Enbridge oversights halt Line 9 pipeline reversal indefinitely

Intro

Amid protests and upheaval from activists and municipalities, Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal project has halted indefinitely. Line 9B, the reversal component of this tar sands-carrying pipeline project that was set to begin supplying crude oil to Quebec refineries in the coming weeks, has now been blocked by the National Energy Board (NEB) for failing to put in place emergency shut-off valves on both sides of all 36 major waterways along its route. The NEB ruling comes at a time when several protesters showed opposition to this project by chaining themselves to Enbridge’s Montreal headquarters. Meanwhile, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre has actively vocalized disdain towards the project for neglecting to implement all 30 crucial security conditions required to gain approval from the city. According to recent reports, the project will not move forward for at least three months.

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RT @peterlouwe #Enbridge Line 9 reversal halted due to danger to waterways: http://t.co/kowUhnvfke We’re to trust them to cross 1,000 BC rivers safely?

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Key Points

  • Enbridge has a history of being negligent at the expense of people and the environment. The NEB’s rejection letter highlights that Line 9, in its current state, “poses a significant risk to the public or the environment” for failing include crucial emergency shut-off valves. Following the devastating Kalamazoo spill into Lake Michigan in 2010, Enbridge has yet to learn from its mistakes, and their oversights have grown into full-blown negligence.
  • Line 9 crosses through 36 major rivers and lakes, posing a risk to the water supply of millions of Canadians. The Line 9 pipeline cuts through nearly every major body of water throughout in Ontario and Quebec. By failing to include emergency shut-off valves onto Line 9, Enbridge risks setting themselves up to to poison the water supply for millions of people in one of the most densely populated areas in the country.
  • Mounting pressure against Enbridge from across the country is starting to be heard. In Naomi Klein’s latest book This Changes Everything, the Canadian author cites the community of Bella Bella, British Columbia, a population of approximately 1000 and roughly 90% Heiltsuk First Nation, for facing off with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway joint review panelists during a peaceful, but monumental protest in 2012. This week, around the same time that the NEB rejection letter was released, activists unaffiliated with environmental organizations chained themselves to Enbridge’s Montreal headquarters to protest the pipeline reversal project. Earlier in September, the mayor of Montreal has also stated on record that Line 9 will not move forward in his city unless all 30 stipulated security conditions are met.

Background

For several years, Enbridge, an energy company with a long history of environmental mishaps, has been working to reverse the course of its Line 9 pipeline, so that it can be used to carry tar sands oil through Ontario and Quebec into eastern ports in Canada and the US. Line 9 is an aging oil pipeline that runs through some of the most densely populated parts of Canada. Reversing how the 38-year-old pipeline would work is part of Enbridge’s larger plan to export tar sands oil eastward through Canada and into the US. Line 9 would carry tar sands oil to Montreal and it is expected that a second pipeline will be reversed to carry the oil south to Portland, Maine for export. Enbridge’s Line 9 proposal carries many risks, but few rewards for communities along the pipeline’s route. The proposal puts the drinking water of millions at risk of an oil spill. Tar sands oil is more dangerous to ship through pipelines than normal oil. There is evidence that pipelines carrying tar sands oil spill more frequently than those carrying conventional oil.

The reversal of the Line 9 pipeline requires approval from Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB). In recent years, the NEB has been seen as quite sympathetic to dirty energy project proposals, but in October 2014, the NEB ordered the plans for the reversal to be halted after Enbridge failed to place emergency shut-off valves on both sides of 36 major waterways along its route. This oversight not only has placed the project in jeopardy, but is also seen as quite alarming considering Enbridge’s well-documented history of environmental disasters. Over the last decade, reports show that Enbridge’s pipelines have leaked or broken more than 600 times. In July 2012, an Enbridge pipeline spilled over 3 megaliters of oil into the Kalamazoo river in one of the largest spill’s in the Midwest’s history. The United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized the company’s “weak” regulations and “pervasive organizational failures” for the disaster, and hundreds of people reported adverse health effects in the following months.

The halting of Line 9’s pipeline reversal comes after a number of high-profile protests occurred across Canada over the last few years. Most recently, activists chained themselves to a fence outside of Enbridge’s headquarters in Montreal. Concerns are not limited to protests however, as Montreal mayor Denis Coderre has actively vocalized disdain towards the project for neglecting to implement all 30 crucial security conditions required to gain approval from the city. Prior to the recent protests, tar sands projects have been the subject of national actions in Canada through campaigns like Idle no More and Defend our Climate.

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Key Quotes

  • “Let’s not forget what happened to the Kalamazoo River when Enbridge’s Line 6b pipeline ruptured. Over 3 million litres of tar sands bitumen spilled into the river, contaminating nearly 40 kilometers downstream. More than four years later, with more than $1 billion spent, the cleanup still isn’t finished.” – Adam Scott, Climate and Energy Program Manager at Environmental Defence
  • “I’m for economic development, but if [Enbridge doesn’t] fulfill those conditions, I’m not going to support it (…) It’s not a matter of, ‘Well, a good average is 28 out of 30.’ No. It’s got to be 30 out of 30.” –  Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal

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