Enbridge Clashes With Homeowners Over Eminent Domain - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Enbridge Clashes With Homeowners Over Eminent Domain

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As unwanted Enbridge bulldozers cleared trees from several plots of land in Ingham County near Stockbridge on Friday, homeowners made it clear this was a case of eminent domain rearing its ugly head.

But as oil giant Enbridge Energy prepares to replace 75 of the 285 miles of its 6B pipeline that ruptured and spilled more than a million gallons of oil near Marshall in 2010, it's a force that many Ingham County homeowners have already, or will soon encounter.

According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, Enbridge was granted permission in May to replace part of the 6B pipeline between Ingham and Oakland counties to "ensure the long-term integrity of the pipeline system."

Replacing part of the pipeline requires Enbridge to gain access to private property, often to homeowners' chagrin.

Last month, a judge signed a condemnation order granting Enbridge a pipeline easement on 3.5 acres of Carol Brimhall's 38-acre property off of M-52 near Stockbridge. Brimhall currently has two pipelines running underneath her property, and the replacement pipeline would make a third. Enbridge officials say the current 6B oil pipeline would be shut off and filled with nitrogen, and that the 6B replacement would serve as an artery for Enbridge oil to be pumped between Griffith, Indiana and Ontario, Canada.

Brimhall says installing the new pipeline will destroy 85 feet of her hardwood forest, and possibly put her animals, remaining farmland and wetlands in danger.

"It's just going to be gone," said Brimhall. "And what am I supposed to so about it? Nothing. There is nothing left to do. They have it, and that's that. They took it from me."

Enbridge was ordered to pay Brimhall $11,872 for just compensation, but Brimhall says she has refused their payment. "It's not about the money," she said. "We just don't understand how this can happen." Brimhall said she and her husband have spent more than $50,000 of their own money moving trees off of the easement and building a fence for her farm animals in an effort to protect their property.

While residents directly affected by the pipeline replacement, officials for Enbridge insist they are doing the right thing. "It's already been approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission, and they found after reviewing it for a couple of months that the replacements of some pipeline segments would be in the public interest and need, and they approved the project accordingly," said Joe Martucci. Editor's note: Joe Martucci was an Enbridge spokesperson at the time of interview, but has since moved on to another role.

Another Enbridge spokesperson would not confirm how many residents in Livingston and Ingham counties have fought court battles with Enbridge over this issue, but Enbridge rep Lorraine Little said on Friday that the company has been in the area since 1969 and works hard to be good neighbors.

Barbara Atkin disagrees.
 
Atkin lives not too far from Brimhall on six acres of land. Enbridge pipelines also run through her property, and she says the company will have access to about one acre of her land. "What am I going to leave my daughter? As wonderful as [our] house is, who's going to want to buy a house that's got three pipelines on it with tar sands running through it? It's so highly corrosive and dangerous," Atkin said. "Who's gonna want that?"

Enbridge workers made their way onto her property on Thursday, marking the easement and clearing trees, some of which they didn't have permission to cut down. "We value our tree so much," she said. "It takes a long time to grow a tree."

Atkin said on Friday that Enbridge has been a nightmare to deal with. She said company agents will say anything to homeowners to get contracts signed, and make no promises about compensation if another spill were to happen. Atkin also said Enbridge would not say when work would be complete. "We wanted an end date," she said. "When you sign a contract with any kind of workman – the roof or a driveway, whatever – they tell you when they're going to be finished, and [Enbridge] would not do that.

On-site workers did apologize to Atkin on Friday for cutting down her tree. Little adds that Enbridge will continue to negotiate amicable agreements in good faith. She said the current pipeline project should be completed by the end of this year, and the remaining 210 miles of pipeline will be replaced starting in 2013.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with WLNS-TV. Reach out to her on Facebook, Twitter or email at emorrow@wlns.com.

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