By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer
Thursday, July 12, 2012 7:30:42 EDT PM
An environmental group wants Ontario to investigate risks of Enbridge’s plans to reverse the flow of a pipeline between Sarnia and Montreal.
Environmental Defence made the call the same day the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reported on its investigation into Enbridge’s handling of a 2010 pipeline spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
“This investigation identified a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge,” the board’s chairperson Deborah Hersman said in a statement.
Enbridge has applied to Canada’s National Energy Board to reverse the flow of its Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia and Westover Terminal near Hamilton.
It sent western oil east when it was built in 1975 but the flow was reversed in 1999. The company wants to return to the original west-to-east flow.
In May, Enbridge announced it expects to apply for permission to also reverse the flow of Line 9 east of Westover so western oil can reach refineries in Quebec.
“This is a project that impacts, basically, the entire southern half of the province,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence.
In light of the “scathing report” on the Michigan spill, she said, “Enbridge can’t exactly be trusted to make sure Ontarians are protected from oil spills.”
Environmental Defence notes the pipeline crosses several Ontario rivers, including the Grand, Credit, Rouge and Trent, as well as running close to the Great Lakes.
“The federal government has also weakened its rules,” McEachern said, “and shut its office that deals with oil spill emergencies in Ontario.”
The group says tar sands oil from western Canada is harder to clean up, and is a particular concern for pipeline safety.
Enbridge spokesperson Graham White said the U.S. agency’s report ruled out the heavy oil in the pipeline as a factor in the cause of the Michigan spill.
He added that while Line 9 in Ontario will be able to handle heavy oil from the oil sands, “we do anticipate, and we’ve said this from the beginning, it will primarily be transporting light crude.”
Although Line 9 is already in place, and has product flowing through it, Enbridge “will still conduct an environmental and socio-economic assessment,” White said.
In light of the U.S. report, he said, “We have made significant improvements in just about all aspects of our pipeline integrity program and our approach to safety.”
More advanced inspection tools are being used today on pipelines, White said.
“Pipeline ruptures are becoming increasingly rare with modern day preventative maintenance and inspection technology.”
White added Enbridge also maintains an emergency response team and equipment along its pipeline right of ways for when spills happen.
St. Clair Township is crossed by several major pipelines, as well as lines used by Chemical Valley industries. Mayor Steve Arnold said, “I find that those folks are very open and their safety protocols are very high.”
Arnold added he feels confident in the actions companies in St. Clair Township take to ensure their pipelines are safe and are being maintained.
“We’ve been very fortunate, I believe, in the way they handle things in our community.”
With files from Reuters…