Canadians Choose a Clean Start: Bury the Tar Sands Along With Harpers Tenure
October 21, 2015
The ousting of the Conservative Government from Ottawa by the Canadian public in Mondays election is also a repudiation of the continued, unrestrained development of the Athabasca tar sands. This was a central policy plank of the Conservatives who aimed to make Canada an energy superpower by exporting unlimited amounts of unrefined crude.
Its a new day. We are hopeful that the new government will take a strong stand on protecting our communities, water and environment from the reckless transport of unconventional oil through pipelines like Line 9, said Leigh Paulseth of Scarborough Bitumen Free Future (SBFF). The facilitation of these projects without meaningful environmental and social impact assessments needs to stop.
With this new government, groups dedicated to stopping dangerous transportation of unconventional oil, like SBFF, will be redoubling efforts to prevent the transport of tar-sands products through Line 9B and other pipeline projects. SBFF is hopeful that the new government in Ottawa will consult community partners, honour First Nations and review pipeline projects in a transparent process, as is done in a democracy, in order to seriously consider the social and environmental impacts of decisions involving the extraction and transport of bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands.
Enbridges Line 9B in Toronto
In North Toronto, along the Finch Hydro Corridor, runs an oil pipeline that crosses all of Torontos major rivers. For nearly 40 years, Line 9 has been used for the flow of conventional crude oil from Quebec across Ontario. With the development of Albertas tar sands, Enbridge plans to use Line 9 to transport nearly 300,000 barrels of diluted bitumen a type of thick, heavy oil not suited for the aging pipeline eastbound every day.
Here are some facts about transporting unconventional oil through Enbridges Line 9:
Enbridge proposes pumping diluted bitumen, or dilbit. Bitumen, a much heavier oil than crude oil, is diluted with chemicals to make it viscous enough to transport through the pipeline. These gases include benzene and n-hexane among others. Dilbit has a higher acidic content, making it more corrosive; it is also necessary to pump it at higher pressures due to the viscosity. In fact Enbridge has requested a maximum operating pressure of 1000 psi, when failure is predicted at pressures as low as 687 psi. Enbridge is conducting hydrostatic testing at only 3 locations in spite of the fact the pipeline is over 38 years old, has been found to have corrosion to a depth of over a third of the wall thickness, and requires such testing along the entire pipeline as per Canadian Pipeline Standards. The Accufacts engineering report has argued Line 9 faces a 90% chance of failure if proper testing is not conducted.
Public Safety and Participation
Local authorities and emergency first responders appear to have a very low awareness of the location of the pipeline and the risks involved in a spill. Consequently there are no specific contingency plans even in densely urban areas like Toronto. The Lac Megantic tragedy illustrates the consequences of a bakken oil spill; and it is by no means a worst case scenario when compared to the amount of crude carried by a large pipeline under pressure. Enbridge has already experienced a pipeline rupture of tar sands dilbit in July of 2010 near the Kalamazoo River in Michigan devastating the surrounding ecosystem and communities, resulting in serious public health concerns, and requiring a clean-up, still not completed, that has cost over $1 billion to date. The National Energy Board approval process for the Line 9 reversal was conducted under the Harper governments Bill C-38 which has had the effect of seriously limiting public participation, both by limiting who could speak at hearings and by requiring a 9 page application be completed well before the hearings were conducted. As the public became more aware and more concerned of the project, they found it was too late to participate or even submit written comments.
Fresh Water and Land Protection
Line 9 crosses every major tributary flowing into Lake Ontario, including the Grand River watershed and the Rouge River, so that a spill could potentially compromise the drinking water supplies for millions. Groundwater supplies are similarly at risk, as are large portions of important farmland. National parks, First Nation Territories and the habitats of a wide variety of terrestrial animals could also be devastated by a dilbit spill. Line 9 passes within 50 kilometres of 18 First Nations communities; none of these have been properly consulted, in contradiction to numerous treaties dating from as far back as 1613 and as recent as the Canadian Charter (1982) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2011), all of which ensure that free prior and informed consent be sought for any project that impacts on them. Chippewa of the Thames First Nation is currently taking legal action against Enbridge.
The economic damages of a spill in a major urban area could be in the multi-billion dollar range. Enbridge reports it has liability insurance only covering up to $685 million. As has been seen in both Michigan and Lac Megantic, taxpayers would be hit with the remaining costs. The economic benefits of the Line 9 project may be severely curtailed by fluctuating oil prices. The gain in jobs is estimated even by conservative supporters as at best 108 jobs per year for the next 30 years, a figure which pales next to the possible job growth involved in the development of a vital clean energy sector.
The Line 9 reversal project is part of an effort to triple tar sands production by 2035. This could have a disastrous effect on global warming at a time we should be looking to limit carbon emissions.
For more information, we recommend reading Not Worth the Risk, a community report on the Line 9 National Energy Board hearings of February 2014. Seven contributors collaborated on its writing, citing 16 different testimonies. It is endorsed by 26 organizations and 13 professors from three Ontario universities. Interested parties are encouraged to access the full report at http://noline9wr.ca/sites/default/files/NEB_report_final.pdf for a fuller and more comprehensive consideration of the issues involved with Enbridge's Line 9 proposal.
For more information contact
Scarborough Bitumen Free Future
West End Against Line 9
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