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Challenges to Hamilton pipeline

Feb 29, 2016

As it heads to a National Energy Board hearing, there’s growing opposition to Enbridge plans to construct 35 kilometres of oil pipeline across Hamilton. The city has released a list of concerns, multiple landowners have filed objections, and a colourful invasion of the company’s new Ancaster offices makes clear that protests will dog this Line 10 project as they have every other new pipeline across Canada.

Enbridge submitted its NEB application in early December and the regulator has now deemed it complete. Last week large advertisements in the Hamilton Spectator gave formal notice of “modest funding” to potential hearing participants as well as notification that “persons who wish to participate in the hearing … must complete an Application to Participate form.” An NEB open house is set for Wednesday, March 2 at 7 pm in the Warplane Heritage Museum in Mt Hope.

Proposed city comments go before councillors earlier that day along with Enbridge’s response to previously stated staff concerns. Staff want the company to remove the pipe that would be decommissioned between Enbridge’s Westover and Nebo Road hubs, and have concerns that some of the eleven kilometres of new right-of-way threaten environmentally significant areas.

“Considering the potential long-term impacts of leaving portions of the decommissioned pipeline in place, including the possibility of some residue being left in the decommissioned portion, Enbridge should be required to remove the decommissioned portion of the pipeline, assuring that site remediation is performed as required,” states the city’s draft letter. “The Line 10 by-pass has the potential to impact natural heritage features within the Greenbelt Plan.”

Expansion of the pipe from 12 inches to 20 inches leads the staff to ask for additional shutoff valves, and Enbridge says they will increase those to four along the 35 kilometre route. The company claims the larger pipe doesn’t mean it will pump more oil through Line 10 to destinations in the United States, although this pipe is already approved to carry diluted bitumen whose attempted export has been the flash point for pipeline opposition across the country.

Those include Enbridge’s 1200 km Northern Gateway proposal across British Columbia, its 60-year-old Line 5 that crosses the bottom of the channel between Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario, and its Line 9 that runs through Hamilton on a route between Sarnia and Montreal. The company also is seeking approval to double the flows in its Line 3 from Alberta to the head of Lake Superior in Wisconsin.

Not surprisingly, Enbridge has been the target of multiple protests including a week-long occupation in Westover in 2013, and the recent “visit” of a clown contingent to “welcome” the company’s establishment of offices at 1430 Cormorant Drive in the Ancaster business park.

A group dressed as clowns invaded the offices on February 18 delivering a message to the “shippers, refiners, extractors and land destroyers of all ages” that “we are not afraid to keep resisting you.” The group released a video on Facebook of the “welcome” party promising that they will “keep shutting you down,” “will turn your offices into a circus” and “keep crashing your hearings.”

Specific opposition to the company’s Line 10 proposals include Gowland Farms, Knollwood Golf Course and a recently formed “Copetown Landowners Group”. Hotz and Sons developers also are raising concerns about the impact of the re-routed pipeline on a stormwater management pond required for a subdivision in Mt Hope.

Groups and individuals have until March 14 to apply to participate in the NEB hearings on the Line 10 project. It includes three re-routes from the existing right-of-way that total 11 kilometres to reduce company costs by avoiding golf courses in favour of putting the pipe across farmland including Greenbelt protected areas.

At this point, the controversial rules remain that require individuals and organizations to submit a written application in order to obtain permission to even send a letter of comment. It’s unclear if promised federal reforms that might eliminate that restriction and increase environmental rules to require consideration of climate change effects will be put in place for this NEB hearing.  A recent investigation by the federal environment commissioner found the NEB was failing to enforce safety and other conditions imposed during pipeline approvals in half the cases examined by the commissioner. 

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