There’s a buried pipeline crossing the Cataraqui River, just north of Hwy 401, that has local environmental groups in a stir.
Last Monday, Transition Kingston and the Society for Conservation Biology hosted a public meeting at Queen’s University with guest Adam Scott of Environmental Defence.
With roughly 200 people in attendance, the organizations presented information regarding new developments around the aging pipeline.
Owned by Enbridge Inc., Line 9 was built in the mid-1970s to send light crude oil to Quebec. Last July, phase one of Enbridge’s plan to reverse the westbound flow of oil, from North Westover to Sarnia, was approved.
The Environmental Defence inquired about the section of pipe zipping past Kingston and discovered Enbridge has intentions to reverse the line.
“This proposal is different because they’re proposing to change what they want to run through the line for the first time ever,” said Scott.
Graham White, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said no official proposal has been made to reverse the line, but there are intentions to do so by the end of the year.
“This is highly speculative at this point, because a lot of this will be up to the National Energy Board, and how they want to conduct things like hearings and the approval process, but our sort of educated speculation is, if approved, we’d be able to reverse this line sometime in 2014.”
The Environmental Defence is concerned about what type of oil Enbridge will start sending through the line once it becomes reversed.
“The vast majority of the crude that is going to be shipped on this line is light crude, which is what is currently going through the line and has been transported in the line for the entire lifetime of this line. There’s not going to be a significant change of what the product is in this line,” said White.
That doesn’t mean the line will not be prepped to ship heavier oils.
“We want to equip this line to take heavier products, perhaps, including oil sands derived crude. Again, this is by client request,” said White. “But these refineries, that it’s going to, they’re primarily equipped to refine light crude. So for us to provide a tremendous amount of heavy material, or heavy product through these lines, it’s not consistent with the capabilities of these refineries.”
Environmental groups are pointing at Enbridge’s environmental track record.
The Kalamazoo River oil spill, that happened on July 25, 2010, near Marshall, Michigan, was “on an almost identical pipeline to Line 9, an old pipeline of the same design,” said Scott.
The rupture in the 30-inch pipeline resulted in nearly 1 million gallons of oil being released. The oil contaminated 38 miles of the Kalamazoo and coated the bottom of the river. It became the most expensive onshore oil spill in United States history. If Enbridge decides to run diluted bitumen, the toll on the environment is much greater.
“Diluted bitumen is much harder to clean up if it’s spilled, because the heavy oil separates,” said Scott. “Unlike normal oil, it’s heavier than water, so it can actually coat the bottom of the river and sink to the bottom of the lake. So that’s a huge issue, and it makes it much more difficult to clean up.”
When raw oil is extracted from the tar sands it’s “thick like peanut butter,” said Scott. In order to make it fluid through the pipes, it’s mixed with toxic chemicals called condensate.
“When it spills, the stuff just re-separates again, so you’re left with these chemicals evaporating, so you end up with a toxic cloud of nasty stuff like benzene,” said Scott. “It’s acutely toxic to humans, to wildlife. What’s left over is this heavy oil.”
When Enbridge changes the type of oil it ships, it’s not obligated to notify communities, but it will list what possible products could be flowing through its lines.
It’s been speculated that this reversal project is happening so Enbridge can partner with another company to send oil to the United States, to Maine. Referred to as The Trailbreaker Project, White said plans for this project have been off the table for some time.
“That is absolutely not what this is about. This is not what we are doing,” said White. “We’ve been very, very clear about that for months and even years now that that project is no longer happening. And that the focus for this project is to supply Canadian oil to the Canadian refineries in Montreal.”
Jolene Simko, of Transition Kingston, was one of the speakers at the public meeting about Line 9 on Nov. 5. She said the major task at hand is spreading awareness about the pipe’s existence and the potential environmental risk if Enbridge changes from light crude oil to diluted bitumen.
Petitions and information packages are being passed around to bring awareness to the existence of the pipeline, what could be flowing through it and the environmental dangers if a spill were to occur.
http://www.kingstonthisweek.com/2012/11/16/environmental-groups-take-act…