Monday, October 01, 2007


Do you have any idea what's going on underground where you live? Maybe you should.

Residents of a north side Indianapolis neighborhood are upset over the sudden loss of hundreds of trees. The trees were part of a large wooded area in a Community Nature Park. A couple of weeks ago Marathon Oil Company decided with almost no warning the trees had to go and away they went. Marathon cleared a 50-foot-wide swath more than 100 yards long, leaving several stumps and piles of wood chips. The company, according to WTHR, also removed trees from several nearby homes, planting new grass in their place.

Amy Hughes said she was lucky. She lost just one tree, but her neighbors on both sides lost dozens. The thick trees used to block her view of nearby Ditch Road.

"We're completely open to Ditch now," Hughes said. "Prior to the removal, we couldn't see the road at all from the house."

"They should have notified the homeowners' association - doing a cut and run is not a good situation for the community," said Mansfield.

WTHR further reports Marathon isn't done clearing. The pipeline continues through the North Willow Farms neighborhood. Park President Deb Ellman Watson (whose agency surprisingly had no say in the matter) said scores of trees there were also tagged for removal. While the pink ribbons mysteriously disappeared from the trees, the concerns have not.

"These trees are 40 years old. If I plant new ones I'll never see 40-year-old trees again," said Larry Seidman.

Seidman said he called the governor's office and other lawmakers to complain and seek help.

Good luck with that, dude.

Marathon says it is clearing the trees as a safety precaution for the underground pipeline running through the area.

Residents wonder why the trees which were there long before the pipeline have suddenly become a hazard and why they didn't have any say so about the whole mess.

Watson and others want compensation for the lost trees; they'd like to see new trees planted in other parts of the park.

Shouldn't be a problem. After all on their web site Marathon proudly proclaims, "Marathon supports various nature conservation programs that are important to host communities and their sustainability."

So how does that jive with what Marathon spokesperson Chris Fox said in regards to the neighborhoods plea for new trees. Fox said it's not the company's policy to replace trees.

This is just another story of when push comes to shove who really has rights - people or corporations?

You know the answer to that one. The big guys don't much care about what you orI think. Some big shot makes a decision in an office in some high rise somewhere and where you live doesn't look the same anymore.

Just ask some folks in South Dakota what they think about this. TransCanada is making some changes on these homeowners property.

TransCanada's plan to use eminent domain has infuriated these landowners and others who question whether a Canadian company should be able to condemn land in the U.S.

Sioux Falls lawyer Todd Epp says "I have talked to landowners in the Howard area, and I have had e-mail communication with others. They are pretty unhappy about all this."

Lillian Anderson, an outspoken foe, says "you think you have some rights. You hope you have some rights."

Well, Lillian, the truth is you don't.

South Dakota law appears to give TransCanada the right to exercise eminent domain in building the Keystone crude oil pipeline from its proposed entrance in the state at the North Dakota border to where it would exit across the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota.

Epp says of Keystone's ability to use eminent domain now, "The bottom line, if it holds itself out to be a pipeline ... I don't know of anything anybody can do about it."

And in Shelby County, Indiana residents are lamenting the looming loss of several old and stately trees, caught in the grinding buzz saw of what some call progress. The trees are located near a rustic and charming area on County Road 775 East between 500 and 600 North.

But not for long.

"The power company is going to destroy some of the oldest, most graceful and most beautiful trees in this neighborhood," said Jane Longstreet, who has lived in the area for almost 60 years. "Some of the cottonwoods, sycamores and poplars are more than a century old and at least 70 to 80 feet in height. They remind me of a cathedral. Some of them were old when I was young and growing up."

The Hoosier Energy electric power company of Bloomington, Indiana has decided the trees have got to go. They want some power lines to run through the area.

The Shelbyville News reports residents don't understand the route taken by the power company. They think the power lines could have taken a straighter path, cost less in right-of-way expenses and saved dozens of valuable, irreplaceable trees in the process.

