Meet three more unhappy landowners:
Although the pipeline is not directly on my property, Enbridge dug a huge pit across the only road that accesses my home. I was given less than 24 hours notice, no compensation whatsoever and told that they have no land agent that I can go to because their easement is not directly on my property. They routinely trespass across my property and have damaged trees and tore up the road on my property, outside of their easement on the neighbor’s property. They agreed to repair the entire road but never did and I have a large crack across the front of my car from the pits that were left ‘after’ they finished restoring the section the dug up. During the week that I had no access to my home they paid for all neighbors in the same situation to stay at hotels in addition to direct financial compensation. I was never offered this and simply told that I had no land agent to speak to because the pipeline was not directly on my property.
Enbridge has interfered with access to my home for the better part of 2 years during this project and some of their employees on site have been rude and offensive liars. (They even refused to let a propane delivery truck access my home during the winter and then blatantly lied about it. )
I don’t think people outside of the work area’s understand that Enbridge has ‘people’ out here all of the time. We don’t know who these people are and what their backgrounds are. They are nothing like a public utility which has some form of accountability.
Wendy K. Turner, Howell
In regards to the Enbridge pipeline my comments are as follows:
Enbridge told me through their representative and [attorney] Kim [Savage] last year that they would be ready beginning December last year.
They seeded the grass in July this year and of course we cannot use the pasture this year and the next year because their contract with the company who seeded the grass is good for 2 additional years. The ground can sink; therefore no fence can be placed for the horses.
Enbridge worked through the weekends and the State Police I called mentioned that there is nothing they could do.
Enbridge told Consumers Energy to cut some trees because they wanted to relocate the current power line. Enbridge didn’t even talk to my wife or myself to extend the easement in that case. By accident my wife caught Consumers Energy. The trees are still there and not cleaned up, neither did we receive a re-imbursement for them.
What about property value coming down? If there is a leak and contamination nobody will buy the property. The type of material which is going through the pipes under the high pressure increases the threat of damaging the pipes in comparison with “normal” oil. Enbridge still has not finished the spill cleanup on the Michigan west side of the state.
The experience with Enbridge we had was that they are doing what they want and obviously Michigan Government is supporting this with pride.
Georg Galda, Fenton
In our minds we have no restoration. The grade was terrible, lumpy and bumpy. And not all the land was graded. Some (scant) seed was scattered. And some straw was put down. Again, not everywhere. We have weeds growing now. We have sent emails and gotten no response.
Barbara Atkin, White Oak Twp.