the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This Land Is Your Land (and the oil companies')

A story, because I love this land.

Four houses up the road from me, someone buried something 60 years ago.  The someone was Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian based oil company.  The something was an oil pipeline.  I never knew it was there. 

Should I have known?  No one was obligated to tell me.  My neighbor who owns the property it's on knew about it, but didn't give it much thought.  Maybe we all should have.

Enbridge has the world's longest crude oil and liquid pipeline system.  (That's from Wikipedia.  But if you want an idea of how extensive the oil transportation system is, check out this map .)  They've had a lot of leaks and spills.  Like, over 800 in a recent 10 year period.  A big one in Michigan in 2010 dumped close to a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.   They should have safeguards for that, right?  They do.  Operators overrode them when they signaled a problem.  Twice.  Hmmm.

So Enbridge wants to update these pipelines.  Good idea!  That inclues the one that runs just a few thousand feet from my house.  Right over my water supply.  Sounds responsible.  They'll just "seal" off the old line and put in a new one.  But, hey, times have changed and they want to ship MORE oil around the country right beneath our feet, so let's make it twice as big as the old one.  We'll just rip out whatever's in the way, because it's called "eminent domain."  Remember that from civics class?  You thought it was just for the state or the federal government, so they could build highways and such for the common good.  Nope.  They grant that right to Big Business too.  Your land is yours - except for the part that's theirs. 

It starts like this, looking all festive with their colorful pennants.
Then they bring in the heavy equipment, like this:
And this:
Enbridge can't park on the right-of-way they're ripping up, so they park beside it.  No one will miss this big tree, right?  It turns out it's legal for them to rip out stuff that's near their easement and that they say is in their way.
Hey, in another sixty years you'll never know the difference.

So yeah, I'm a little pissed off at the wholesale destruction.  Especially since I don't know what will happen when they need to bury their pipeline here - under the wetlands - where they aren't allowed to rip stuff out willy-nilly.

I talked to one of the workers about it, a woman directing traffic around all the huge trucks parked along the narrow dirt road.  And I learned more than the basic facts about what her employer is doing.  It's not Enbridge, by the way, it's the company that clears the land for them.  She's a single mom who was out of work for a year during Michigan's painful recession.  She was glad to get this job so she wouldn't have to lose her house.  Like so many people, she's willing to do whatever it takes to have a job, which for her means driving 90 minutes from her home in Battle Creek to Howell, where she then gets in a company truck and drives another hour to the work site here.  After a 10 hour day, she drives an hour back to Howell, then 90 minutes back to Battle Creek.  It's a long, tiring 15-hour day, but she's glad to have the work.  And she gets Sundays off. 
Ironically, guess what's right in her back yard in Battle Creek?  The site of Enbridge's 2010 oil spill that closed down 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River.  And now it turns out that Enbridge is providing the job that has saved her from losing her house. 
Nothing is ever black and white, is it?  But I'm still sick over the carnage that was wrecked through our peaceful rural landscape today.


  1. That is just in no way right or fair, that big business and the government can do that. Man, that just sucks! I'd be corbra spitting mad too!

  2. Laurie, Google oil and gas pipelines in Ohio. You might be closer to one than you think.

  3. they are burrowing UNDER the wetlands, as if this is somehow more protective of the environment. I trust them not a hoot!