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City concerns ignored in pipeline approval

Jan 30, 2017

The city got the short end of the stick in the approval of an oil pipeline across 35 km of rural Hamilton by a National Energy Board panel that even seems confused about the municipal boundaries. While some fire and water department concerns are addressed in the 145-page NEB decision, the Board ignored and appears to have not even noticed council’s demand for removal of the old pipe.

The Enbridge Line 10 expansion project will replace a 12-inch pipe with a 20-inch one along a route that crosses 69 watercourses and 23 wetlands, and disturbs 13.6 hectares of woodlands. Nearly a third of the project will use a new right-of-way across farmland in order to avoid the higher costs of disturbing several local golf courses.

The route crosses 124 private and public properties with only one-sixth on crown land. Enbridge negotiates individually with each owner and doesn’t reveal the outcomes. Opposition from the owner of one of the avoided golf courses was settled by Enbridge prior to the NEB hearings.

The expanded Line 10 crosses numerous highways and city roads in its route from Westover to Nebo Road via Mount Hope. The NEB decision reports that Enbridge has applied for easements from the city and expects to get them, but offers no information on possible compensation to Hamilton.

Line 10 runs 143 kilometres, continuing down the Niagara Peninsula past Smithville before crossing the Niagara River to Seneca, New York, most of it already converted to 20 inch pipe. The company has been able to avoid a federal environmental assessment by doing the work in segments.

“Enbridge’s proposed Project is under 40 km in length,” notes the NEB. “It therefore is not considered a designated project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) and as a result does not require a CEAA 2012 environmental assessment.”

The city decided not to be represented at the hearings, opting instead for a letter of comment that described municipal concerns and specifically sought removal of the old pipe.

“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,” noted the city’s letter, “Enbridge should be required to remove the decommissioned portion of the pipeline, assuring that site remediation is performed as required.”

But the NEB doesn’t seem to have noticed this, and Enbridge officials apparently didn’t point it out at the hearings. The Board’s summary of the city concerns makes no reference to removal and its decision goes on to supporting Enbridge’s decision to leave it in the ground.

“The Board is satisfied that, subject to the conditions, Enbridge’s approach to decommissioning is appropriate in the current circumstances including its proposal to leave the existing Line 10 pipeline in-place,” states the decision. “The Board has imposed a condition requiring Enbridge to apply for leave to abandon the existing Line 10 pipeline.”

The Board also doesn’t seem to be aware that the project lies entirely within the boundaries of the City of Hamilton, apparently unaware of the amalgamation that took place 16 years ago. It describes the project as “[t]he construction and operation of the Replacement Line 10 Pipeline and associated facilities extending from Enbridge’s Westover Terminal to its Nanticoke Junction Facility, both near the City of Hamilton, Ontario.”

The NEB approval was denounced by the Hamilton 350 Committee, Environment Hamilton and other groups in a rally outside the federal building on January 27. Coming in the same week as Donald Trump’s endorsement of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, the opponents argued that the Canadian and American governments “stand arm in arm with the oil barons in the mad push toward more climate chaos, ignoring at least three decades of grave warnings from the scientific community, ignoring the death spiral of the polar ice cap, the melting of Greenland and glaciers around the world, [and] the extreme weather events across Canada and around the world.”

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