Valves on two Enbridge pipelines in Southern Ontario were closed by unknown persons early yesterday morning, making this the fourth time in two months that pipeline flows were interrupted.
According to an article on the website of Briarpatch Magazine, Line 9 was shutdown for several hours and a valve on Line 7 was closed part way. The article quotes an Enbridge spokesperson “There are no impacts to client deliveries in either case.”
Line 9 is a forty year old oil pipeline that runs between Sarnia Ontario and Montreal. Enbridge recently received approval from the National Energy Board to increase the capacity of the pipeline by 20% and to pump diluted bitumen from the tar sands through it from west to east.
Today, the three activists that closed Line 9 on December 21, Vanessa Gray, Sarah Scanlon and Stone Stewart are making a court appearance in Sarnia where they face charges of trespassing, mischief over $5,000 and mischief endangering life (the maximum sentence for the latter charge is life in prison). A contingent from our London Chapter is attending court to show their solidarity.
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated on Dec 21, "The charge of 'mischief endangering life' brought against three activists for shutting down Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline is a blatant abuse of power by the authorities intended to intimidate communities that have fought against that pipeline for years. They have legitimate grievances and concerns about the process that allowed [this pipeline]. ...The extreme criminal charge against them is clearly an attempt to prevent other people from engaging in similar acts of non-violent civil disobedience. It is completely antithetical to a free and democratic society and the charge should be dropped immediately."
The Council of Canadians has grave concerns about the likelihood of Line 9 rupturing and the consequences of a diluted bitumen spill in the heart of the Great Lakes region. In July 2010, Enbridge’s Line 6 in Michigan ruptured, spilling millions of litres of diluted bitumen from the tar sands into the Kalamazoo River system. After five years and more than $1.5 billion dollars in cleanup costs, the river is still significantly polluted and Enbridge argues that further cleanup will do more harm than good- essentially admitting that tar sands oil cannot be effectively cleaned up in the case of a spill.
A pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector, Richard Kuprewicz, has stated that the probability of Line 9 rupturing is over 90% in the first five years of operation. This is due to the large number of fractures in the aging pipeline and the fact that Line 9 will carry various different kinds of crude- including diluted bitumen- which adds additional stresses to the pipeline.
The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation is making a Supreme Court challenge regarding the government's failure to consult First Nations along the pipeline route. The Chiefs of Ontario, representing 133 First Nations in Ontario, is supporting the Chippewas of the Thames in this legal battle.
The Briarpatch article concludes: “Although Line 9 is running below capacity in its first year of operation (as a safety precaution), manually closing a valve is not a no-risk maneuver. The build-up of pressure can cause problems including, in worst cases, a spill. However, engineers do tests to make sure pipelines can handle valve closures, as it is not an altogether uncommon occurrence. In the December 21 action, the activists called Enbridge in advance to give them notice the valve would be shut down.”
For further updates, you can check out the Facebook page The People versus Enbridge Line 9.