Environmental Defence has asked every MP in Ontario and Quebec to speak out and ask the National Energy Board to reject Enbridge’s proposal to reverse Line 9, which currently carries oil from Montreal to Sarnia.
The proposal, go to the board over the next two months, would see part of the line flow east. That would reduce eastern sources of oil and increase the need for crude from Alberta’s oil sands, said Gillian McEachern, program manager, climate and energy for Environmental Defence.
“It makes us increasingly dependent on oil coming from the tar sands, (which) has a higher environmental footprint than conventional oil,” she said.
McEachern said Ontario currently receives 40% of its oil from the east coast, north shore and Middle East. The remaining 60% comes from western Canada, she said.
McEachern said it’s important MPs know it could also lead to supply issues, since it would force refineries to rely on Enbridge lines from the west, one of which was shut down after a serious spill last summer.
“Given what we’ve seen with some of the pipeline difficulties Enbridge has had over the last year, cutting off access for one flow … limits our security of energy supply.”
But Gina Jordan, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said the decision would be a win for the Canadian energy industry as it helps cut reliance on foreign supply.
“It will deliver significant benefits to Canadian refineries,” she said. “It will increase Canadian supply to Ontario and help offset foreign supply.”
Jordan said the flow, if the reverse is approved, would ship 50,000 barrels a day, with a maximum of 200,000 barrels a day.
“It’s an economical way to utilize an existing system to meet the changing market and business demands,” she said.
Subject to approval, construction could start in summer 2011 and the reversed line in service by late winter or early spring of 2012.
According to the U.S. Geological Service, oil sands oil has higher concentrations of sulphur, copper and iron. That could impact air quality in Sarnia when refined, McEachern said.
“It produces more greenhouse gas emissions in its refining than conventional oil. As you shift the feedstock over to tar sands oil it does shift what the refineries are processing, which is a dirtier more difficult to process oil.”
Dean Edwardson, general manager of the industry-funded Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association, said it’s another example of environmentalists taking shots at Canada’s vital oil sands.
“It’s one of these things, it’s like a scab and they want to keep picking at it.”
Edwardson said all oil has impurities refiners must contend with.
“Yes, it may have impurities. Is it going to significantly impact our air-shed? We continue to make improvements to the operations locally. We continue to see improvements in our air-shed based on the monitoring that we have.”
Enbridge wants to reverse Sarnia pipeline