Should Line 9 be altered despite what happened in Michigan?
Written by Luis Fernando Arce, Chief Interviewer
The Line 9 Proposal
Ontarians now face a similar fate to that as residents of British Columbia due to a proposed plan to alter current pipelines. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline Expansion includes a proposed alteration to Line 9 running from Sarnia to North Westover and eventually crossing over into Quebec and has environmentalists, investors, and politicians all riled up. Line 9 crosses the Grand, Credit, Rouge and Trent Rivers, all of which run into the Great Lakes.
The Line 9 alteration is the eastern arm of the$5.5 billion Northern Gateway Project, which also consists of an arm going westward from Alberta to the port of Kitimat, B.C. In January of this year, the CBC reported that the eastern arm planned to transport a “natural-gas condensate…a toxic mix of liquid hydrocarbons that forms during the extraction of natural gas and is used as a thinning agent to dilute and help transport heavy oils like bitumen.”
However, environmentalists and other concerned citizens have protested against the high risks they claim are posed by the alteration.
The CEAA does not require the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to conduct an environmental review of the project
The proposition doesn’t include any new construction, as Enbridge’s spokesperson Graham White emphasized in an open-house held in June in Martintown, Ontario. He also claimed that the proposed alteration will “supply and support the Ontario and Quebec refining markets,” according to the Cornwall Standard Freeholder.
The proposition does include the reversal of the flow of Line 9 so that it can transport tar sands diluted bitumen from Sarnia to Montreal. This is what has ringed all the alarm bells.
The Pembina Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Living Oceans Society have all reported that the diluted bitumen (known as Dilbit) is corrosive and therefore causes internal infrastructural damage. Toronto-based environmental group Environmental Defence has discussed similar findings in many of its articles. Despite the institutes’ findings, however, White maintained that there was no evidence that there will be more damage to the pipelines and again applauded Enbridge’s sophisticated 24/7 monitoring system.
On top of this, since the Cabinet passed Bill C-38 on June 29, the 1992 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was repealed and replaced by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012) on July 6th; the CEAA does not require the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to conduct an environmental review of the project. Prior to this date, the CEAA was doing so. Although the National Energy Board is still conducting its own review under the new Bill, it allows the Governor in Council, acting under the guise of the Federal Cabinet, to make decisions on the issuance of certificates for major pipelines.
To those Ontarians who remember the Michigan Spill of July 25, 2010, which poured 3 million litres of diluted bitumen into the wetlands, the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, these changes may seem ominous. The effects of the disaster are still being felt on the ecology, marine system, and health of residents.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board found that Enbridge could have prevented the disaster. On July 2, 2012, regulators charged Enbridge $3.7 million dollars and cited them for “24 separate violations of hazardous liquid pipeline regulations, including failure to fix corrosion problems in the damaged pipe joint discovered as far back as 2004,” reported an article by Environmental Defence Canada. According to the same article, corrosion problems had already been found as far back as 1969, in addition to cracks and dents that went unfixed; the rupture defect itself had been noted three times already.
The effects of a bitumen spill on people’s health are dire.
The Chairman of the Board also condemned Enbridge’s long response time (17 hours) and the fact that they pumped oil through the pipeline after having received warnings twice, which in the end accounted for 81% of the total oil spilled. Enbridge was also criticized for failing to report the existence of the pipeline to emergency authorities until five days after the spill.
The result of all of these apparently wanton acts of neglect and disregard by the company ended in what has come to be known as the most expensive pipeline oil spill in U.S. history, totalling over $800 million thus far.
One of the reasons for the exorbitant costs, other than the spill’s magnitude, has to do with the diluted bitumen that was poured into the river.
The diluted bitumen is very thick and needs to be diluted with a toxic condensate that contains the known carcinogen benzene. When the bitumen hits the water, it begins to sink right away, unlike conventional oil. To clean it up, the “Environmental Protection agency…[has] had to scrape, dredge and decontaminate roughly 55 km of riverbed and shoreline,” reported Environmental Defence. Two years later, efforts continue to do just this.
Moreover, the effects of a bitumen spill on people’s health are dire.
A survey by the Global Labor Institute of four communities located near the spill showed that 60% of them complained of headaches, breathing difficulties, coughing, vomiting and anxiety. Additionally, one hundred and fifty families had to be relocated after Enbridge purchased their property.
On May 21st of this year, Michigan mother of two, Susan Connelly, told her story on the radio, warning Ontarians that if a spill were to happen, whether on land or water, those in the vicinity could experience symptoms similar to those her family experienced as a result of the Michigan disaster. Her son, she said, was throwing up and her daughter had an unexplained rash; they all suffered from headaches, nausea and burning eyes. Moreover, Connelly complained that two years after the tragedy, she still sees machinery down a 40-mile stretch of river cleaning the viscous oil.