No 858 Posted by fw, September 23, 2013
“…the company insisting that it has dropped its earlier “trailbreaker plan” to use Line 9 and the twin pipelines running south from Montreal to get bitumen to an ocean port in Portland, Maine. Opponents insist exporting bitumen is the real reason for reversing and expanding the flows in the 38-year-old Sarnia-to-Montreal pipe as well as other Enbridge expansions between Alberta and Ontario.” —Hamilton CATCH
As evidence mounts that the reversal and flow expansion an aging cross-Ontario pipeline are primarily to facilitate export of tar sands bitumen, local opponents of the Line 9 changes are holding an information meeting on Thursday evening to consider next steps. National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on Enbridge’s plans will open in Montreal on October 9 and will shift to Toronto from October 16 to 19, almost exactly a year after the company formally notified the NEB of its proposals to increase flow volumes by 25 percent in the pipeline that runs across rural Hamilton.
The NEB process has been widely criticized because it required written applications for individuals and groups to even send a letter of comment. The Board has also been challenged for refusing to consider the implications of the Line 9 changes for climate change, tar sands expansion, and the export of unrefined bitumen.
The latter possibility remains controversial with the company insisting that it has dropped its earlier “trailbreaker plan” to use Line 9 and the twin pipelines running south from Montreal to get bitumen to an ocean port in Portland, Maine. Opponents insist exporting bitumen is the real reason for reversing and expanding the flows in the 38-year-old Sarnia-to-Montreal pipe as well as other Enbridge expansions between Alberta and Ontario.
Enbridge literature on the Line 9 proposal stresses that the company “has no plans, proposals or infrastructure for pipelines moving product further east than Montreal”, but the limited capacity of the Montreal refinery (167,000 barrels per day) has bolstered contentions that at least the remainder of the 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) sought for Line 9 will be exported.
The Montreal refinery shifting to a Line 9 supply would also mean additional unused capacity in the 600,000 bpd Montreal to Portland pipelines owned by Suncor and ExxonMobil who along with Canadian government officials have been lobbying New England officials to permit shipment of bitumen. The pipeline owners also have filed an application in the province of Quebec to build a pumping station in Montreal to push oil products southward to Maine.
Enbridge is now claiming that Line 9 oil will also go to a Quebec City refinery currently supplied by ocean tankers and that both it and the Montreal refinery could shut down and throw thousands of workers on the street if Line 9 plans are rejected. The issue has come to a head in Portland, where American tar sands opponents have succeeded in getting a binding referendum question on the November ballot that “would change the city’s zoning to block ExxonMobil’s smokestacks and a pumping station needed to bring the tar-sands oil into the shipyard”.
More westerly Enbridge projects seem to confirm the export hypothesis. The company is currently doubling the capacity of its Line 6b across Indiana and Michigan from 240,000 to 500,000 bpd. That’s the pipe that feeds into Line 9 at Sarnia and also the one that ruptured in July 2010 and contaminated more than 60 km of the Kalamazoo River in the largest ever land-based oil spill in North America.
And further west, Enbridge is working to increase the capacity of its 450,000 bpd Line 67 between Edmonton, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin. The company got NEB permission in February to increase volumes to 570,000 bpd and last month filed a new application to push that up to 800,000 bpd. The Natural Resources Council of Maine has “added up the evidence” in a detailed map.
From Superior, Enbridge operates pipelines down both sides of Lake Michigan that connect to Sarnia (one noted above), while the Council of Canadians is raising concern about a potential alternative transport route – a proposal by a Superior company to build oil barge-loading facilities that could see tankers moving through the Great Lakes.
Rallies planned for Toronto, October 18-19 outside NEB hearing location
The release about this week’s public meeting (at 7 pm in First Unitarian Church – 170 Dundurn South) announces the “intention to organize buses to a mass rally in Toronto on October 19th to demonstrate against the pipeline and to denounce the sham that the NEB hearings have become”. Thursday evening’s meeting is described as a panel discussion “to reflect on the year of resistance and to explore directions for the future of the ongoing struggle” and promises childcare and refreshments.
A number of groups have called a rally at noon on October 19 outside Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre where the hearings are taking place. That action is being preceded on October 6 by a “Rock the Line” free concert featuring Sarah Harmer from 2 to 5 pm in Mel Lastman Square near the North York subway stop.