August 20, 2014 - By Susan Bromley
Atlas Twp.- Jim Lusty was taken aback when a representative of ET Rover showed up on his Vantine Road property near Irish Road Saturday afternoon.
"It actually gave me heartburn," said Lusty. "I like my place the way it is, I don't want them cutting down trees."
The ET Rover rep, a man who identified himself as Matt Ross, a right of way agent, told Lusty that Rover is rethinking where they are going to put a proposed natural gas pipeline and asked for permission to survey Lusty's property.
"In this present situation, they are seeking to put a natural gas pipeline running from Groveland Township and through a private lake between Vassar and Horton Road in Groveland," said Lusty. "The drawing he showed me is just supposed to clip the southeast corner of my property and go right through my neighbor's 37 acres to the east. It comes from the southwest and from my property goes on a northeastern track. What he indicated is where the pipeline was supposed to go, it's not going to go."
That may be a relief to residents in Brandon Township and some of Groveland Township. It was just two months ago when several residents of both Brandon and Groveland, many of whom already have the Enbridge Line 6B pipelines on their properties, received letters from ET Rover advising them of the proposed natural gas pipeline project. At a July 24 meeting led by Jeff Axt, founder of Protecting Our Land and Rights (POLAR), more than 100 people in attendance signaled their opposition to the pipeline route. On Aug. 13, their cause gained momentum when both the Brandon Township Board and Groveland Township Board unanimously passed resolutions against the proposed pipeline route for various reasons, including decreased property values, environmental concerns, safety concerns over proximity to the existing Enbridge petroleum pipeline, and unfair burdens on the communities which already have two Enbridge pipelines.
Vicki Granado, a public relations spokeswoman for ET Rover, would not confirm that the pipeline route had changed. On Wednesday, under repeated questioning, she maintained that the route is "a work in progress" and there will be no final route until all surveys are in.
"If we determine environmentally there is a better route we will take that route," said Granado. "We want a safe, efficient route. That's why we continue (surveying) during the FERC pre-application process."
FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will ultimately decide whether to approve the pipeline as well as the proposed route. The current pre-application filing is scheduled to last through the end of the year, with a formal application by Rover in January. During the pre-application process, residents of affected communities are encouraged to submit comments and concerns to FERC (www.ferc.gov).
Granado said she is aware of the resolutions opposing the pipeline, but when asked if that was a factor in why surveyors have moved north to Atlas Township, or if Rover was reconsidering the safety of placing a natural gas pipeline next to an oil pipeline, she maintained that the route is "a work in progress" and while Rover does look to follow existing pipelines or right-of-ways, it is "not an absolute."
"Rover takes everything into consideration including resolutions and all information is deciphered," she said. "It's highly likely people we sent letters to originally are no longer on the route, but I can't tell you how many or which ones."
In Groveland, the surveyors may have just moved to the north end of the township.
Groveland Supervisor Bob DePalma said a resident on Horton Road contacted him this week that he had a form from a Rover survey crew and they want to go through his backyard with the pipeline.
"I can't get good answers from Rover, they've just done a deplorable job," said DePalma. "Now they've hired PR people that are going to come out. I've been in marketing for more than 30 years and this is the worst managed project I've ever seen... Facts have been extremely difficult to get from Rover."
DePalma spoke with an ET Rover field representative who told him the more northern route is the new route and "pretty well solidified."
"It appears they have abandoned the Enbridge route and are focusing on this new one," said DePalma.
Atlas Township Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones said a phone call she received from a resident was the first she knew about the pipeline potentially coming to Atlas.
"I have not been contacted by anyone other than a resident who had an inquiry," she said. "In general, I don't want to see the pipeline here. I would have concerns about the environment. I can only think about what happened in Marshall with the spill. Pipelines have impact, no matter what they carry."
When Granado was asked if it was common business practice for Rover to send out surveyors to property owners without any forewarning via written correspondence or phone calls, she would only say, "We ask for permission, we certainly wouldn't do anything without permission, we will follow all guidelines provided by FERC. We are trying to meet with all township supervisors... we are communicating with them and meeting as quickly and thoroughly as we can. I don't have a date as the route is changing, but we will do open houses as we identify those townships. Surveys have to be completed, it is part of the process."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville