Like the Joint Review Panel’s recent whitewash of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the National Energy Board has rubber stamped Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline. Here are nine reasons to reject their 158-page decision and continue opposing Line 9.
1. Allies of the Harper government
Even before reading the decision we need to consider the source. After Prime Minister Harper scrapped environmental legislation, handing over decision-making on pipelines to the NEB—which it has called an "ally." As Keith Stewart from Greenpeace said, "Canadians should be concerned when a supposedly arms-length agency that is supposed to regulate the oil industry...is listed as an 'ally.'"
Who are the authors of the report? As Michael Toledano pointed out, "The government bureaucrats who made this decision were Lyne Mercier, a former oil and gas sector manager, Mike Richmond, a corporate energy lawyer, and Jacques Gauthier, a former energy sector CEO who has worked closely with Prime Minister Stephen Harper."
Ontario's so-called "social justice" premier Kathleen Wynne has also proved to be an ally of Harper's environmental destruction. After first promising to address environmental concerns, Wynne refused to conduct an environmental assessment -- leaving the decision to the NEB. As NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said, "I'm surprised to hear that this government has so much confidence in the Harper government’s approach to environmental protection." Recently dozens of Indigenous, community and labour groups wrote an open letter demanding an environmental assessment, as part of a campaign that continues.
2. Refused to consider tar sands production
The second page of the NEB decision gives insight into the content of the following 156 pages when it states that "some concerns were raised that are not within the Board's mandate to regulate, such as oilsands development, energy policy, upstream greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and GHGs related to the end use of crude oil."
As the decision goes onto explain, "The NEB does not have jurisdiction over energy exploration and production within provincial boundaries, Alberta’s oils sands, for example."Not only does it refuse to consider the giga-project that Line 9 will be promoting, which has been termed "slow industrial genocide" by Indigenous groups, but it makes the bizarre comment separating the tar sands from Line 9: "the Project and oil sands production, or other Canadian oil production potentially supplying the Project, are sufficiently geographically separated that there is not likely to be any meaningful or measurable interactions between the likely residual environmental effects of the Project and those activities."
3. Dismissed climate change effects
The NEB refused to consider what goes into Line 9, and what comes out of it -- admitting that "the Board did not consider the environmental and socioeconomic effects of downstream consumption (ie end use) of oil transported by Line 9 within the cumulative effects assessment for the Project."
But the decision goes further, dismissing climate change effects as speculative and hypothetical: "Any examination of potential environmental effects from such speculative impacts on the downstream mix or patterns of energy use in destination markets would be hypothetical and of no meaningful utility to the Board's ESA or public interest determination. The Board finds that the potential for effects of downstream use of oil to act cumulatively with any potential effects of the Project is too speculative to merit consideration."
Those who witnessed the floods in Alberta and Toronto, or the typhoon in the Philippines, know that climate change is not "speculative" but real -- as are the deaths associated with air pollution. According to the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, "air pollution kills about 20,000 Canadians a year and with tar sands expansion, it will only get worse. If we care about our health we need to leave tar sands oil in the ground." Otherwise, according to climate scientist James Hansen, "If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."
4. Restricted consultation
After thousands of people intervened in public consultations against the Northern Gateway pipeline, and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver threw a temper tantrum over people “stacking public hearings with bodies," the NEB restricted democracy -- requiring people to submit a 10-page application explaining why they personally are affected and why they should be granted to right to intervene. Those who passed this hurdle and were able to intervene had complaints against Enbridge -- including some public consultation that happened after the deadline to intervene.
Enbridge simply rejected these concerns ("these comments are submitted to the Board without proof and should be rejected.") and NEB agreed: "The Board is comfortable concluding that the design of the consultation program in general was adequate for the nature of the Project."
5. Denied indigenous sovereignty
The lack of consultation was the most extreme concerning the 18 First Nations whose territories lies within 50km of Line 9. The decision provides sugar-coating, stating, "the Board takes the interests and concerns of Aboriginal groups into consideration before it makes a decision that could have an impact on those interests." In other words, the NEB usurps all authority to make the decision that will affect Indigenous communities and their territories, and after denying their sovereignty it patronizingly claims it will take their concerns "into consideration."
The NEB did write down these concerns, including:
"Aboriginal Participants in this proceeding were critical of Enbridge's efforts to engage them concerning the Project and also expressed concerns regarding Crown consultation. Aboriginal Participants argued that because these efforts were insufficient the potential impacts of the Project on Aboriginal interests are not fully understood or addressed...Chief Chris Plain stated that Enbridge’s efforts to engage Aamjiwnaang First Nation about the Project have been insufficient and did not meaningfully address its concerns about potential health impacts and impacts on its Aboriginal and treaty rights...Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke asserted that no meaningful engagement or information exchange occurred between MCK and Enbridge during the period reported in Enbridge's summary. MCK also cautioned the Board not to interpret each meeting or exchange between Enbridge and a First Nation as qualifying as a meaningful engagement…Chippewas of the Thames First Nation submitted in their written evidence that Enbridge’s efforts to engage its members about the Project have not meaningfully addressed their concerns about potential health impacts and impacts on COTTFN’s Aboriginal and treaty rights…Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation stated in their evidence that Enbridge does not actively consult with or address MNCFN concerns regarding the ongoing operation and management of Line 9...Mohawk Council of Kanesatake submitted that Enbridge failed to engage with them meaningfully about Line 9...Grand River Indigenous Solidarity expressed concerns in its written evidence about Enbridge's consultation activities, stating that Enbridge only notified affected Aboriginal groups of the Project rather than undertaking a process of meaningful consultation…Rising Tide Toronto stated in its oral final argument that Enbridge had not engaged in sufficient consultation processes within indigenous communities and, as a result, Enbridge was not aware of several sacred burial sites, outstanding land claims, and treaty violations."
But the NEB cynically used these concerns as substitute for informed consent, agreeing with Enbridge that "all Aboriginal groups potentially affected by the Project were provided with sufficient information about the Project…potential affected Aboriginal groups and individuals had an opportunity to make their views known to Enbridge and to the Board." The NEB then dismissed the content of these concerns, claiming that "any potential Project impacts on the rights and interests of Aboriginal groups are likely to be minimal and will be appropriately mitigated."
6. Minimized risk of spill
The spill from Enbridge’s Line 6B caused water pollution that continues after a billion dollars in clean up fees. Enbridge not only refused to provide $1 billion in insurance but also stated that "if drinking water is affected Enbridge would provide a safe, temporary supply of drinking water." What a reassuring thought, to be given a temporary supply of bottled water after Enbridge has ruined the natural water source for us and other living creatures.
For a comprehensive assessment of the risks of Line 9, which synthesizes information from intervenors, read the new report "Not Worth the Risk."
7. Admitted negligible jobs
There is a common myth that we need tar sands and pipelines to provide jobs, but Enbridge inadvertently debunked that myth: "Enbridge submitted that for the majority of stakeholders, the reversal would have no noticeable impact since it involves reversing the flow on an existing pipeline, and that any impacts arising from construction are expected to be temporary and minor in nature....The project is expected to create a total of three permanent positions and may require up to 40 temporary construction workers at each of the existing station the terminal Project sites." Three permanent jobs per site, at the cost of destroying the planet on which all our jobs depend!
8. Ignored green jobs alternatives
There is growing labour opposition to tar sands pipelines across the country. On the West coast, Unifor and the B.C. Teacher's Association have signed the Solidarity Accord in support of First Nations resisting the Northern Gateway pipeline. As Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Area Director of B.C. said, "it's time for a new vision for Canada’s energy industries -- one that addresses the reality of aboriginal title and rights, respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here." According to a report by Blue Green Canada, the $1.3 billion of federal subsidies to the oil and gas industry could create 18,000 more jobs in the clean energy sectors.
What alternatives did Enbridge consider in its application? "No other alternatives to the Project were investigated” other that “an assessment of the feasibility of using rail, barge, waterborne tanker, other existing pipelines or trucks, in isolation or in combination, to deliver western Canadian and/or US produced crude oil to Quebec area refineries."
And you can guess the response of the NEB: "The Board stated that making use of existing underused pipeline capacity, such as the capacity on Line 9, is a sound idea. The Board concludes that the Project represents the most economically feasible alternatives."
9. Used conditions to shift the debate
Having monopolized and restricted decision-making, refused to consider tar sands or climate change, denied Indigenous sovereignty, minimized risk of spills and ignored green jobs alternatives, the NEB decision has used conditions to shift the debate from "No Line 9" to "Line 9 if...". This is designed to undermine the unconditional opposition to Line 9 and to shift the debate onto pipeline technicalities. But the unconditional opposition to Line 9 and the reasons for it -- opposition to tar sands and climate change, and support for Indigenous sovereignty and green jobs -- will continue.