Citizen Action Monitor

Harper’s new rules muzzle public dissent at Line 9 pipeline hearings

To testify at hearings, people must submit 10-page application to request permission to appear

No 711 Posted by fw, April 07, 2013

“The application to submit a letter of comment requires a description of “how an approval or denial of the proposed Project causes a direct effect on your interest” as well as “the degree of connection between the proposed Project and your interest; the likelihood and severity of harm you may be exposed to; and the frequency and duration of your use of the area near the proposed Project.” Direct interest is further defined as “commercial, property or other financial interest” or “personal use and occupancy of land and resources”, including “the frequency and duration of a person’s use of the area near the project”. Merely having the potential of being victimized by a pipeline rupture doesn’t appear to be sufficient basis to be allowed to submit written concerns.”CATCH

Not only is Harper attempting to micro-manage who gets to appear in the Line 9 hearings, Hamilton Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) report that “efforts by both the city and a Hamilton climate change group to broaden the examination of Enbridge’s southern Ontario tar sands pipeline project” have been rejected.

To read the original story about Harper’s latest coercive machinations, which are effectively undermining participative democracy in Canada, click on the following linked title. Or read below a reposting of the original story.

Pipeline opposition handcuffed, by CATCH, April 06, 2013

The National Energy Board (NEB) has rejected efforts by both the city and a Hamilton climate change group to broaden the examination of Enbridge’s southern Ontario tar sands pipeline project. And both may be prevented from even commenting on the controversial Line 9 proposal despite a rash of oil spills that have underlined the risk it poses to residents and municipalities.

Under new rules enacted by the federal Conservative government in last spring’s omnibus legislation, any individual or government that wants to even express their concerns to the NEB in a letter must first ask permission by filling out a 10-page application form that asks for a resume and references.

Greenpeace and Environmental Defence are among those outraged by the restrictions.

“The new rules are undemocratic. They attempt to restrict the public’s participation in these hearings and prevent a real dialogue about the environmental impacts of the Line 9 pipeline project,” said Adam Scott of Environmental Defence in a media release yesterday. “Canadians should not have to apply for permission to have their voices heard on projects that carry serious risks to their communities.”

Enbridge’s volume expansion and flow reversal proposal for the 38-year old pipeline that would also allow shipment of diluted bitumen between Sarnia and Montreal is the first since the Harper government re-wrote the rules last spring and gave cabinet the authority to override NEB decisions. Line 9 crosses every major stream flowing into Lake Ontario including Spencer Creek and Grindstone Creek in Hamilton and Burlington.

“Anyone who lives and works in southern Ontario could be affected by a spill and everyone is affected by climate change.” declared Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. “The right to send a letter of comment and have it considered by public agencies is part of the basic rights and freedoms Canadians enjoy.”

The NEB rules revelation was released Thursday along with a formal  response to comments on the list of issues that it will consider in the hearings scheduled for late August. Hamilton council was unsuccessful in seeking a number of changes, but they were not alone. Despite submissions from five other Ontario municipalities and the state of Vermont, the NEB made only slight modifications, although it argued that some concerns raised would be covered within the already identified issues.

Interventions by the Hamilton 350 Committee and at least seven citizen groups, including a coalition of ten American organizations led by the Natural Resources Defence Council, also appear to have changed little. And given the refusal of the NEB to consider the implications of climate change, bitumen exports through the US, or the Line 9 proposals for expansion of the tar sands, it appears many of their concerns will be ignored and all will have substantial difficulty proving to the NEB that they are “directly affected” by the Line 9 proposals.

The application to submit a letter of comment requires a description of “how an approval or denial of the proposed Project causes a direct effect on your interest” as well as “the degree of connection between the proposed Project and your interest; the likelihood and severity of harm you may be exposed to; and the frequency and duration of your use of the area near the proposed Project.”

Direct interest is further defined as “commercial, property or other financial interest” or “personal use and occupancy of land and resources”, including “the frequency and duration of a person’s use of the area near the project”. Merely having the potential of being victimized by a pipeline rupture doesn’t appear to be sufficient basis to be allowed to submit written concerns.

The city letter sought to ensure consultation on “potential threats to drinking water” as well as the need to place turnoff valves “where the pipeline crosses the Sheffield-Rockton Complex and other Provincially Significant Wetlands and Environmentally Sensitive Areas”.

The 350 Committee submissions focused on climate change and upstream and downstream implications as well as “a full evaluation of the safety factors associated with the bitumen transport”. US studies have found that pipelines carrying diluted bitumen are more than three times as likely to rupture, but Enbridge maintains the material is no more corrosive than light crude oil.

The massive Good Friday spill in Arkansas that forced home evacuations was diluted bitumen being transported after a flow reversal in a pipeline older than Line 9, but only a third its size. The owner, ExxonMobil, has locked down the affected town of Mayflower, even obtaining a ban on flights apparently to prevent more negative publicity and legal actions against the company.

Adam Scott of Environmental Defence, who spoke in Westover in February,  says he doesn’t want to see an Arkansas-type rupture in southern Ontario. His group is holding a free telephone town hall on Tuesday evening to provide detailed information about the Line 9 proposal and its associated risks.

“We need to learn the lesson and look at the full risks to drinking water and our environment of Enbridge’s Line 9 proposal.”

Other major spills just since March 25 include a four hour dump of toxic slurry into the Athabasca River from Suncor’s tar sands operations; release of 15,000 barrels of crude from a Canadian Pacific train derailment in Minnesota; and a northern Ontario derailment on April 3 that was initially reported to be 4 barrels but later corrected to 400.  On March 30 Enbridge acknowledged the fourth leak in two months on the Norman Wells pipeline it operates in the Northwest Territories.

Applications to comment or intervene in the NEB’s Line 9 review must be filed by noon on April 19.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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