Citizen Action Monitor

Confusion and controversy abound in southern Ontario communities over Enbridge’s Line 9 proposal

Rural residents see Enbridge as a “good corporate citizen” and appreciate offers of financial support

No 677 Posted by fw, February 17, 2013

Those remarkable folks at Hamilton’s Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) have done it again with their latest excellent report on the confusion and controversy surrounding Enbridge’s Line 9 proposal. To read their original report, click on the linked title below. Alternatively, read this post with added subheadings and minor modifications.

Tar sands battle heads to Westover, by CATCH News, February 16, 2013

Rural Westover residents appreciate Enbridge’s offers of financial support and may not be sympathetic to opponents to Line 9

Opponents [e.g. Hamilton 350 Committee] of the shipment of tar sands through Hamilton are taking their campaign back to a likely unsympathetic audience in Westover on Monday night as new information surfaces of Canadian government lobbying in Maine for the export of diluted bitumen (dilbit) to foreign markets. Enbridge says this isn’t its plan and has dismissed concerns about the safety of the 38-year-old Line 9 pipe by declaring that its lifespan is “indefinite”.

Enbridge spokesperson reassured packed public meeting that Line 9 pipeline is safe

“If we’re maintaining our pipeline asset it can last for hundreds of years,” company spokesperson Ken Hall told a packed public meeting in Burlington earlier this month. “It’s [lifespan is] indefinite, but it’s only that way because we take care of it.”

But skeptical audience grilled spokesperson for 3 hours

The question and answer session was organized by the City of Burlington to allow the public to learn more about Enbridge’s proposal to expand its pipeline to 300,000 barrels a day and reverse the flows to allow for shipment of western Canadian products including at least some dilbit from the Alberta tar sands. The company’s eight representatives fielded 2.5 hours of questions from a mainly skeptical audience that also included Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring, two thirds of his council colleagues, and several senior city officials.

Councillor claimed Enbridge assured him dirty tar sand oil would not be shipped through Line 9

One query asked Enbridge to explain how Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson had become convinced that dilbit would not be shipped through Line 9, a certainty that led him to issue assurances to Hamilton councillors and the public on October 17, apparently unaware that six days earlier Enbridge had applied to do just that. Hall, who previously acknowledged lobbying Hamilton councillors, said he couldn’t explain how that could have happened.

Enbridge rep puzzled by councillor’s claim

“I’m not aware of any statement indicating to councillor Ferguson that we would not be transporting a variety of crude oil,” Hall stated. “As the slide presentation that I use for all my municipal meetings indicated that the permit application is to allow us to transport light, medium and heavy crude oil.”

At Burlington meeting, Enbridge challenged over assurances of pipeline spills safety records

Hall started the Burlington meeting with a 40-minute slide presentation that stressed the company’s commitment to safety and minimizing spills as its “first priority”. He was clearly uncomfortable when one questioner subsequently rhymed off the large number of Enbridge pipeline leaks and ruptures including a massive July 2010 one still being cleaned up in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, but company representatives repeatedly stressed how much the company has learned, changed and invested in the last 30 months.

The potentially corrosive effects of dilbit on Line 9 and the steps the company takes to avoid and respond to leaks dominated the questions, with Enbridge continuing to argue that the tar sands product is no less damaging than light crude oil.

Enbridge maintains it “has no plans to export dilbit through Montreal to Maine”

Hall also maintained that the company has no plans to export dilbit through a Montreal to Portland, Maine pipe owned by another company, and that Enbridge’s 2008 Trailbreaker proposal to do so “is dead”. He said the company has already signed 10-year contracts to deliver light crude to Montreal refineries if the National Energy Board approves the pipeline reversal.

But Enbridge assurances contradicted by CBC report

These assurances appear to be contradicted by reported Canadian government pro-tar sands lobbying in Maine reported on Friday by the CBC – the fifth time that officials from Ottawa’s consulate in Boston have turned up at small town meetings called to oppose tar sands shipments through New England states. They were aligned with the Portland Montreal Pipeline Company who acknowledged they are interested in piping dilbit but such isn’t in place at this time.

Enbridge forced to admit that any environmental review would not address shipping of toxic tar sands oil

Another focus of the Burlington meeting was the federal government’s exemption of pipelines from environmental assessment in last spring’s controversial omnibus legislation, and its fall drastic reduction in the number of rivers and lakes protected as navigable waters. Enbridge points to a substantial environmental review commissioned by the company of the Line 9 plans, although Hall acknowledged that it doesn’t address shipping dilbit and is limited to pumping and other facilities where construction work will be required for the pipeline reversal.

Westover meeting should be “electric’ as proponents and opponents of Line 9 expected to clash

These and other issues will be the topic of a public information meeting on Monday evening in Westover starting at 6 pm. It’s organized by the Hamilton 350 Committee on climate change, who unsuccessfully urged Hamilton council last fall to hold such meetings in the areas crossed by Line 9.

The citizen group has confirmed that councillor Robert Pasuta and a representative of the Hamilton Conservation Authority will attend the meeting in the Women’s Institute at the intersection of Westover Road and the 6th Concession West. An earlier bike ride into Westover by the climate change activists encountered  opposition from rural residents who consider Enbridge a good corporate citizen and appreciate the company’s financial support for a park and other local amenities.

Meanwhile, Washington DC hosts massive protests against tar sands pipelines

The meeting comes in the wake of massive protests against tar sands shipments into the United States that saw 48 arrests at the White House of leading opponents on February 13 including Robert Kennedy Junior, Bill McKibben, NASA scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, and the executive director of the Sierra Club (the first foray into civil disobedience by the 120 year conservation organization).

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