Complaints about process raised by ordinary citizens, City of Hamilton, emergency responders, First Nations Chiefs of Ontario, Council of Canadians, and Hamilton 350 Committee
No 825 Posted by fw, August 11, 2013
“Occupying pipeline hubs and highways that could get you arrested may turn out to be an easier way for citizens to have a say in the controversial plans to use an aging pipeline to ship diluted bitumen through Hamilton. As some opponents plan another demonstration next week, others have been pulling their hair out trying to negotiate the convoluted official process to just submit a letter of comment. The city was among those who succeeded and it has filed some strong objections with the National Energy Board (NEB).” —Hamilton CATCH News
Challenging Line 9, Hamilton CATCH, August 9, 2013
Convoluted official process
Occupying pipeline hubs and highways that could get you arrested may turn out to be an easier way for citizens to have a say in the controversial plans to use an aging pipeline to ship diluted bitumen through Hamilton. As some opponents plan another demonstration next week, others have been pulling their hair out trying to negotiate the convoluted official process to just submit a letter of comment. The city was among those who succeeded and it has filed some strong objections with the National Energy Board (NEB).
“Swamp The Courts” protest rally planned to coincide with court appearance of charged “trespassers”
The demonstration has been called for 11 am next Wednesday (August 14) to coincide with the court appearances of thirteen individuals charged with trespassing last month at the Westover pumping station of Enbridge Inc. The “swamp the courts” rally will start at the MacNab Street HSR terminal and proceed to the John Sopinka courthouse.
Website glitch frustrates citizens, forces NEB to extend filing deadline by one week to August 13
In advance of this, those who obtained official permission last May from the NEB to submit written comments have now been granted a one-week extension to August 13 after many were blocked by a malfunctioning website e-filing system as well as the refusal of the NEB to accept email attachments instead of on-line submissions.
Even a resident who has spent 40 years of his life as a computer systems analyst was frustrated by the NEB’s on-line software. “I attempted to submit my Letter of Comment on Aug 4, 5 and 6 and for all of this time the NEB Letter of Comment submission application malfunctioned on the last step with the error message ‘English Livelink unavailable’,” says Dave Carson of Dundas. “I tried this application several times, using different web browsers to confirm that the problem was not at my end. As a result of this failure I had to fax in my letter, an uncertain process which does not receive any acknowledgement.”
Hamilton’s filing challenges Enbridge’s refusal to address recent pipeline failures
Comments filed by the city focus on potential spills from the 38-year-old Line 9 that could affect local water supplies and damage ecological sensitive areas such as wetlands and streams in rural Hamilton. They also challenge the refusal of Enbridge to provide information on recent failures of the company’s pipelines such as the 3 million litre rupture that contaminated 60 km of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in July 2010.
Enbridge now seeking permission to pipe cancer-causing chemicals through Line 9
That pipe carried bitumen diluted with cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, something that Enbridge is now seeking permission to transport through Line 9. The city’s letter suggests a spill into one of the several local streams crossed by Line 9 would significantly threaten drinking water supplies in multiple cities.
“A recently-completed event-based modeling scenario in western Lake Ontario suggested that a release into the Sixteen Mile Creek of benzene could reach the municipal water intakes of Halton Region, the Woodward intake in Hamilton, and the Lorne Park intake in Mississauga at significant threat levels,” notes the letter. “Enbridge should strive to convey a higher confidence to municipalities that their spill response programme is better developed and subject to continual improvement, given historical events and future potentials in that this is an older pipeline with unproven expectations as to its abilities to convey a product with characteristics much different from original intended use.”
Enbridge balks at request from emergency responders for essential job-related information
The letter notes the company “is not prepared to provide municipal emergency responders with the level of information that would enable these first responders to properly plan and prepare for the most effective coordinated response in the event of a pipeline-related emergency.”
It also recommends the installation of shut-off valves “where the pipeline crosses watersheds in the [city], including the Sheffield-Rockton Complex and other provincially-significant wetlands and environmentally-sensitive areas,” and it calls on the NEB to require Enbridge to obtain municipal approvals and pay development charges and other fees to Hamilton if the project is allowed to proceed.
Filing by First Nations’ “Chiefs of Ontario” raises troubling legal issues
Line 9 also directly affects more than a dozen First Nations whose traditional territorial rights are a significant issue. Some have intervenor status that allows them to participate in the hearings expected this fall, but the comment filed this week by “Chiefs of Ontario” raises troubling issues, while emphasizing that each First Nation will ultimately speak for itself.
The chiefs group notes that Line 9 was built before the 1982 Constitution Act when “Canadian legal recognition of First Nations rights was vastly different” and “there was no acceptance of a constitutional duty to consult and accommodate First Nations in the event of proposed projects” likely to affect their lands or rights. They suggest the NEB has the opportunity to respect those rights “and to re-set the relationship with affected First Nations on terms that are agreeable to First Nations.”
NEB refuses to grant Council of Canadians “intervenor status”
“The Hamilton Chapter is volunteer based and has very few resources. Had the National Office been included, they could have hired experts and spoke to the impacts to further represent us. Denying the Council of Canadians to participate effectively is not fair.”
Hamilton 350 Committee objects to NEB’s decision to exclude climate change concerns
Comments from the Hamilton 350 Committee reiterate the citizen group’s objections to the decision of the NEB to not consider effects on climate change and increased tar sands extraction.
“It is unreasonable to exclude these crucial matters, and to do so will certainly result in a deeply flawed and grossly inadequate examination of the full impact of the Line 9 proposals,” the group states. “Approving the transport of diluted bitumen will encourage increased extraction and refining activities, resulting in significant greenhouse gas release and damaging climatic consequences.”