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Pipeline company defends Hamilton project

Mar 27, 2017

Facing widespread opposition, Enbridge officials are now playing defence over their 35 kilometre pipeline project across rural Hamilton. Eight residents spoke to city councillors this week emphasizing concerns about the climate and ecological impacts of the project and local indigenous leaders are also challenging the Line 10 project that runs from Westover to Nebo roads.

The company has launched court action to counter the latter opponents and sent representatives to city hall on Wednesday to face off against the Hamilton 350 Committee, Environment Hamilton and other citizen delegations. Enbridge has also been hit with revelations that it has cut a deal to sell the pipeline to an American company – a step it told the National Energy Board about, but didn’t inform city council when it promised to forever maintain the old pipe segments it is planning to leave in the ground.

Enbridge made a deal with United Refining Company (URC) in August 2014 giving URC “the right to purchase the entire Line 10 at any time during the next approximately eleven years.” A media statement at the time noted that Enbridge will also “have the right to require URC to purchase Line 10 over a two year period starting at the later of approximately nine years or when all of the upgrades are completed.” The statement also said: “the agreement will allow us to consider the feasibility of expansion of the pipeline's capacity over the coming years subject to regulatory approvals.”

The sale is referred to on page 1 of the NEB decision, but when Enbridge officials were asked about it by city councillors on Wednesday they denied any knowledge of the agreement.

This week two Enbridge officials had a letter and an opinion piece published by the Hamilton Spectator arguing that the project is a maintenance activity and not an expansion despite the company’s announced plans to replace a 12-inch diameter pipe with one that is 20-inches in diameter and capable of transporting three times as much oil as currently approved for Line 10. They pointed to the fact that the company has not asked the NEB to approve any more flow than was accomplished historically in the old Line 10 pipe that exports heavy crude to the United States.

Opponents contend that Enbridge is using a piecemeal approach to expanding the 143 km pipeline in order to avoid a federal environmental assessment. They point to the NEB approval decision which stated: “Enbridge’s proposed project is under 40 km in length. 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.”

That could be a significant exemption for the 35 km segment across rural Hamilton which the NEB says “crosses four watersheds, three sub-watersheds and approximately 64 watercourses. The watercourses include: West Spencer Creek, Big Creek, and tributaries to West Spencer Creek, Big Creek, the Welland River and Twenty Mile Creek.” It also notes that “the total footprint of the replacement Line 10 pipeline is 167 ha consisting of 28 ha for new easement and 139 ha for temporary workspace.”

Enbridge has recently reported two major spills from its oil pipes in western Canada – one late last month, and another last Thursday. The company has assured the NEB that the worst case scenario for Line 10 “would be 744 barrels based on an assumed detection, shutdown and valve closure time of 13 minutes.”

The company’s problems with indigenous challenges of the Line 10 project revolve around the setting of rabbit traps by two members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief’s Council. Enbridge is seeking a court injunction to block this activity that upholds the traditional rights of indigenous peoples to use the lands affected by the pipeline construction plans.

The indigenous newspaper Two Row Times said “Enbridge has not received approval from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council or entered into any agreement with the HCCC or the HDI [Haudenosaunee Development Institute] or the Six Nations Band Council” for the Line 10 construction project. The NEB confirms that the latter two indigenous organizations have not agreed with the project: “Six Nations stated that consultation has been insufficient and that Six Nations’ treaty rights have not been investigated and assessed appropriately or sufficiently.”

If and when Enbridge triples the capacity of Line 10, the climatic impacts would be very severe. Burning the additional 130,000 barrels a day of capacity would produce twice the greenhouse gas emissions as were saved by Ontario in shutting down all its coal-fired electricity plants over the last decade. 

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