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The ongoing fight to shut down the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline

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December 3rd marks the third anniversary of the in-service date of the controversial expansion and reversal of the Enbridge Line 9 pipeline.

The pipeline first carried oil from the west to refineries in Quebec in 1976. In 1998, Enbridge reversed the flow to carry cheaper, imported oil to the west.

In 2015, the flow of Line 9b was once again reversed and the capacity of Line 9 was increased from 240,000 barrels a day to 300,000 barrels a day. This represented a substantial increase because the pipeline had moved about 64,000 barrels a day from 2009 to 2011.

Indigenous rights and sacrifice zones

Line 9 (including Line 9a and 9b) is an 831 kilometre pipeline that stretches from Sarnia (on an unceded portion of the original Aamjiwnaang First Nation's reserve in southern Ontario) to North Westover, Ontario, and then to the Suncor refinery in Montreal.

At the Port of Montreal, some of the oil is also loaded onto tankers that carry it up the St. Lawrence River to the Valero-owned refinery in Lévis, Quebec.

The pipeline carries oil (including diluted bitumen or dilbit) that, according to the company, "can be sourced from a number of locations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Bakken region." These "locations" are sacrifice zones where massive areas of land are despoiled, water sources are put at risk, and Indigenous rights are violated.

Even though the Chippewas of the Thames nation opposes the pipeline on their territory, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2017 that the nation was informed by the National Energy Board about the pipeline reversal, granted funding to participate in the hearing process, that "the consultation undertaken in this case was manifestly adequate," and that the nation was "aware that the NEB was the final decision maker."

This is a clear violation of their right to free, prior and informed consent guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Water put at risk

In evidence submitted to the National Energy Board, pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz stated that there is a high risk that Line 9 would rupture in the early years of its operation due a combination of cracking and corrosion.

The pipeline runs through 99 towns and cities and 14 Indigenous communities (including the territory of the Chippewas of the Thames), under the Thames River, and crosses 36 different tributaries (including the Credit, Humber, Rouge, Trent and Rideau rivers) in the Lake Ontario watershed, the source of drinking water for millions of people.

Line 9 also crosses the Ottawa River about 20 kilometres upstream from Kanesatake and goes under the Gananoque River, which empties into the St. Lawrence River.

Carbon emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions were not considered in the review of the Line 9 reversal.

As such, it's not clear what the combined upstream and downstream carbon pollution from Line 9 is, but proportionally in relation to the 890,000 Trans Mountain pipeline, a fair estimate might be around 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

NEB hearings

National Energy Board hearings for Line 9 were held in October 2013.

Vice reported there were "three days of uneventful bureaucratic protocol" followed by a dramatic moment in which numerous activists disrupted the hearings.

That article notes, "Once the chanting overpowered the National Energy Board’s microphones, members of the NEB fled the hearings and Enbridge’s final arguments for the project, originally planned for Saturday October 19th, were postponed indefinitely as the remainder of the hearings were cancelled.”

Vice highlights, The vast majority of the speakers opposed the proposal altogether or offered a long list of conditions that the NEB should consider if they wish to approve it.”

Resistance to Line 9

There have also been several instances of direct action against the pipeline.

In June 2013, eighteen activists were arrested at a Line 9 pumping station in rural Hamilton after a six-day occupation of the site.

In August 2014, five people were arrested after occupying an Enbridge worksite near Woodstock to stop work on the pipeline.

In December 2015, three men interruped the flow of Line 9 and then locked themselves to the pipeline near St-Justine-de-Newton where it crosses the Ontario-Quebec border.

Then just two weeks later, three women turned a manual hand wheel at a station in Sarnia and stopped the flow of the pipeline for two hours.

There have been numerous other protests and actions against the pipeline, including in September 2014 at an Enbridge-sponsored powwow in Toronto when Lindsay Gray from Aamjiwnaang helped unfurl a banner that read, “Enbridge represents colonial violence.”

The fight continues

In our fight for a renewable energy future, climate justice and more broadly planetary survival, social movements are working to stop tar sands pipelines from being approved or being built, and failing that, organizing to have pipelines decommissioned.

While much attention is rightly being given to stopping the construction of the now federally-owned Trans Mountain pipeline, the fight to decommission Line 9 continues to be an important struggle if we are to achieve a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.


Image: Carrie Lester

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