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City pushed on oil pipeline

Nov 11, 2015

The Enbridge plan to build 35 kilometres of new pipeline inside Hamilton should be examined in light of the city’s commitments on climate change and indigenous rights councillors were told last week. During the company’s last minute presentation to the general issues committee, questions were also raised over its ethical practices including 2013 donations to the Hamilton police that are now being justified in a new way although Enbridge says it has also stopped these grants.

Enbridge officials have been lobbying councillors and meeting privately with landowners to win support for a new pipeline right-of-way through the Greenbelt to avoid the higher costs of using the existing Line 10 route across several golf courses.  The company goes to the National Energy Board this month. Enbridge launched its efforts last June and sought permission to speak to council in July, but only showed up last week as they held two rural public open houses.

Ward three councillor Matt Green cross-examined, Enbridge spokesman Ken Hall about the purpose of the 2013 police donations, and was told the money was given for ATV equipment to help police search for “Alzheimer patients that were getting lost off-road” but that “it was perceived by some, including some media, that this was an attempt by Enbridge to buy the favour of the Hamilton police department”, a suggestion Hall called “ludicrous”.

But there was no mention of lost Alzheimer’s patients in Enbridge’s original justification for its $45,000 gift to the police that was made while Enbridge’s was seeking approval to add tar sands bitumen to its 40-year-old Line 9 pipeline through Hamilton and increasing flow volumes by 25 percent. When the payments were challenged by Hamilton 350 committee and questioned in the media, the justification was so police could “adequately respond to complaints of illegal ATV use, contravention of the Off Road Vehicle Act, motorized usage of Hydro One’s right-of-way and contraventions of the City of Hamilton bylaws.”

Hall told Green that it was “a long shot to believe that $45,000 is going to corrupt or convert any police service in Ontario” and argued  “that the tension and the issue is really quite ludicrous” as well as “a shame for this community and for every other community that we can no longer do that.” He said Enbridge is now offering grants to the Hamilton fire department.

Mayor Eisenberger cut off the sharp exchange but not before Green dismissed Hall’s argument.

“Given the opportunity of environmental scenarios, particularly around reverse flow, I can see why we would need investments in emergency services,” the ward three councillor stated. “However, I would respectfully take the quotation marks off of the ludicrous nature of this contention. Obviously, it had enough traction, sir, that you stopped the program.”

An aboriginal speaker and another pipeline activist challenged councillors to think about their moral responsibilities in the ongoing “genocide” against First Nations from poisoning the Athabasca Chippewa peoples living downstream of the Alberta tar sands mining.

“What do you gain at the destruction of the land and water, and of communities and cultures?” asked the statement from Trish Mills read by a representative. “How can you use your strengths and privileges to make reparations, [and] what can you personally do for the future of this world?”

She urged councillors to demand no Line 10 at all, and reminded them of past claims of the company that had turned out to be false.

“Three years ago they told you line 9 would not ship heavy crude. Days later they applied for a heavy crude permit. They told you that they followed all regulations, and then they were caught without safety valves or emergency shutoffs. They told you line 9 hadn't spilled, yet further investigation revealed the pipeline had breached at least 35 times.”

A representative of two citizen groups called on councillors to make the link between Enbridge oil export pipeline and council’s stated position on climate change. Agnes Richard of Hamilton 350 Committee and the local chapter of Council of Canadians urged council to push for a provincial environmental assessment.  

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