Enbridge Line 9 Bitumen Pipeline Approved With Weak Conditions

The National Energy Board approved Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline project Thursday.

"[This] decision shows the system is broken. Line 9 puts millions of people and every waterway in Ontario leading into Lake Ontario at risk,” said Sabrina Bowman, a climate campaigner with Environmental Defence Canada.

Enbridge’s proposal to reverse Line 9 to flow from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec, increase its capacity by 20% and ship oilsands bitumen through the pipeline was approved by the Board (NEB) yesterday, but with thirty conditions. Bowman said the conditions do not protect people living along Line 9 from a spill. Line 9 is a 38-year old pipeline located in the most densely populated part of Canada.

“The Enbridge pipeline 9 reversal with crude oil and diluted Bitumen is not wanted through our Traditional Territory and under the Thames River and we will seek other avenues to protect the land” said Myeengun Henry, a band councilor with Deshkon Ziibi* (Chippewas of the Thames) First Nation of southwestern Ontario.

“We still need to be consulted and we are willing to listen,” Henry told DeSmog Canada.

The federal government thus far has failed to fulfill its legal duty to consult with First Nations in Ontario and Quebec about the Line 9 project. This leaves the door wide open for First Nations of both provinces to challenge the Line 9 decision in court.

“This approval puts people and ecosystems at serious risk. After carefully studying this proposal, international pipeline expert [Richard Kuprewicz] gives a 90% likelihood of rupture within 5 years,” said Canadian folk singer Sarah Harmer who participated in the Line 9 hearings last October. Line 9 goes through her family’s farm in Burlington, Ontario.

Kuprewicz told DeSmog Canada last October existing damage on Line 9 called 'stress corrosion cracking' coupled with the large pressure swings associated with shipping heavy crudes like bitumen make Line 9 “high risk” for a rupture.

Two demands in particular made by critics of the project and the Ontario government were absent from the NEB’s conditions: 1) for Line 9 to undergo a hydrostatic test to determine if the pipeline can operate at its maximum pressure and 2) a third-party independent review of Enbridge’s data on Line 9.

“While the NEB does leave themselves room to order Enbridge to conduct a hydrostatic test, it should have respected this demand of the Province of Ontario outright,” Harmer said from Kingston, Ontario.

“Now the province needs to do their own independent review,” she told DeSmog Canada.

The NEB in its decision stated it wants to review Enbridge’s hydrostatic testing program, and the pipeline company’s updated engineering assessment of Line 9 before deciding whether to order a hydrostatic test.

Aside from not allowing Enbridge to put the Line 9 project into operation immediately, the NEB more or less gave Enbridge everything they asked for.

 “The NEB’s decision is another clear indication that Canada’s long standing environmental safeguards have been gutted to pander to the oil industry,” Bowman of Environmental Defence told DeSmog.

Because Line 9 is an existing pipeline the NEB’s decision is final. Only projects where forty kilometers or more of pipeline are being built require approval from the federal government.

One hundred people have signed an online pledge to support or engage in civil disobedience to stop the Line 9 project.

More on the Line 9 decision to come on DeSmog Canada.

*Deshkon Ziibi is the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) name for the “Chippewas of the Thames.”

Image Credits: Environmental Defence Canada, Enbridge

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