"They could have gone directly east on 600 North and then turned south to bypass 775 East altogether," said Gary Nebel, who has lived in the area for 10 years. "Those wonderful trees were part of the reason we bought our house and made our home out here. They're just mowing them down, and it is a sad thing to watch. It just doesn't make any sense."

It doesn't have to Gary.

What the power company wants, the power company gets.

This stuff is not the end of the world or anything, but it is mighty galling to many Americans who grew up thinking they had some control over their "land."

It's odd that the conservatives who are always up in arms over property rights never seem to give a hoot at times like this. I mean, if he ever even heard about this, whose side do you think Mr. Bush would come down on - some local yokels or a big time oil or power company?

The following is from the Indianapolis Star.

Residents angered by cutting of trees
50-foot-wide path is cleared through Far-Northside area in pipeline's right of way
By Gretchen Becker

When Larry Seidman heard the saws buzzing in his North Willow Farms neighborhood recently, he thought someone was building a new home.
Stepping into his backyard to practice golf shots later that day, he realized his mistake.

The buzzing was coming from saws used by workers clearing a 50-foot-wide path for a Marathon Oil Co. pipeline right of way between North Willow Farms and the neighboring Misty Lake subdivision.

It's part of the company's seven-year effort to clear 5,500 miles of pipeline in 13 states, said Christiane Fox, a Marathon spokeswoman based in Findlay, Ohio.

"We are doing this for one reason and one reason only -- safety," Fox said.
Seidman disagrees.

"It's terrible," Seidman said. "These trees have been up here for 80 zillion years. We want to be green, and they want to take trees down."

The pipeline has been operational since 1950, and North Willow Farms was established in 1967.

"They can't give us any good reason why they have to be cleared all of a sudden," said Rick Tinkle, president of the North Willow Farms homeowners association.

Peter Daubenspeck, for whom a nature park at 8900 Ditch Road was named, agreed on Feb. 10, 1941, to have the pipeline right of way run through the property that was his at the time.

Residents considered the trees that were cut down part of the park.

The pipeline that runs through the Far-Northside neighborhoods is an 8-inch pipe called the Rio line, Fox said. It runs from Robinson, Ill., through Indiana to Lima, Ohio.

Refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel fuel are transported through the line, Fox said. Marathon does aerial flyovers to check on the pipeline and can't see problems if tree canopies like the one that was cleared are in the way.

"Tree roots also wrap around pipeline and cause corrosion," Fox said. "Corrosion and pipeline is a bad combination."

The Pike Township Fire Department has worked with Marathon on pre-emergency planning and clearing procedures, said Division Chief Martin Wilkey.

"The pipeline industry, and Marathon in particular, have a great track record," Wilkey said. "They do things to prevent emergencies, and tree clearing is one of those things."

Wilkey understands that homeowners don't always see it that way when trees are taken down.

"You have to put it in perspective of safety and why things are taken down," he said.
Clearing and other routine maintenance Marathon and other pipeline companies do make emergency situations a rare occurrence, Wilkey said.

"(In an emergency), if clearing wasn't done, we'd have to clear it first, leaving people exposed longer to leaks if an event does occur," he said.

City-County Councilwoman Angela Mansfield went out to look at the cleared woods last week with Deb Ellman Watson, a North Willow Farms resident and president of Daubenspeck Nature Park.

"I'm still not buying this," Mansfield said. "You may have the right of way, but there's no excuse for this."

Watson said she and her neighbors were never notified that a portion of woods owned by the homeowners association would be taken down.

"It was like a tornado went through and ripped down the trees," Watson said. "Neighbors from all directions were wandering around with their mouths open."

Watson also is upset because Marathon left large piles of mulch and downed trees in the woods near walking trails.

Watson also questioned why the right of way had to be cleared, yet Marathon left a fence standing between the woods and neighboring Misty Lake, as well as basketball goals and sheds.

Marathon, Fox said, allows fences to stand along a right of way if there are no posts within five feet of the middle of the pipe.

Watson and her neighbors also worry because dozens of trees in yards of North Willow Farms homes had been marked with pink ribbons to be cut down. The ribbons disappeared one night, and nobody is confessing to having done it. Marathon's crews are expected to return.

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