OHS Canada Magazine

NEB approves pipeline project amidst protests

(Canadian OH&S News)


(Canadian OH&S News)

Energy corporation Enbridge Inc. is moving ahead with a controversial pipeline project, now that the National Energy Board (NEB) has approved the project with a list of conditions.

The NEB announced its approval of the Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project on March 6. Enbridge plans to reverse the flow direction of a 639-kilometre section of the Line 9 pipeline, running between North Westover, Ontario and Montreal, from westbound to eastbound; the company also wants to expand the entire pipeline’s capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen.

Enbridge spokesperson Graham White said that the corporation’s goal was to provide Canadian crude to Quebec refineries that had requested it. “It will support the economy of the region and will also get eastern Canada off of the foreign oil that they currently use,” he explained.

The NEB’s green light followed months of public debate over the project’s potential environmental dangers. Last August, a scathing report by U.S. research corporation Accufacts Inc. pointed out numerous safety risks, including stress corrosion cracks on the line that were likely to rupture and an inadequate emergency response. Three months later, the NEB held public forums in Toronto and Montreal to discuss the issue.

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The day after the NEB announced its approval, a coalition of activist groups protested the board’s approval with a demonstration and press conference at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislature in Toronto. Among the event’s speakers was singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer.

“It was an emergency response, because the National Energy Board gave us basically just under 48 hours of confirmation of when they were going to release their decision,” said Amanda Lickers, a representative with Rising Tide Toronto (RTT), about the March 7 rally. An environmental grassroots collective, RTT has been especially vocal in its opposition to the Enbridge plan.

Lickers pointed out that the pipeline was already an environmental threat, one that “directly jeopardizes the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River” and that of Canada’s two most densely populated urban centres. “There’s no way that we can survive as people without water. There is no economic benefit,” she argued.

If the pipeline leaks or bursts, she added, the result could be catastrophic for municipalities across Ontario, including Toronto. “We’re going to be left cleaning up that spill. People need to realize that.”

White maintains that Enbridge has kept safety concerns in mind. “Whatever risks there may be are well planned for and well mitigated by even our existing extensive emergency response and integrity programs,” he said.

The NEB has detailed its approval in a 158-page report, with an appendix outlining 30 conditions that Enbridge must meet. Many of these conditions address issues that opponents have brought up, including reported cracks in the pipeline, transparency of information and the adequacy of Enbridge’s leak detection and emergency response measures. For one, Enbridge has to develop an environmental protection plan.

“The conditions are stringent, but we feel that they’re achievable,” said White, adding that the company is in the process of reviewing the conditions and the scope of work involved.

Lickers is highly skeptical. “The NEB told Enbridge to do the things it hasn’t done so far,” she said, charging that Enbridge’s pipelines had failed safety tests and the company had done nothing to improve matters.

RTT released its own report, Not Worth the Risk, in February. This document reveals more extensive research into Line 9’s environmental hazards and weighs its supposed economic benefits against the health and safety risks; it also deals with treaty violations regarding areas where First Nations communities live.

Lickers described RTT’s report as a community response debunking Enbridge’s claims. “It’s a combination of interveners and community members from all across the line,” she said. “It’s basically a full resource as to why this pipeline should never have been approved and needs to be decommissioned and checked out.”

The NEB decision is available in PDF format at https://docs.neb-one.gc.ca/fetch_e.asp?Id=A59170. Not Worth the Risk is available at http://risingtidetoronto.noblogs.org/files/2014/02/NEB_report_final.pdf.