Richard Schustarich: Abandonment, Property Value, and Basic Rules of Respect
"When you’re done with something, you’ve made a lot of money on it, clean it up! It’s disrespectful to the people whose land you’re going across, it just is. ...And the money that they paid to put that pipe in there is nothing compared to how it's going to affect my property value."
Richard Schustarich lives near Blackberry, Minnesota, in a bright, cozy trailer (he refurbished it himself) at the end of a long driveway, with a tree lined swamp between him and the road. "It’s quiet," he says, "As you see I put the house as far back as I could. My property line is just a little ways over there, a hundred feet, because I like my privacy. And the dog likes it too, you can be sure of that. "
Richard has gas lines on side of his property, and the Enbridge mainline corridor on the other side running through the swamp. Originally he was receptive to hosting the pipelines. He put up with his driveway being torn apart for the Alberta Clipper project amiably, simply requesting the company at least put in a little effort to make a temporary crossing during construction, so he wouldn't cause more permanent damage every day on his way to and from work. Then he realized Enbridge wasn't that concerned about really burying the pipes - one pipe sits nearly entirely exposed across a large swath of his property - and now they're going to leave it there? "I don't mind living between two of them, but put the darn things underground if you’re going to put them! And when you’re done with them pull them out of there!"
For Richard there are many reasons why the issue of abandonment needs to be addressed now, with Line 3. In the first, it's just disrespectful on a basic level, he says. "Be a little more honorable about it. Don’t give somebody a few bucks and then figure, well, they owe me so I’ll leave it there when I’m done with it. It’s like leaving their junk car on your property. Not right." And creating a precedent for this kind of behavior, says Richard, will follow us: "Well what do you think is going to happen here when, down the road, they’re not going to care about the pipeline. Say 20 years from now... then what? They’re going to leave all of them in the ground?"
The consequences for Richard are real. He points out that his property value will be forever tainted, especially because of the exposed pipe running across it. For him this isn't just about himself, it's about legacy: this land will be passed through his family, and now Enbridge will have taken a chunk out of its worth just by leaving behind their trash. In addition, he's worried about the environmental risk of leaving a pipe in the ground. "I can tell you that I clean something all up and its pristine, and maybe I did and maybe I didn’t," he says wryly, and points out that an empty, decaying pipe in the ground would be a dangerous conduit capable of sucking water from the landscape and dumping it out elsewhere.
Richard has worked in construction for years, and this gives him some perspective on Enbridge's actions and their messaging. To him it's clear that abandoning the pipe is Enbridge cutting a corner that won't benefit anyone in the long run. "As anybody knows, construction does not decrease in price.. today if you take the pipeline out of there it’s going to cost you one price. Ten years from now if you take the pipeline out of there its going to cost you a heck of a lot more."