By Cheryl Brink, Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 9:15:43 EDT PM
Changes to an Enbridge pipeline running through the southern townships might not be visible from above the ground, but they haven’t escaped the attention of an environmental group.
Enbridge held an open house in Martintown last month, laying out their proposal to reverse the flow of line 9 — which crosses from Sarnia to Montreal — in order to bring oil east from the Prairies.
“It will supply and support the Ontario and Quebec refining markets,” said company spokesperson Graham White. “It’s important to meet our customer request and customer demand.”
He said roughly 30 people showed up for the recent consultation in South Glengarry, with most questions covering possible impacts to the region. White said residents were reassured when they learned any changes would be to existing infrastructure — rather than new construction — to allow the pipe to carry different types of oil.
“We’ve had … a very positive reaction,” he said. “There’s a lot of curiosity. A lot of people didn’t know the full scope of the project or what it entailed.”
White said in the short term, it will essentially be the same product running through the pipelines, only in the opposite direction.
“Our initial product orders … the vast majority are going to be a light product,” he said. “We’re equipping our lines for if there are future requests for heavier product so we can manage those requests.”
“Basically it has no change as far as we’re concerned,” said Roger Desjardins, fire chief for South Stormont. “From what I understand, the pressure is the same.” He said the project hasn’t raised any concerns at the township. “There’s no safety issues,” he added. “Not more than what we had before.”
But Gillian McEachern, a program manager with Environmental Defence, said Enbridge hasn’t fully informed the public of their plans. She said the Toronto-based environmental group is convinced it’s a bad move to not only allow heavier oil in the pipeline, but to reverse the flow in the first place.
“It’s part of a larger plan related to expanding tar sands production,” she explained, noting the eastern flow will allow for easier transportation of the oil to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.
McEachern, who was in Cornwall last week to scope out the nearby pipeline and related pumping stations, said Enbridge hasn’t been clear about their long-terms plans to ship heavier oil.
“(They’ll go) from shipping conventional oil to diluted tar sands bitumen,” she said. “It’s like hot liquid sandpaper.”
She said the material is far more abrasive and causes more wear and tear on the infrastructure.
“There’s more corrosion of the pipeline and it creates a greater risk of a spill,” she said.
McEachern said she plans to make several trips here in the coming weeks to create more awareness of the project and potential dangers.
“There’s lots of information coming out now on how difficult these types of spills are to clean up,” she said. “…We need to be cognizant of the risks.”
White, however, said there’s no evidence material from the tar sands will damage the pipes.
“We have a sophisticated 24/7 monitoring (system),” he added. “It’s something we take very seriously and are industry leaders in.”
White said environmental assessments will be done after Enbridge officially applies to the National Energy Board for permission to reverse the flow, expected this fall.
He said the majority of concerns that were raised during the series of open houses along the cross-Ontario pipeline route were related to the environment or personal properties.
“They were very locally focused,” he said, noting almost no one brought up the pipeline’s relation to the Alberta tar sands.
“Most people will see nothing,” said White about the reversal. “The vast majority of people won’t see any difference.”
“We think it’s a bad idea,” said McEachern. “Canada needs to transition away from oil. A project that facilitates the export of oil is the wrong way to go.”…