Enbridge’s Right of Ways… Enter the Pig

“This is land that has been in my family for decades. It is prime Red River valley agriculture land. It was handed down to me by my mother and father when they passed away, and I’m intending to hand it down to my children when I pass away ….  My wife and I have …told our children that we   will pass this on.  Of course if 225,000 barrels of oil bursts through this thing, that certainly is the end of this family legacy. “


James Botsford, North Dakota landowner


The Enbridge  Pipelines ( ND) LLC asked James Botsford if they could survey his land..  “I told Enbridge …I am not going to give you permission“, Botsford said. “ You are going to have to take it.  “ So, Enbridge filed a restraining order against Botsford, “denying me the private use of my own land.”

Enbridge told Botsford that the company’s rights trumped his rights.  And in the legal motions argued  “ Unless defendant is restrained and enjoined from preventing or interfering with access to the property… Enbridge will be irreparably harmed..”  Really now. Enbridge seems pretty comfortable with that position, particularly since the Canadian corporation became a North Dakota  corporation which qualifies, apparently as a utility . This allows the Canadian corporation to have eminent domain rights within the state. That  metamorphosis occurred in 2001, and  has served Enbridge well.

  So this is part of what I’m wondering.  How did the rights of a Canadian corporation so easily “ trump” the rights of a private landowner.   And that’s just for surveying.  And how did that corporation get to be a North Dakota utility? It seems to be a bit of a stretch of my imagination.

Enbridge’s Sandpiper line, is intended to move fracked oil from western North Dakota to the refinery in Superior. To do that, they’re going to need a “ certificate of need”, based on some absolute need for this pipeline, at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and at least 2900  rights of way.   They may have a few challenges, and maybe we should ask a few questions. 

Spills  and Enter the Pig

 “… Farmer Steven Jensen said the smell of sweet light crude oil wafted on his (rural Tioga)  farm for four days before he discovered the leak, leading to questions about why the spill wasn’t detected sooner…”

- Reuters News Service on the  865,000 gallon spill October ,2013.

That’s what’s supposed to go through this pipeline- it’s full of unknown compounds, highly volatile ( Lac  Megantic) and monitoring it is on the honor system.  Enbridge’s pipelines are largely monitored by the company. That is, if you don’t count the  scant l35 federal  PHMSA inspectors who are responsible for 2.5 million miles of pipeline.  They were, incidentally, on furlough when the Tioga spill happened, but it didn’t matter, because remediation was Tesoro’s job.  Now I don’t want to be a worry wart, but here’s where we are:  There’s a piece of equipment called a “ pig” which goes through the lines to check for structural problems. 

Sort of like a pipeline colonoscopy.  This pig hasn’t worked out too well, though it seems.  “According to Enbridge’s company data, between 1999 and 2010, across all of the company’s operations there were 804 oil spills that released 161,475 barrels (approximately 6.8 million gallons) of hydrocarbons into the environment.  This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988. The single largest pipeline oil spill in US history was the Kalamazoo spill, which was an Enbridge line.  According to testimony by Michigan lawmakers, “  Federal regulators are investigating the 2010 rupture of Line 6B, part of the Enbridge-operated Lakehead pipeline system. The National Transportation Safety Board found Enbridge knew of a defect on the pipeline five years before it burst open and spilled around 20,000 barrels of oil into southern Michigan waters.” So maybe the pig was mute . I don’t know. 

 “This line – the Sandpiper line – the plan is that it will be operated from the control center in Estevan, Saskatchewan, northwest of Minot, across the Canadian border,”  Greg Sheline of Enbridge explained to me, at a Park Rapids informational hearing.  That seems a bit worrisome too.

Enbridge does not always get what it wants. In June of 2013,the British Columbia government denied Enbridge permits for the Gateway pipeline, citing environmental, safety, and economic concerns about the corporation.. I don’t know if Enbridge is contending this has caused

 “irreparable harm”. We will see.

“Our lakes and wild rice beds will be here forever, but if there’s an oil spill, they will be destroyed, and Enbridge will not be here. They are a 50 year old Canadian corporation and we are a people who have lived here for l0,000 years,” said White Earth Tribal member,  Michael Dahl. 

So, that’s what I’m wondering. Why should I trust a fifty year-old Canadian corporation with my water? James Botsford is wondering the same, so are, it turns out a growing number of landowners.  

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