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Wednesday, May 7,2014

Enbridge, WKAR and Earth Day

by TODD HEYWOOD
Jeffrey Insko has a massive pipeline running through his backyard. He is reminded of this every time he looks out into his backyard and sees the scars left by Enbridge Energy’s pipeline replacement crews. And that reminder led to anger when he saw WKAR television and radio partnered with Enbridge for an Earth Day fundraiser to plant trees.

“I also find it unfortunate that WKAR couldn’t find a native Michigan sponsor for this program, turning instead to a company that continues to wreak havoc in the state almost four years after the Marshall spill,” he says.

Insko, who lives in Oakland County, runs the Line 6B Citizens Blog, which is dedicated to tracking the activities of Enbridge. The Marshall spill happened in July 2010, when over 1 million gallons of thick toxic metal-laced oil was released from the Lakehead Pipeline 6B. The company is still removing oil from the river, and has already spent over $1 billion to clean up the spill.

After the spill in Marshall, the pipeline company announced plans to replace the entire line from Griffin, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Replacement meant going across the state, clear cutting swaths of land, and digging down into the ground parallel to the current route of the line. The new line is expected to be brought online this month, and will double the capacity of oil running across southern Michigan.

But properties owners, like Insko, were left with denuded properties and botched land purchase agreements. Insko says he can’t determine how many trees Enbridge still needs to replace from the 6B replacement project. And Enbridge has no idea right now either, says Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for the company.

This despite Enbridge’s much touted 2009 Neutral Footprint Program. The program promises to replace every tree removed for Enbridge related construction programs. Internationally, the project claims the company has removed just under 600,000 trees, and planted just over 800,000 trees. At the very end of the project explanation, Enbridge notes tree planting will happen within five years of a tree’s removal.

Enter WKAR. The public broadcasting station decided to host a fundraiser and Earth day event this year for a second time. The goal was to get donations to WKAR, while assisting the Michigan Arbor Day Foundation’s plant a tree initiative. To promote the event, WKAR officials approached local businesses to become sponsors. Lake Trust Credit Union and Enbridge each bit at the offer, handing over $2,500 to sponsor the event. In exchange they were featured together in a television spot saying that Enbridge and Lake Trust would plant a tree for anyone who donated to the public broadcasting station. Well, actually, Arbor Day Foundation would plant the tree.

Bob Kolt, a spokesman for WKAR, says the stations are obligated to accept the sponsorships of any business that approaches it. Asked whether WKAR would accept the donation of a white nationalist organization such as the KKK or the neo- Nazis, he said no.

“They shared the vision of the project,” Kolt said of Enbridge and the reason WKAR accepted its sponsorship.

Tamara Hicks-Syron of Lansing has been a long-time donor to WKAR programming. But the Enbridge sponsorship program may change that for her.

“Unless there’s a good explanation or a huge apology admitting this wasn’t the right thing to do, then yes, I will be withdrawing my support,” she said.

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