The city is intervening in the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) hearing on Enbridge’s proposed new fracked gas pipeline across rural Hamilton. Hamilton is one of eighteen intervenors, but Enbridge is objecting to three of those because they are raising concerns about climate change, energy demand and the use of the new pipe to increase exports or imports of fracked gas.
The company is accusing Environmental Defence, Pollution Probe and the Green Energy Coalition of “mischaracterization” of the issues in the pipeline hearing.
“It is not fair or reasonable to rely upon the OEB’s review of the application, as it relates to the proposed project, as a venue to interpret and debate government policy related to climate change”, declares Enbridge in a January 24 letter to the OEB. “It is incorrect to assert that incremental import or export of ‘fracking gas’ is a natural consequence of the project.”
The city’s letter to the OEB also cites “environmental impact including climate change” but so far Enbridge has not objected to that inclusion. A city staff report circulated to councillors says other concerns include possible negative effects of the pipeline and its construction on “emergency response, natural and cultural heritage, municipal infrastructure, source water protection and corridor management, social impacts, contingencies and other related issues.”
The new ten kilometre 48–inch pipe would run entirely within the Greenbelt from Kirkwall to just east of Highway 6, between Safari Road and the 8th Concession. It would cross the Beverly Swamp wetland complex, Spencer Creek and Bronte Creek, publicly–owned lands of the Hamilton Conservation Authority and other areas designated by the city as environmentally sensitive.
The company wants a permanent easement equal at least to the width of an eight–lane highway, plus temporary use of a similar amount of land for construction staging. Extensive bedrock close to the surface will require blasting to carve out a trench at least three metres deep and far enough away from existing gas pipelines to ensure they are not disturbed.
The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) says the project will greatly increase the carbon pollution that is causing global heating and that its $200 million cost should instead be used for conservation measures to help residents reduce their energy bills by several times the price of the new pipeline. The OCAA, which is being represented by Environmental Defence at the OEB hearings, also opposes Enbridge’s plan to raise Ontario gas rates by $120 million to help pay for the pipeline.
OCAA chair Jack Gibbons will be the keynote speaker at a February 13 public meeting in Hamilton’s central library. The 7 pm event is organized by Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton 350 Committee. It will focus on objections to the Enbridge pipeline as well as energy alternatives to burning gas to produce electricity in Ontario.
Nine Hamilton organizations and about two dozen individuals have sent letters to the OEB expressing concerns about the project and/or demanding a fully transparent oral hearing instead of the quick written one sought by Enbridge. Those groups include the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, Environment Hamilton, Democracy Probe and the Hamilton Blue Dot Movement.
The 600–member Naturalists’ Club thinks “the pipeline would have a serious detrimental impact on an area dominated by the Beverly Swamp, one of the largest and most environmentally significant wetlands in Ontario, and the headwaters of major streams including Spencer, Fairchild and Grindstone creeks.” It pointedly notes that the club “has repeatedly given monies to help the HCA to secure ecological sensitive lands and has a right to expect that those lands will be permanently protected.”. V