Earlier this month, Fiona McMurran from our Niagara chapter and I met with Ontario’s Environment Minister, Jim Bradley, about two proposed pipeline projects in the province- Energy East and Line 9- the forty-year-old Enbridge oil pipeline that was recently rubber stamped by the National Energy Board to carry diluted bitumen from Sarnia to Montreal and possibly beyond for export.
Council of Canadians chapters have been key opponents to Line 9 by taking part in two blockades of construction sites along the pipeline, by challenging the NEB’s outrageous limitations to public participation at the Federal Court of Appeals, by meeting with elected officials at the provincial and municipal level and by creating eye-catching protests across the province.
At the meeting with Minister Bradley and his staff, we outlined our main concerns with Line 9 and asked the Minister to intervene and prevent Enbridge from gambling with the drinking water of millions of people. The company has had several horrific pipeline ruptures including the largest in recent memory- a four million litre diluted bitumen spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River which has cost over $1 billion and counting over the last four years and may never be completely cleaned up. That pipeline was the same age as Line 9.
Points from our briefing to Minister Bradley:
-pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz testified to the NEB that Line 9 had more than a 90 percent chance of a rupturing within the first few years of operation as a diluted bitumen pipeline
-the NEB gave Enbridge everything they asked for including a 25% increase in the capacity of Line 9, showing once again that the NEB is a “captured regulator” with a history of letting the industry they have the sole power to police get away with extremely risky behaviour.
-Enbridge is still relying on unproven and unregulated technology to inspect their pipelines. Their inline-inspection tools and management assumptions failed to prevent both the massive Kalamazoo disaster and a lesser known spill a few weeks later in Romeoville, Illinois that was half the size but still stands as one of the largest ever in eastern North America.
-there is no need for the oil in Montreal where the refineries are running profitably on their current oil supply
-the proposed changes to Line 9 were originally part of a larger plan to export oil to Portland, Maine but Enbridge repackaged it as two smaller projects and stopped talking about export. There is nothing to stop the company from reverting to an export plan.
-the consequences of a catastrophic rupture of Line 9 are only surpassed in potential impact by a serious accident at one of Ontario’s nuclear power stations. No other industrial accident waiting to happen will damage our environment more than Line 9 is capable of doing.
Even if Enbridge were to respond twice as fast as they did in Kalamazoo, at the newly approved flow rate, a rupture could cause as much as 14 million litres of diluted bitumen (the most toxic and difficult to cleanup kind of oil) flow into the nearest waterway and then into either Lake Erie, Lake Ontario or the St Lawrence River. Enbridge has not proposed any emergency plan to deal with a spill that reaches the Great Lakes, imagining that they can contain the oil in the affected waterway. Diluted bitumen sinks in water and will flow under the company’s oil spill containment booms. They also assume that their emergency crews can get to the spill site in a timely manner-something only Enbridge has confidence in.
The NEB has already made an indefensible decision and abrogated its responsibility. We have asked Minister Bradley and the Wynne government to intervene and put a stop to the Line 9 project.
Blaming the feds won’t protect our water- that is now Ontario’s responsibility, like it or not.