As evidence mounts that the reversal and flow expansion an aging cross–Ontario pipeline are primarily to facilitate export of tar sands bitumen, local opponents of Line 9 are meeting on September 26. National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on Enbridge’s plans start in Montreal October 9 and shift to Toronto from October 16 to 19, a year after the company formally notified the NEB of its plan to increase volumes by 25 percent in the pipeline that runs across rural Hamilton.
The NEB process has been widely criticized because it required written applications for individuals and groups to even send a letter of comment. The Board has also been challenged for refusing to consider the implications of the Line 9 changes for climate change, tar sands expansion, and the export of unrefined bitumen.
Enbridge planned in 2008 to use Line 9 and pipelines running south from Montreal to get bitumen to an ocean port in Maine, but now stresses it “has no plans, proposals or infrastructure for pipelines moving product further east than Montreal”. The limited capacity of the Montreal refinery (167,000 barrels per day) has bolstered contentions that at least some of the 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) sought for Line 9 will be exported.
There is considerable unused capacity in the 600,000 bpd Montreal to Portland pipelines and its owners – Suncor and ExxonMobil – along with Canadian government officials have been lobbying New England regulators to allow shipment of bitumen. They also have filed an application in Quebec to build a pumping station in Montreal to push oil products southward to Portland, Maine.
Last week Enbridge claimed that some Line 9 oil will go to a Quebec City refinery currently supplied by ocean tankers and that both it and the Montreal refinery could shut down and throw thousands of workers on the street if Line 9 plans are rejected. The issue has come to a head in Portland, where American tar sands opponents have succeeded in getting a binding referendum question on the November ballot that “would change the city’s zoning to block ExxonMobil’s smokestacks and a pumping station needed to bring the tar–sands oil into the shipyard”.
More westerly Enbridge projects seem to confirm the export hypothesis. The company is currently doubling the capacity of its Line 6b across Indiana and Michigan from 240,000 to 500,000 bpd. That’s the pipe that feeds into Line 9 at Sarnia and also the one that ruptured in July 2010 and contaminated more than 60 km of the Kalamazoo River in the largest ever land–based oil spill in North America.
And further west, Enbridge is working to increase the capacity of its 450,000 bpd Line 67 between Edmonton, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin. The company got NEB permission in February to increase volumes to 570,000 bpd and last month filed a new application to push that up to 800,000 bpd.
From Superior, Enbridge operates pipelines down both sides of Lake Michigan that connect to Sarnia (one noted above), while the Council of Canadians is raising concern about a potential alternative transport route – a proposal by a Superior company to build oil barge–loading facilities that could see tankers moving through the Great Lakes.
The September 26 public meeting is at 7 pm in First Unitarian Church (170 Dundurn South) “to reflect on the year of resistance and to explore directions for the future of the ongoing struggle” and promises childcare and refreshments. Organizers say they are arranging buses to a mass rally in Toronto on October 19th “to demonstrate against the pipeline and to denounce the sham that the NEB hearings have become”.
There’s a rally at noon on October 19 outside Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre where the hearings are taking place, preceded on October 6 by a “Rock the Line” free concert featuring Sarah Harmer from 2 to 5 pm in Mel Lastman Square.V