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Wholesale tree cutting underway


Aug 28, 2017


Thousands of trees are being cut down across rural Hamilton to make way for the controversial expansion of the Enbridge Line 10 oil export pipeline opposed by local climate activists. Company plans call for the clearing of more than fifty times the “treed area” that was logged this summer near Scenic Drive by a housing developer. 

The latter cutting spurred public outrage and councillors recently refused to provide a retroactive permit to that developer who removed just over 100 trees. But city bylaws don’t require tree cutting permits outside the urban boundary where almost all the pipeline work is taking place. And council didn’t pay any attention to this impact of Enbridge’s pipe expansion when they submitted comments to the National Energy Board project review last year.

The NEB decision stated 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.” That’s about ten times the area of Gage Park. The NEB further explained that construction “will result in disturbance of approximately 16.6 ha of native vegetation including of approximately 14.9 ha of treed land and 5.9 ha of wetland areas.” In contrast, the clear cut on Scenic Drive covered less than one-third of a hectare.

The NEB acknowledged that 13 wetlands (including 12 that are provincially significant) will be impacted by the project. The city tree conservation bylaw specifically blocks cutting where “stream or wetland functions, including flood or erosion control or drainage processes, will be negatively impacted” but again the bylaw does not apply outside the urban area.

Enbridge crews are currently bulldozing land at more than twenty-five spots between Nebo Road on the east mountain and the company’s pipeline hub in the Flamborough hamlet of Westover. The project will replace 35 kilometres of 12-inch pipe with a new 20-inch pipe capable of carrying three times as much of the heavy crude that Enbridge exports to the United States.

Part of it follows an existing right-of-way that holds a second oil pipeline feeding the Nanticoke refinery of Exxon Mobil. However, about a third of the current project opens a new route across farmland in order to avoid the higher costs of crossing several golf courses.

The full spur line is 143 kilometres and runs down the Niagara Peninsula and across the Niagara River to Seneca, New York. But the company is doing the pipe expansion in pieces – apparently because projects less than 40 kilometres are exempted from a federal environmental assessment.

The Enbridge easement is ten metres wide but the company says it requires an “additional 23 metres of temporary workspace” to carry out the pipe replacement. The route crosses “approximately 64 watercourses” and impacts 13 wetlands including twelve designated as provincially significant.

The Hamilton 350 Committee climate action coalition has strongly opposed the project and called for revocation of the NEB approval because of the failure of the federal government to reform the Board and require it to consider climatic impacts as well as respect indigenous rights and treaties. They are holding a rally against the pipeline on Friday September 15 in Mt Hope starting at 4 pm.

Ironically, last week the NEB broke with past practice and announced that it will examine all the upstream and downstream climatic effects of the Energy East pipeline that is proposed to carry bitumen and other oil products from Alberta to New Brunswick. Previously the Board has only considered emissions from direct construction of pipelines.

That comes in the wake of a US court ruling that emissions must be examined in pipeline projects as well as a Canadian government panel report calling for the replacement of the NEB because it has lost public trust.

“Canadians have serious concerns that the NEB has been ‘captured’ by the oil and gas industry with many Board members who come from the industry that the NEB regulates, and who – at the very least appear to – have an innate bias toward that industry,” stated the blue ribbon panel.

The panel appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau also pointed to contradictory federal policies that display “a clear expression of high level government policy and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” while at the same time both they are pushing “large pipeline projects which inherently signal planned increases in our overall production and continued global and domestic use of fossil fuels, an objective that is seemingly at irreconcilable odds with Canada’s stated goal of reducing emissions and moving away from fossil fuels.”

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