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Pipeline woes

Oct 23, 2017

Enbridge is facing another protest over its controversial expansion of 35 kilometres of oil pipeline across rural Hamilton, but this one has a children’s logic. The mega-pipeline company – the largest in North America – is facing multiple challenges from climate activists across the continent but also got some positive news last week. 

Local climate activists will be back at a Line 10 pipeline construction site on Friday afternoon to read a children’s fairy tale to company employees in response to Enbridge’s clear-cutting of thousands of Hamilton trees for its pipeline expansion project. The “Reading the Lorax to Enbridge” protest also recalls a company grant last year to the Hamilton Conservation Authority that allowed Enbridge to sponsor a showing of the film version of the Dr Seuss classic.

The protest announcement says that sponsorship “was a disgusting and hypocritical attempt at greenwashing” and recalls that Enbridge has previously been criticized for a $35,000 gift to the Hamilton police department and similar grants in other municipalities “to buy their way into and through communities without actual regard for those same communities.” In the wake of the controversy over monies to the police Enbridge announced it would end that funding practice.

In an echo of a local heavy-handed move, Enbridge last week sent the sheriff to seize the assets of a Vancouver non-profit that had challenged its Line 9 expansion across southern Ontario. The company wants to collect court costs from Stand.Earth (formerly Forest Ethics) which lost a legal challenge of the flow increases in the Sarnia to Montreal oil pipeline that crosses Hamilton. The non-profit was unsuccessful in its argument that there was inadequate public consultation of the Line 9 decision. And Enbridge then got a court ruling ordering the non-profit to pay the company’s legal costs.

Earlier this year in Hamilton, Enbridge used the courts to pursue an indigenous man for over $25,000 after he set up a trap-line along Line 10 to underline treaty rights and try to force the company to allow Haudenosaunee monitoring of company excavations. That case concluded with the company dropping its financial demands in return for a promise that the man would not go near Enbridge facilities for at least two years.

Line 10 is a Line 9 spur pipe being used by Enbridge to export heavy crude to New York State. The company is currently installing a 20-inch pipe to replace a 12-inch one along a 35-km section that lies entirely inside the borders of Hamilton.

In other news last week, Enbridge’s long-standing application to expand its Line 67 oil pipe into the United States obtained formal American approval five years after the project was initiated. It’s not clear if that meets the company’s current plans which have shifted to expansion of its similarly-routed Line 3 from Alberta to Wisconsin.

That latter project was formally approved by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier this year at the same time he gave the okay to the more controversial Kinder Morgan trans-mountain project, but Line 3 is running into significant challenges, especially in the US. Protesters shut down a Duluth meeting last week and the Minnesota department of commerce declared that the risks of Line 3 outweigh its “limited benefits” to the state.

“In light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries,” Commerce officials wrote, “it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built.”

An unrelated Minnesota court decision last week promises more headaches for Enbridge and other pipeline companies. A judge hearing charges against protesters who freely acknowledge turning off Enbridge pipeline valves last year has ruled the activists use a “necessity defence” and present evidence that the threat of climate change posed by tar sands shipments justifies their action.

The abandonment earlier this month of the Energy East pipeline may also have a Hamilton connection according to some analysts who contend it was an admission that the project could not meet new National Energy Board review conditions that included climatic impacts of the project. The NEB’s review and approval of Line 10 did not consider upstream and downstream carbon pollution. The Hamilton 350 Committee contends that Line 10 would have failed a climate test because its expansion could increase emissions by the equivalent of twelve new coal-fired power stations – twice the number shut down over the last decade by Ontario. 

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