Environmental and citizen groups in Quebec are demanding the National Energy Board (NEB) explain why it refuses to order a hydrostatic safety test of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline, a west-to-east oil pipeline that could come online as early as next month.
A hydrostatic test or hydrotest is a commonly used method to determine whether a pipeline can operate safely at its maximum operating pressure. The test involves pumping water at through the pipeline at levels higher than average operating pressures. Enbridge is reversing the flow of the 39-year old Line 9 pipeline, which previously carried imported oil inland from Canada's east coast, and will increase its capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.
“[The NEB] claims to be transparent and to listen to what the public is saying, yet despite having all the required information in their possession for over six months, it refuses to render a written and reasoned decision on whether or not it will impose hydrostatic tests on the length of Line 9B,” Lorraine Caron, spokesperson for the citizen group Citoyens au Courant, said.
When the NEB, Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, approved the Enbridge pipeline project in March 2014, the board stated it could order a hydrostatic test of Line 9 if it felt the integrity of the 39-year old pipeline was in question. So far the board has chosen not to exercise this option and has said very little as to why.
“Refusing to make a decision public means the NEB wants to keep the public in a state of ignorance. This only contributes to diminishing public confidence in the NEB,” Steven Guilbeault, executive director of Equiterre, said.
Citoyens au Courant, Equiterre, l’Association Québécoise de Lutte Contre la Pollution Atmosphérique, Environnement Jeunesse, Climate Justice Montréal, Nature Québec, Sierra Club Québec and Environmental Defence jointly filed a request for clarification with the NEB on its hydrotest position Tuesday.
The half dozen Quebec-based groups are concerned the untested pipeline could have disastrous consequences for residents of southern Ontario and southern Quebec, especially if the line leaks or ruptures while transporting oilsands (also called tarsands) bitumen.
''The NEB as a quasi-judicial court has the responsibility and obligation to divulge an official decision so that its motives can be analysed and weighed by the public,” Karine Péloffy, director of the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement, said.
The province of Ontario asked the NEB to require a hydrotest of Line 9 during the regulatory hearings on the project in 2013. A provincial commission authorized by Quebec to investigate Line 9 also recommended a hydrotest.
Earlier this month, the Greater Montreal Area passed a resolution also asking the NEB to order a hydrostatic test of the pipeline.
This Southern California Gas Company explains the basics of hydrostatic testing.
“Our municipal officials have done their job by asking for these tests,” Caron previously told DeSmog Canada.
Line 9 runs though a densely populated corridor from Sarnia, Ontario through Toronto and on to Montreal. The pipeline is of similar age and design to the Enbridge pipeline that ruptured in 2010 near the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
The Kalamazoo spill, as it is known, was one of the largest inland spills in the U.S. history and cleanup costs have exceeded $1 billion.
An international pipeline safety expert told DeSmog Canada in 2013 Line 9 is “high risk” for a rupture due to extensive stress corrosion cracking on the pipeline, as outlined in an Enbridge engineering assessment of the line.
U.S. investigators concluded pipeline stress corrosion cracking most likely caused the Kalamazoo pipeline spill.
“I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often,” Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector, said in an interview with DeSmog Canada. "There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed."
Kuprewicz predicted there was a “90 per cent” probability of Line 9 rupturing if a hydrostatic test of the pipeline was not conducted.
Enbridge expressed concerns during the regulatory hearings a hydrotest could potentially damage Line 9. The Calgary-based pipeline company also claims its inline inspection tool can detect serious stress corrosion cracking threats.
And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).
As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired eight journalists in less than a year.
Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 2,200 members.
The truth is we wouldn’t be here without you. Every single one of you who reads and shares our articles is a crucial part of building a new model for Canadian journalism that puts people before profit.
We know that these days the world’s problems can feel a *touch* overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t make any difference, but becoming a member of The Narwhal is one small way you truly can make a difference.
We’ve drafted a plan to make this year our biggest yet, but we need your support to make it all happen.
If you believe news organizations should report to their readers, not advertisers or shareholders, please become a monthly member of The Narwhal today for any amount you can afford.