Judging from its back–door moves, Enbridge Inc is worried about local opposition to shipment of diluted bitumen through Hamilton pipelines. Opponents got a sympathetic response from councillors last week before holding a picnic Sunday at Enbridge’s pipeline hub in Westover – attracting about fifty people who were about evenly split on the company’s plans to reverse the flow in Line 9 to send tar sands to eastern export ports.
Enbridge chose to lobby individual councillors rather than face the public session last week where eight delegations detailed problems with the company and its safety record. After three delays in their requested appearance, their absence offended Maria Pearson.
“I’m disappointed that Enbridge reps are not here today, and I understand why they wouldn’t be, but I think as good corporate citizens they should have had a representative here,” declared the Stoney Creek councillor. “They should have at least shown that they have at least a face to their business, and taken responsibility.”
Flamborough councillors Robert Pasuta and Judi Partridge subsequently revealed they had met privately with the company, and Lloyd Ferguson confirmed that “Enbridge also came and saw me as I think they have most members of council”.
But all councillors who spoke echoed some of the concerns of the citizen delegations and ended up asking their staff how the city can act despite the jurisdictional restrictions that give the federal government almost all the decision–making power respecting oil pipelines. That problem was highlighted by Mayor Bratina who predicted any requests to Harper will fall on deaf ears.
“You have to change the government, because this government is joined at the hip – the federal government – with the oil patch,” he declared. “We’re not going to get anywhere challenging the National Energy Board or the federal government. That fight has to be taken at the ballot box.”
Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson said the staff report raised “red flags” for her as did Enbridge’s response to a 2001 spill from one of their pipes in Binbrook and their continuing failure to respond to “reasonable questions” from resident John McGreal “on the integrity of a pipeline that’s been in the ground for 30 years”.
Several councillors supported asking for a billion dollar performance bond to protect the city from the consequences of a pipeline rupture. Pearson pointed to the ongoing cleanup costs from a “six and half foot break” in Enbridge’s pipe near Kalamazoo, Michigan in July 2010.
“We really should have a performance bond,” she stated. “Kalamazoo’s $765 million spill isn’t peanuts if something happens in this community.”
Rob Pasuta and Judi Partridge agreed on the need for council action but emphasized that no one in their wards had expressed any concerns with the pipeline
“From what I see from Enbridge, as far as working with the rural community out there, they’ve been responsible people,” Pasuta noted. “It’s quite concerning if you think what could happen, but going forward I think Enbridge has learned from the spill and … they’ll be a heck of a lot more responsible.”
Those differences of opinion were evident at the weekend picnic at the Westover hub called by opponents of the line reversal – many of whom cycled 30 km to get there. They were met by equal numbers of local residents who said the parkette and gazebo in front of the Enbridge tank farm had been paid for by the company – an example of the benefits it provides to the local community.
Tensions between the two groups dissolved in a respectful discussion of differing viewpoints and some common concerns about the need to support local farmers and rural communities. V