June 27, 2013

Protester in Enbridge pipe for 10 hours

Pipeline protester taken to hospital: A man who crawled into an Enbridge pipeline to protest its construction was taken to the hospital after spending 10 hours inside.

An activist with the environmental group Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands protested the expansion of a Canadian energy company's pipeline by climbing inside Monday.

Chris Wahmoff spent his 35th birthday inside Enbridge Energy's Line 6B pipeline, south of Marshall, Michigan, while friends and supporters cheered him on outside. Wahmoff reportedly used a skateboard to roll into the pipe early Monday morning. He remained inside for approximately 10 hours.


“He was down there 10 hours,” Sheriff Matt Saxton said. “He advised us early in the morning he would come out about 5 p.m., and he came out almost at 5 p.m.”

“He was dirty but he appeared to be in good health,” Saxton said. “He was happy. It was bright in the sun but I think he is happy to be out.”

Saxton said Wahmhoff was put through decontamination at the work site because of chemicals in the interior coating of the pipe. He was taken from the scene in a Marshall Firefighters ambulance to Oaklawn Hospital for a check and then would be questioned by detectives before he was taken to the county jail.

Saxton said his office is working with the prosecutor and the FBI to determine possible charges.

The pipeline is being constructed by Enbridge Energy to replace a pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada into the United States. The original 6b Line was built in the 1960s, and is the same line that ruptured in July 2010 and spilled nearly 1 million gallons of toxic dirty tar sands oil into Talmage Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Members of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands said Wahmhoff entered the pipe to protest the break in 2010 and the possibility of future spills as the company increases capacity with the new 6B pipeline. The group vowed to continue to protest against the company and the pipeline construction.

Michigan homeowners in the path of Enbridge's extension of the 6B line are speaking out to the media of their shock and anger at the treatment they're receiving from the Oil Giant.


Across their backyard, the stakes mark the area where Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge plans to replace its 30-inch Line 6B oil pipeline with a new, 36-inch pipe. The expanded right-of-way and set-aside area for Enbridge equipment comes within inches of the back of the couple’s house on E Drive South.

The Gallaghers initially declined the pipeline company’s compensation offer of $6,425. For that price, the Gallaghers would sign off on Enbridge expanding its existing 60-foot easement on their 5-acre property by another 20 feet, plus an additional 60-foot-wide strip for use as a temporary work space for the weeks the work was under way. Take the deal or get paid the amount required under easement rights — $450 — the company said in an April 15 letter.

“They are asking in a nice way, but they will take it if you refuse,” David Gallagher said last month. “Sixty-four hundred dollars for six weeks of construction this close to our house is a joke. It doesn’t even cover the noise.”

The couple ultimately reached a settlement with Enbridge for a larger amount that they declined to disclose. “Our attorney told us we had no choice,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher said what concerns him most is what will be flowing under his land. In light of Line 6B bursting near Marshall in July 2010, causing the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history, he said he’s worried about having the large, high-pressure pipeline so close.

Gallagher issued a warning about the pipeline:

“There’s going to be a leak in this pipeline,” Gallagher said. “There’s no company that’s put in a pipeline that can say there will never be a leak. Past experience shows these pipes eventually leak.

“What’s going to happen with my house?” he said. “Resale? I guess you can forget about that. Nobody would want to buy this place with the biggest oil pipeline in the state running through it.”

An Oakland County, Michigan resident, Jeff Insko, writes a "Line 6B" blog for affected property owners to share information and experiences. Insko spoke to the Freep for the two-part feature story on Line 6B, and said that stories like the Gallagher's are similar among many of the 1,300 affected property owners along the Enbridge line in southern Michigan, which stretches from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

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