Line 9 Pipeline Deficiencies Concerns Landowner Associations

“Line 9 was built at the wrong time with the wrong materials, and forms part of a pipeline system in which ruptures and leaks on very similar pipes have happened on a fairly regular basis,” stated Ontario Pipeline Landowners Association (OPLA) lawyer John Goudy in his final argument at the Line 9A hearing in London, Ontario in May 2012.

The 37-year old Line 9 pipeline runs from Sarnia to Montreal. The pipeline's operator – Enbridge – wants to increase the capacity of Line 9 from 250 000 barrels per day (bpd) to 300 000 bpd. Enbridge also wants to ship 'heavy crude' such as bitumen from the Alberta tar sands through Line 9.

Line 9 is almost identical in age and design to the Enbridge pipeline at the centre of the largest inland oil spill in US history – Line 6B of the Kalamazoo spill in Michigan. The 41-year old Line 6B pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling over 800 000 gallons (3 million litres) of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River and the surrounding area. The cleanup is still going on and could cost up to one billion (US) dollars.  

“We are not anti-pipeline or anti-oil. We just want respect for our livelihoods and safe pipelines,” says Dave Core founding president of the Canadian Association of Energy Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA).

OPLA is a member of CAEPLA.

Design Deficiencies of Line 9

OPLA's argument against shipping bitumen through Line 9 is the pipeline suffers from “historical deficiencies”. Line 9 is covered in an outdated external protective coating called single-layer polyethylene tape (PE tape). A section of PE tape became unglued from Line 6B allowing water to corrode the pipe resulting Line 6B's rupture in 2010 according to the US National Transport and Saftey Board

The Canadian Energy Pipelines Association (CEPA), an industry group, warned in 2007 against the use of PE tape on new pipelines because it can stretch or become unglued from a pipeline, creating pockets of water that cause pipeline corrosion. CEPA concluded PE tape was ineffective in mitigating the effects of stress corrosion cracking (SCC) on pipelines.

Enbridge's Line 6B.

OPLA has also pointed out Line 9's pipe-wall thickness (6.35-7 mm) for most of its length is 30% thinner than a pipeline with the same diameter (762 mm) going into the ground today.  Enbridge’s engineering assessment admits this high diameter-to-pipe-thickness ratio makes Line 9 “susceptible” to mechanical damage. 

Line 6B of the Kalamazoo spill had the same pipe-wall thickness and diameter of Line 9. Enbridge is currently replacing Line 6B with a new pipeline with thicker walls and a lower diameter-to-pipe-thickness ratio.

There is no indication Line 9 will be replaced by a new pipeline.

Being a pipeline landowner in an expanding resource economy 

OPLA and CAEPLA represent the interests and rights of farmers and other rural landowners with oil and gas pipelines going through their property. The construction of Line 9 in 1975 sparked the pipeline landowner movement in Ontario. Two southwestern Ontario farmers mortgaged their farms to fight for compensation for soil degradation caused by Line 9's construction and won. One of the two farmers went on to found OPLA in 1993.

As the Canadian government pushes for more pipelines to be built to export bitumen, the rights of pipeline landowners are being reeled back.

Dave Core of CAEPLA told the Canadian Senate in a presentation earlier this year the 2012 omnibus bill C-38 introduced criminal penalties for landowners violating a contentious section of the National Energy Board Act; section 112. Depending on the conviction, the penalty for violations of section 112 is a $100 000 – $1 000 000 fine or up to 5 years in prison.  

Section 112 restricts landowners from driving their equipment over a buried pipeline on their own property without the permission of the pipeline's operator first. Land cultivation deeper than 30 centimetres within the pipeline's “safety zones” is not permitted. Safety zones can be as wide as thirty metres on either side of the pipeline's eighteen metre wide right-of-way. This effectively creates a 78-metre wide strip of land pipeline landowners cannot properly farm or utilize.

Landowners' disputes with pipeline companies can only be brought to the National Energy Board (NEB). Up until recently the NEB referred to itself as the partner of the energy industry, not the independent regulator it is mandated to be. Landowners have complained for years there is a 'revolving door' between the NEB and energy industry. The pipeline industry group CEPA's current president Brenda Kenny worked for the NEB from 1986 – 2001 .

“You get the feeling the NEB listens, but it does not really hear,” says Margaret Vance, president of OPLA.

“The NEB listens to landowners’ concerns because they have to, but they rarely do anything about them,” Vance told DeSmog. Vance is a farmer near Woodstock, Ontario.

Pipeline Companies Are Not Required to Remove Out-Of-Service Pipelines

One of OPLA's biggest concerns with Line 9 and other aging pipelines is pipeline companies are permitted to leave 80% of an out-of-service pipeline in the ground.  

“It is not safe and it is a liability for us,” says Vance.

OPLA unearthed an NEB discussion paper from 1985 on pipeline abandonment in the NEB archives while preparing for the Trailbreaker pipeline project hearings in 2007. The discussion paper stated pipeline companies should set aside funds for the removal of out-of-service pipelines. A fund was only recently established for partial removal of abandoned pipelines.

“The day the province (Ontario) wants abandoned pipelines out of the ground you can be sure it is not going to be the companies who profited from the pipelines who will have to pay for their removal. It is going to be landowners,” Vance told DeSmog.

Line 9 public hearings are expected to take place in October. The NEB could make its final decision on Line 9 as early as January 2014.

Image Credit: Environmental Defense


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Derek was born and raised in Brooklin and now lives in Ottawa. He worked in Germany for eight years as…

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