By Dennis Smith, SPECIAL TO THE REVIEW
Reversing the flow in Enbridge’s Line 9 will send Alberta tar sands oil east toward foreign markets, a Flamborough audience was warned.
"This proposal is not providing energy for Canadians - this is about exporting energy," Adam Scott of Environmental Defence told about 90 onlookers at an information meeting held Monday (Feb.18) at the Westover Women's Institute Hall.
Enbridge has applied to reverse oil flow from west to east in the pipeline section from Westover to Montreal (Line 9B). The National Energy Board has already approved a reversal from Sarnia to Westover (Line 9A).
Scott warned that diluted bitumen (dilbit) - chemically-treated tar sands oil - could run through the reversed pipeline, which was built in 1975.
“Pipelines carrying this stuff spill more often,” he said. “Dilbit is more corrosive, runs at high pressures and is more acidic.” Chemicals in dilbit are harmful and it’s much harder to clean up, said Scott.
“Environmentalists would not be involved in this issue if it wasn’t a very different kind of oil,” he said. “There’s a huge risk here and I’d argue not much gain in a (pipeline) reversal.”
A video showed Michigan residents recalling hardships after more than 20,000 barrels of tar sands oil spilled from an Enbridge pipeline in July 2010. Scott said the spill response was slow and oil is still stuck at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.
“That river will never recover,” he said. “They will never get all of it out.”
He noted the Sarnia-Montreal Line 9 runs through Canada’s most populous area and crosses under the rivers that run into Lake Ontario. “A spill the size of Kalamazoo would contaminate drinking water for many, many people,” he said.
An audience member recalled her visits to the Kalamazoo area. “They may be working to clean up, but they’re a long way from cleaning up,” said Betty Lambeck. “This has been just devastating for this area.”
Gary Aikema said he has never had a pipeline spill on his property and Enbridge workers check the lines constantly. “I think we’re creating a lot of issues here and a lot of fear that doesn’t have to exist,” said the Westover resident.
He’s more concerned about the pipeline’s current oil than dilbit. “Lightweight crude goes through the ground more,” he said.
No Enbridge officials were present at the meeting, organized by Environmental Defence and Hamilton 350, another environmental group.
The Enbridge website states the Line 9B reversal will meet customer requests for western Canadian crude oil to supply the Quebec refining market. “Increasing the supply of lower-priced Canadian oil to Canadian refineries benefits the refining industry and the Canadian economy overall,” it notes.
The site also states there’s additional customer demand to ship mainly light crude oil on the reversed Line 9B.
As a result, Enbridge has proposed increasing that pipeline’s capacity from the current 240,000 barrels per day up to 300,000 daily. This would largely be achieved by improving flow with A Drag Reducing Agent, which Enbridge describes as “tested and safe polymer compound.”
Don McLean predicted tar sands dilbit will be exported via the Line 9 and the Montreal to Portland, Maine pipelines.
“There’s a substantial amount coming from the tar sands,” said the Hamilton 350 member. “At this point, it’s not getting (transported) out.” He noted there weren't any refineries east of Sarnia, accessible by the Line 9 pipeline, that can handle dilbit. As a result, there would be "no reason to ship dilbit unless it was headed for export to foreign refineries," he claimed.
McLean detailed climate change hazards, such as warmer global temperatures, a melting polar ice cap and extreme weather. He noted Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have tar sands, have much higher carbon dioxide emission rates than Ontario.
“If we’re serious about reducing carbon dioxide, we have to get to the tar sands,” said McLean.
Ward 14 councillor Robert Pasuta dispelled rumours that he and Westover residents had been bought out by Enbridge. “There’s no amount of money Enbridge can pay to me or anyone else,” said Pasuta. “My commitment is to the people.”
He’s not concerned about the Enbridge pipeline proposal and noted only five people altogether have e-mailed him about it. Pasuta said Enbridge officials have been open about the proposal, but added he’d look into having them at a public information meeting.
The difficulty of a spill cleanup, credibility of global warming claims and alternative energy were among topics raised by the audience. A petition is circulating seeking a proper environmental assessment of the proposal and ‘No Line 9’ lawn signs are also being made available.
For more information, visit www.hamilton350.com or www.enbridge.com.