By Doug Hallett
Guelph city council is concerned about the safety of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Line 9 pipeline project and the dangers it could pose, including to drinking water in the Grand River watershed.
Council agreed Monday to refer a motion on the issue, proposed by Coun. Maggie Laidlaw, to one of its standing committees for further consideration.
Laidlaw said city councils in Toronto and Kingston have already passed similar resolutions and the issue will be going to other Ontario municipalities as well. Her resolution isn’t aimed at stopping the Line 9 project, but rather at adding more checks and balances, she said.
Laidlaw said “near toxins” such as benzene are used to dilute heavier bitumen to allow it to flow in pipelines.
She said Enbridge has only $685 million worth of insurance, “so they are not covered for even a small spill” from the pipeline that runs through part of the Grand River watershed. The Speed and Eramosa rivers are part of this watershed.
As well as asking the federal Minister of Natural Resources to require a minimum of $1 billion in insurance, Laidlaw’s motion asks Ontario’s premier as well as its energy and environment ministers to “follow up on any outstanding concerns not addressed in the National Energy Board decision on Line 9B.”
Her resolution also calls for Ontario’s environment minister to conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment for Enbridge’s Line 9B application – “which has not taken place, believe it or not,” she told council.
Ward 4 councillors Cam Guthrie and Gloria Kovach both said they normally don’t like the city to get involved in issues under federal jurisdiction, but this situation is different.
“Because this is coming through our back yard, this is something we should have a say on,” Guthrie said.
“It is our back yard, and it’s our water supply” that could be threatened by the plan to reverse the flow of the Line 9 pipeline, Kovach agreed.
Coun. Bob Bell, a Guelph representative on the board of the Grand River Conservation Authority, said Enbridge representatives attended a GRCA meeting where the Line 9 project was discussed. “It was nice of them to come,” but the Enbridge representatives refused to answer questions at the GRCA meeting about hydrostatic testing of the 38-year-old pipeline, Bell told council.
Hydrostatic testing has been described as the gold standard for pipeline integrity and safety.
A pamphlet on the Line 9 project handed out to reporters at Monday’s meeting by a Council of Canadians representative said the Line 9 pipeline is “almost identical in build and age to Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline that ruptured into the Kalamazoo River” in Michigan in July 2010.
“In both Michigan and Arkansas, aging pipelines whose flows have been reversed spilled and devastated homes, wildlife, waterways and people’s health,” the pamphlet says. “Chemicals specific to the transport of diluted bitumen poisoned the air, while the heavier bitumen sank in the waterways, making it near impossible to clean.”
It says Line 9 “runs through sensitive ecosystems and important farmlands throughout southern Ontario and Quebec and passes within 50 kilometres of over nine million people, including 18 First Nations communities.”
Enbridge’s proposal to reverse the flow of the Line 9 pipeline would help to get crude oil from western Canada to refineries in the east. The Line 9 pipeline runs from Sarnia across southwestern Ontario, through the north end of Toronto, along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to the east end of Montreal.
Once the direction of flow is reversed, the pipeline would carry 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Sarnia to two refineries in Montreal and Quebec City.