MONTREAL — Several Ontario cities and more than a dozen environmental groups from Quebec, Ontario and the United States have asked the National Energy Board to expand its review of a proposal to reverse the flow in a pipeline between Montreal and Westover, Ont.
The environmental groups — including Greenpeace, Équiterre, Environmental Defence and the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council — want the federal agency to look at such issues as pipeline safety and the impact of a spill as part of its review of a $129-million project proposed by Enbridge.
Enbridge wants to reverse the flow in its Line 9B pipeline to ship oil from Western Canada and the U.S. to Montreal. It is also asking the NEB to increase the capacity of the pipeline and to allow it to carry heavy crude oil — diluted bitumen from oilsands operations.
Toronto, Kingston and Hamilton want the NEB to consider whether bitumen is more corrosive than other kinds of oil. They’ve also raised questions about who would pay the costs associated with an accident or spill. Toronto also asked the NEB to consider the accident report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board into a 2010 spill of bitumen from an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan. More than 3 million litres of bitumen were spilled, and Enbridge has spent more than $800 million on cleanup operations.
In February, the NEB published a list of issues it would consider in its review, including the need for the project, its potential environmental and socio-economic effects and emergency response planning. The NEB said it will “not consider the environmental and socio-economic effects associated with upstream activities, the development of the oilsands, or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.”
But the environmental groups say the NEB’s review is too limited. They say the agency must also consider the impact of oilsands development on greenhouse-gas emissions, what effect refining bitumen could have on air and water quality in Ontario and Quebec, and the potential impacts of an accident or spill of bitumen on waterways, tourism and outdoor recreation.
“This is a project that aims to expand oilsands operations,” said Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace. “If we don’t talk about that fact, and how it will affect Canada’s ability to reach its greenhouse-gas emissions targets, we’re missing a central part of the evaluation of this pipeline.”
The environmental groups say they believe Enbridge is reviving an abandoned project called Trailbreaker that would have shipped oil from Western Canada through Montreal to Portland, Maine and then on to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“Canadian tarsands oil has always been destined for U.S. markets, and there are growing concerns from American communities about whether bringing more into the United States is really in the best interest from a climate perspective and a public-safety perspective,” said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the NRDC.
Enbridge has denied it is reviving Trailbreaker, but officials from the Portland-Montreal Pipelines Ltd., which operates a pipeline between Montreal and Portland, said it is interested in transporting western Canadian crude to the Eastern Seaboard.…