KITCHENER – As Waterloo regional councillors arrived for their monthly general meeting this past Wednesday, they were greeted by a rally of approximately 75 residents demonstrating their opposition to Enbridge’s plan to reverse and pump tar sands bitumen through the aging Line 9 pipeline. In the council meeting, the Waterloo Region Against Line 9 Coalition, representing over 25 different local groups, presented a declaration of opposition to Enbridge’s project and urged others in the region to join them in voicing their concerns.
Speakers at the rally and in the council meeting emphasized local concerns about the pipeline project, citing the risks posed by bitumen to the Grand River watershed, and highlighting the treaty agreements violated by Enbridge and the federal government in their failure to meaningfully consult Indigenous communities along the route of the pipeline.
“Neither the federal nor provincial governments have shown this pipeline reversal plan to be safe,” noted coalition spokesperson Kalin Stacey, continuing, “and with Enbridge’s dismal safety record and penchant for dumping clean-up costs on local governments, we believe the Line 9 reversal endangers Waterloo Region, located on Six Nations land, and all communities along and downstream of the line.”
As the delegation noted in their presentation, Enbridge has recently failed to compensate affected parties, notably two tribal councils, for costs incurred in response to a pipeline spill in Michigan.
Some of these concerns were echoed by Councillor Rob Deutschmann, who in the meeting expressed reservations over the strain placed on local responders in cases of pipeline failures, saying, “we certainly don’t want to be left with a mess.” Deutschmann also highlighted the large scope of a potential spill on Line 9, pointing out that this “could have impact on water supply and our friends south of us in Brantford who rely on that water supply.”
Deutschmann is mayor of North Dumfries, where Line 9 crosses the region. While Deutschmann made this link, neither he nor any of the other councillors acknowledged the potential impact on Six Nations or engaged with the coalition’s urging of the Region to take up treaty responsibilities as a government of the Canadian state on Six Nations territory.
Enbridge’s own data records over 800 significant spills in the past decade. Line 9 itself has suffered a dozen spills in its operational history.
One of the primary concerns voiced by many groups is the impact of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) on the environment. Bitumen is much thicker than conventional crude, which requires that it be mixed with a chemical slurry and pumped under much higher pressure to transport it through pipelines. It is suspected of being particularly corrosive, adding to the stress placed on aging pipelines not designed to transport it.
And to add to these risks, when dilbit spills into water, it sinks, proving almost impossible to clean up, as seen in Kalamazoo, MI when Enbridge’s line 6b ruptured in 2010.
This breach, which caused the largest inland oil spill in North America, has yet to be fully cleaned up despite expenditures of over a billion dollars. “If Line 9 spilled into the Grand River or the Nith River, given what we know from Kalamazoo, our entire watershed would be devastated,” said Stacey. “And Enbridge’s track record of spills suggests that it isn’t a matter of if this will happen, but when.”
Enbridge’s proposal involves the reversal of the Line 9, a 38-year-old pipeline which extends from Sarnia to Montreal, in order for it to ship oil west to east, and to allow for the flow of diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the Alberta tar sands.
The flow reversal has already been approved between Sarnia and North Westover (near Hamilton), but the reversal of the section between North Westover and Montreal, as well as the transport of dilbit, has yet to be approved.
The NEB will be holding hearings in October in Montreal and Toronto where those groups who were given permission to participate will present their opinions on the project.
Next up for the coalition is a rally and presentation at the Grand River Conservation Authority on September 27.
“We’re encouraging people from all along the Grand River to join us at the GRCA and demand they take their role in conserving the watershed seriously.”
To get on the bus to the GRCA this Friday, e-mail email@example.com.
By Rachel Avery and Dan Kellar