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UPDATE: Council to hold public discussion on Line 9, Dec. 12 in Ottawa

The Council of Canadians is organizing a public discussion on Line 9 that will take place on December 12 in Ottawa. The Canadian Press reports today, “Enbridge Inc. is seeking regulatory approval to reverse the flow of a Quebec-to-Ontario oil pipeline and ship greater volumes of crude through it. The Calgary-based pipeline giant announced Thursday it has applied to the National Energy Board to reverse a stretch of its Line 9 pipeline that currently runs from Montreal to Westover (near Hamilton). It also wants to increase the line’s capacity from 240,000 barrels per day to 300,000 barrels per day. …During the summer, the NEB gave Enbridge the green light to reverse a segment of Line 9 between Sarnia and Westover, which is close to Imperial Oil’s Nanticoke refinery. The application announced Thursday covers the remaining stretch to Montreal, where Suncor (operates a 135,000 barrels-a-day) refinery.” 1. Would Line 9 carry tar sands bitumen? The Canadian Press article reports that Enbridge says that the market demand driving the Line 9 reversal is for ‘light crude oil’, which is generally sourced from regions other than the tar sands. But Enbridge also says that diluted bitumen (or dilbit) which does come from the tar sands could be shipped on Line 9. The Toronto Star and CBC have previously reported that the Hamilton-to-Montreal application would include permission to ship ‘heavy crude’ at a later date, but according to an Enbridge spokesperson that does not include tar sands crude. That appears to be at odds with a recent CBC report that notes, “Enbridge’s Line 9 would show eastern Canadians the benefits of Alberta oilsands development, argues Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.” 2. Is Line 9 an export pipeline? Enbridge is not framing Line 9 as part of a larger export pipeline plan. That said, given the opposition Alberta-to-Pacific Coast and Alberta-to-Texas pipeline proposals are encountering, west-to-east pipeline projects are being explored. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Laurie Smith, a partner at Bennett Jones LLP, said it is shorter to reach India’s west coast refining hub via Canada’s east coast than it is to ship oil off the west coast. It is also possible to ship oil from the Atlantic Coast to China (by moving tankers through the Straight of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia and then north through the South China Sea) and to refining facilities in Europe, notably in the Netherlands. Given the pipeline capacity needed to carry the rapidly-increasing output from the tar sands and the profits that would come from tar sands exports to meet market demands particularly in China and India, it is credible that Enbridge is looking at these scenarios. 3. Is there community and Indigenous opposition to Line 9? CBC has reported, “Line 9 passes through 99 towns and cities and 14 aboriginal communities in Ontario and Quebec.” Last May, the Hamilton Spectator reported, “Protesters have halted a (National Energy Board) hearing into a proposal to ship tar sands oil through Flamborough (near Hamilton). ‘This project cannot go forward without the free, prior and informed consent of the Haudenosaunee who would be directly impacted by a pipeline rupture’, said Metis activist Sakihitowin Awasis…” Environmental Defence has stated, “Several municipalities, including Hamilton, Toronto, Burlington and Mississauga situated along Line 9’s route have already taken the first step to protect the interests of their citizens, seeking answers on increased risks to water, health, and the natural environment from the proposal.” And surely prompting community concern, the Toronto Star recently reported, “A study conducted by conservation areas in the GTA warns that a pipeline break could have a ‘significant’ effect on drinking water. The study modeled the effect of breaks where pipelines cross streams and rivers that flow into Lake Ontario near drinking water intakes. The spills in the model would mean that contaminants would exceed drinking water standards at the water plant intakes, the study says.” 4. Where are federal parties on a west-to-east pipeline? In late-September, the Globe and Mail reported, “The federal NDP is now pledging its full support for a pipeline that would see Alberta oil pumped to Eastern Canada.” The Globe and Mail reports today, “NDP MP Peter Julian said his party supports a west-to-east pipeline in theory, but fears the government has gutted the environmental-review process.” In November, the Canadian Press has reported that the Liberal MP for Halifax West Geoff Regan (the party’s Industry critic) says that western crude from Alberta would be welcome in Atlantic Canada. And in August, Green Party leader Elizabeth May stated, “I am all in favour of getting Alberta oil to refineries in Eastern Canada, but the reversal of Line 9 must be approved only if and when the pipeline is refurbished to the highest industry standards. Bitumen crude and diluents are almost impossible to clean up. Canada’s energy security can be enhanced if, and only if, Enbridge accepts its responsibility to operate Line 9 to higher standards. The Green Party welcomes the plan to refine Canadian crude in Canada. However, any expansion of tar sands extraction is not acceptable.” 5. Where do Ontario and Quebec stand on Line 9? It’s unclear where the next premier of Ontario will stand on this issue (a leadership convention will take place in January 2013). This summer Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made headlines by stating that Alberta’s oil and gas sector has created a petro-dollar that has hurt the Ontario economy and cost jobs in his province. Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence has argued that Line 9 is ‘all risk and no reward’ for Ontario. In November, Quebec’s (now former) environment minister Daniel Breton, natural resources minister Martine Ouellet, and intergovernmental affairs minister Alexandre Cloutier stated serious concerns about pipelines that would pass through Quebec, and it appears that Quebec may conduct consultations or public hearings on the Line 9 reversal, as well as an environmental assessment. To learn more about Line 9, please join the public discussion being organized by the Council of Canadians which will take place Wednesday December 12 at 7 pm at the Centretown United Church (507 Bank Street) in Ottawa. Speakers will include Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians; Caleb Behn, a Dene activist from the Fort Nelson First Nation; Ben Powless, from the Six Nations and the Indigenous Environmental Network; and Ron Plain, of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation and the Southern First Nations Secretariat. The public forum will be moderated by Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui.