Toronto conference takes aim at local tar sands pipeline

| November 8, 2012
Toronto conference takes aim at local tar sands pipeline

A day-long grassroots conference in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 17 will discuss plans by Enbridge Inc. to pipe dangerous tar sands crude from Sarnia to Montreal through Line 9. The event, The Tar Sands Come to Ontario: Stop Line 9, will be held from 10a.m. to 5p.m. at Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George St. 

Featured guests will include Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), Art Sterritt, (Executive Director, B.C. Coastal First Nations), along with Wes Elliott (Haudenosaunee land defender) and Vanessa Gray (Aamjiwnaang First Nation). 

Enbridge built Line 9 in 1975 to pipe imported oil west to Sarnia refineries. On October 11, Enbridge applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for permission to reverse Line 9's flow. Enbridge has been evasive as to its purpose.

On October 23, however, it told the NEB that it may use the line for "heavy oil," a category that includes "dilbit" (diluted bitumen) from the tar sands. In the past, Enbridge has talked of its plans to pipe dilbit to the Atlantic Coast for export via the now scrapped "Trailbreaker" project, and this seems the evident purpose of "Line 9 reversal."

To make dilbit, tar sands are thinned by a cocktail of chemicals, heated, and put under pressure. The mixture included benzene, arsenic and naphtha, known carcinogens, mutagens and endocrines.

Piping dilbit "is like moving hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way along," says a 2012 Environmental Defence report ("Enbridge's Tar Sands Pipeline Plan,” p. 2). Aged infrastructure has proven unable to carry dilbit, and in 2010 Enbridge had the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history with the rupture near Kalamazoo of its 6b pipeline carrying tar sands dilbit. 

Enbridge plans to pipe hazardous dilbit across twelve major watersheds including the Grande and Thames rivers, violating Haudenosaunee land rights and imperilling our shared water supply. Line 9 endangers many First Nations in Ontario and passes close to the province's largest population centres, including Sarnia, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Kingston, Cornwall, Ottawa, before reaching Montreal.

In Toronto, Line 9 angles north-east across Etobicoke and then cuts across the communities of Jane/Finch, Rexdale, and Scarborough and through the Rouge River valley.

Enbridge already processes an estimated 225,000 barrels of dilbit per day in Sarnia. In 2010, when the Enbridge 6b pipeline ruptured in Michigan, it spilt more than one million gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River. "The heavy bitumen sank to the river bottom, leaving a mess that is still being cleaned up," reports David Sassoon in the New York Times. “Meanwhile, the chemical additives evaporated, created a foul smell that lingered for days. People reported headaches, dizziness and nausea. No one could say with certainty what they should do."

'Breakdown of safety'

According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the 2010 spill showed "a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge." Enbridge had left 15,000 known defects on the pipeline uncorrected for up to five years. ("Enbridge Line 9 Fact Sheet")

Yet Enbridge, unrepentant, now seems ready to expose Ontario, Quebec and New England to these risks, in order to ship dilbit from the Atlantic Coast to overseas markets in Europe. 

Meanwhile, the extraction, marketing, and burning of Canada's tar sands oil is devastating Alberta's landscape, degrading the atmosphere, and tilting climate change toward disaster. The tar sands industry is part of what Art Sterritt calls a "war on nature, on the very foundation of life -- on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soils that provide us with the food we eat." (Globe and Mail, co-signed with David Suzuki). Sterritt will be sharing more of his perspective with participants at the event on the 17th. 

Speaking alongside Sterritt in Victoria October 22 in an anti-pipeline rally of 4,000, Maude Barlow said, "These pipelines mean that you’ll need to keep them full and that means a massive expansion of the tar sands and that means that we will never be able to get the alternative energy future we need ... Going after these pipelines is the most important fight we can have right now."

Indigenous peoples are leading the campaign against the tar sands menace. Sterritt was a key spokesperson for the massive October 22 action in Victoria by "Defend Our Coast." This Indigenous-led coalition has united 132 First Nations, 23 municipalities and residents across B.C. in a campaign that poses a huge obstacle to tar sands pipeline projects in that province. In Alberta, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Beaver Lake Cree have taken Shell and the Alberta government, respectively, to court.

In Ontario, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, and Oneida Nation all submitted concerns to the National Energy Board against Line 9. (See "Stopping Line 9: Communities Mobilize"). 

The People Versus Line 9 group points out, "Communities in British Columbia and Texas, as well as Indigenous peoples across the continent, all have stopped or slowed down other tar sands pipelines. It's time to play our part…. Let's stop Enbridge's plans for Line 9. Ontario cannot be the weak link in the chain … Take action in your community." On November 17 the Tar Sands Come to Ontario event will encourage such community action trough workshops and a peoples assembly.

The Tar Sands Come To Ontario: No Line 9! is jointly organized by the Center for Social Justice, Climate Justice Working Group/Science for Peace, the Council of Canadians Toronto, Common Frontiers, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, OPIRG-Toronto, Toronto Bolivia Solidarity, and Trinity-St. Paul's United Church Public Witness Circle. The conference forms part of the November 15-18 OPIRG Toronto+York Rebuilding Bridges conference.

 

John Riddell is a Toronto-based activist and writer, and a member of Toronto Bolivia Solidarity. 

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Comments

Most of the news reports on the Line 9 reversal fail to answer the obvious question: How is Alberta bitumen (or dilbit) going to get to Sarnia, Ontario in the first place?

The answer is that the same Enbridge 6b pipeline that caused the disastrous spill into the Kalamazoo River two years ago will be supplying dilbit to the Sarnia-Westover (Line 9) pipeline!

Maryam Adrangi wrote:
The pipeline that fractured in Kalamazoo connects to Line 9 when it passes through the Windsor-Quebec City corridor, the most densely populated area in Canada.

The National Energy Board has already approved "Phase 1" of the Line 9 Reversal, allowing crude oil to be piped from Sarnia to Westover, near Hamilton, Ont. In public hearings last spring Enbridge insisted it was intending to pipe "light crude" through Line 9; but once the NEB had approved the plan, Enbridge announced another "reversal" - a reversal of its assurances about "light crude". It now seeks to pump Tar Sands dilbit through Line 9. This is the same corrosive, heavy crude that they propose to ship to Kitimat through the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Moreover, Enbridge has now appplied for approval of "Phase 2", which would reverse the rest of Line 9 all the way to Quebec and link up with export pipelines to New England.

Environmental Defence Canada wrote:
"We've been concerned for months Enbridge is planning to ship more risky tar sands oil across Canada's most populated region, but the company repeatedly denied that was its intention," said Adam Scott of Environmental Defence. "Enbridge's plan could put the drinking water of millions of people at risk of a tar sands oil spill, all in the name of exporting more raw tar sands oil south."

Tar sands oil is more corrosive to pipes and more dangerous to ship through pipelines, putting water and farmland along Line 9's route at greater risk of oil spills. When tar sands oil spills, it is much harder and more costly to clean up than conventional oil, and it causes more damage to human and environmental health. Line 9 crosses major rivers in Ontario like the Rouge, Humber, Grand and Rideau, all of which feed into Lake Ontario, putting the drinking water for millions of people at risk of pollution.

Meanwhile, TransCanada Corp. wants to convert roughly 3,000 kilometres of existing natural gas pipeline, running from Alberta to Montreal, into a crude oil pipeline as well. It could be extended as far as the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, NB.

The struggle against oil pipelines in Eastern Canada is just beginning.

Quote:
Let me be clear, New Democrats support recent proposals to increase West-East pipeline capacity.
- Thomas Mulcair, federal NDP leader, Sept. 28, 2012.

 

Go TO Go!  Save my stomping grounds while I'm away.  Embarassed  Send ENBRIDGE packing...  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYUd7WOdjyU 

 

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