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Access to Information request reveals Enbridge will delay required crude oil pipeline safety fix for three more years

The Council of Canadians has learned that Enbridge pipelines across Canada will not be retrofitted for another three years, despite missing key safety systems for decades. This neglect has the potential to increase the magnitude of any future spills. 

In response to an Access to Information request, the National Energy Board (NEB) has released a partially-redacted document titled “Alternative Power Source Corrective Action Plan Development.” The document details Enbridge’s attempts to come into compliance with the NEB’s Onshore Pipelines Regulations, which require back-up power sources capable of operating the emergency shut-down systems at pipeline pumping stations.

NEB inspectors discovered that the required back-up power supplies were missing in dozens of pumping stations during an inspection in October 2011, and ordered Enbridge to submit a corrective action plan. Eighteen months later, when Enbridge finally submitted its plan, the company requested that the NEB keep the details secret.

“Enbridge has learned nothing from past mistakes and continues to risk the health and safety of others in order to maximize profits,” said Mark Calzavara, Ontario Organizer for the Council of Canadians. “It is indefensible for Enbridge to delay the installation of safety equipment that should have been in place decades ago. They don’t even seem to grasp why the safety equipment is necessary.”  

From the Enbridge cover letter regarding its corrective action plan:

“It is only in the event of a power outage and an emergency situation occurring simultaneously that the alternate power source would be called upon to isolate the station. In that regard, Enbridge still has questions with respect to the need, from a practical perspective, for installing power generation of this nature.”

Enbridge is currently seeking permission from the NEB to reverse the direction of flow through Line 9 between Sarnia and Montreal. It has also asked to be allowed to ship diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the Alberta tar sands as well as to increase the maximum daily volume from 38 million litres per day to 47 million litres per day.

“Transporting tar sands crude poses increased risks,” said Andrea Harden, Energy Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Enbridge is failing to ensure the best safety measures are followed, which further undermines public trust in a corporation with an already tarred reputation.”

The reversal of Line 9 is opposed by many communities along the pipeline route that fear a catastrophic rupture similar to what happened on Enbridge’s Line 6a near Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010, which released 3.3 million litres of dilbit into the environment over a 14-hour period. It was the largest inland oil spill ever in North America.


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