The Risks of Line 9

Did you know that Line 9, a 38 year-old pipeline connecting Sarnia and Montreal, may be the principal means for the international exploitation of tar sands oil?

The owner of Line 9 (Enbridge) applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for reversal of Line 9 as a means of getting tar sands oil (aka bitumen or, when transported by pipeline, diluted bitumen or dilbit) to an ocean port.  The NEB has already approved reversal of part of the western half of Line 9. Further NEB hearings into the balance of the line are scheduled for October 15-16 (Montreal) and October 17 (Toronto).

(Thanks to DesmogBlog Canada)

The problem is that Line 9 was originally built for the transport conventional oil from Montreal to the Sarnia petrochemical complex.  The consequences of a spill of dilbit are far more serious than a spill of conventional oil. The 2011 disastrous spill of dilbit in Kalamazoo, Michigan was from a more recently constructed Enbridge pipeline that will feed into Line 9.

As Montreal refineries do not have the capacity and/or ability to refine dilbit, Enbridge may re-ship the dilbit to “tidewater” via the Quebec – Maine (Portland) pipeline.  From Portland the dilbit can be transported by oil tanker for refining elsewhere.

The ultimate destination of the dilbit could well be the Gulf Coast refineries that would be the destination of dilbit carried by the Keystone XL pipeline if approved by President Obama. Another alternative is St. John, NB, as Irving Oil has stated that it is prepared to invest $3 billion to build a dilbit upgrader there.

The Council of Canadians, several of its local chapters and many other environmental organizations are opposed to the Line 9 reversal. We understand that reversal of Line 9 is not popular in the various built up areas through which the Line 9 passes, including the Guelph community.  At the Guelph Climate Change Forum (October 18th) candidates representing the Provincial parties will be asked to state the position of their party on the Line 9 reversal.

We know exactly where the Federal Government stands on pipelines (i.e. energy infrastructure).  Minister Oliver stated:

“A pre-condition of diversification is the construction of infrastructure, to bring those resources to tidewater.”

The Ontario Minister of the Environment was present at the EMMC Conference in Yellowknife that supported the creation of energy infrastructure.  The formal report issued at the conclusion of the Conference stated:

“The Ministers agreed to continue working together to ensure that Canada has the safe and secure energy transportation infrastructure needed to reach current and future markets”.

The Ontario Minister of the Environment has said nothing.  The Ontario Government should make submissions to the NEB opposing the reversal of Line 9. There will be a rally at Queen’s Park on October 19th to take that message to the Government.

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