Activists are preparing for a fight against the Tar Sands right here in Ontario, as Calgary-based Enbridge works to gain approval to move Tar Sands oil from Sarnia to Quebec via a pipeline called Line 9. Enbridge hopes to repurpose an existing, 40-year-old pipeline to carry oil eastward, ultimately to be exported to markets abroad. The pipeline cuts across farmland, passes through 114 communities, crosses three watersheds and dozens of rivers.
Though this same project failed to be approved a few years ago, Enbridge is back, trying to push this pipeline through southern Ontario by splitting it into two “phases.” Phase 1, which was approved by the National Energy Board (NEB) in July, will move oil from Sarnia to Hamilton. Phase 2, which would move that oil the rest of the way from Hamilton to Montreal, was submitted to the NEB for approval in October. Though initially denying this intention, the Phase 2 application included Enbridge’s revelation that it plans to pump Tar Sands oil—also called bitumen or heavy crude—through this pipeline, at a rate of 300,000 barrels per day. The company denies that this would pose any increased risk to the surrounding environment or to the numerous human communities along the way.
However, the Canadian organization Environmental Defense argues that because Tar Sands oil is much more corrosive than lighter crude, and because the Line 9 pipeline is already 40 years old, this would pose a greater risk of oil spills. Enbridge is no stranger to spills, of course—the company’s own documents reveal that Enbridge pipelines spilled 804 times between 1999 and 2010. And this doesn’t include a major oil spill in 2010, in which another 40-year-old Enbridge pipeline spilled 3 million litres of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. Two years later, the EPA is still attempting to hold Enbridge accountable for cleaning up 50 kilometres of contaminated waterways, which has cost nearly a billion dollars to date. Thus, activists across southern Ontario are demanding that the Ontario government conduct an environmental review of the proposed Line 9 project, as the Quebec government has already committed to do for their own province.
Additionally, Ontario activists want the issue of climate change to be considered with the approval of new energy projects, including this Line 9 pipeline. Line 9 would play a major role in facilitating the expansion of the Tar Sands in Alberta—called “the most destructive project on earth” by environmental groups because of its massive carbon emissions, environmental destruction, water pollution, and extreme human health impacts in nearby communities, especially among First Nations. According to NASA scientist Jim Hansen, if extraction of bitumen from the Tar Sands continues as planned, “it will be game over for the climate.”
As well, the lack of public consultation or consent to the controversial Line 9 project is troubling. While the NEB and Enbridge have arranged a few public outreach meetings, the vast majority of potentially affected parties have no opportunity to voice their concerns. In particular, Enbridge’s own documents state that they believe Line 9 would have “no significant impact on Aboriginal communities,” even though Line 9 runs literally across the street from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation (located near Sarnia) and passes through the Haldimand Tract, which is Haudenosaunee territory. The Canadian Constitution requires that the government consult with First Nations for any development activities carried out on their lands, yet the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and residents of the Six Nations reserve have been shut out of consultations completely.
Enbridge is currently battling a landslide of opposition from First Nations, environmentalists, and ordinary citizens in British Columbia over its controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline. As well, the Keystone XL pipeline has been stymied by public outcry, which includes an ongoing, 56-day-long blockade by local landowners and environmental activists in Texas. Meanwhile, the Line 9 pipeline is quietly attempting to provide another route for Tar Sands oil to be exported from Canada to prospective markets abroad. Ontario residents need to get informed and get involved in this issue, to ensure that the health of our communities and ecosystems are not trampled in the race to sell Tar Sands oil abroad.
For more information, check out “The People versus Enbridge Line 9” on Facebook.