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Calgary-based energy corporation Enbridge Inc. is moving ahead with its pipeline reversal project, now that the National Energy Board (NEB) has approved the project with a list of conditions.

Calgary-based energy corporation Enbridge Inc. is moving ahead with its pipeline reversal project, now that the National Energy Board (NEB) has approved the project with a list of conditions.

The NEB announced its approval of the Line 9B flow reversal and Line 9 capacity expansion project on March 6. Enbridge plans to reverse the flow direction of a 639-kilometre section of the Line 9 pipeline, running between North Westover, Ontario and Montreal, from westbound to eastbound. The NEB approved the first phase of the initiative — the reversal of the 246-kilometre Line 9A between Sarnia and North Westover — in July 2012.

For the latest project, the company wants to expand the entire pipeline’s capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen. As part of the company’s Eastern Canadian Refinery Access Initiative, the line will deliver these barrels of crude oil from Western Canada and the U.S. Bakken region to refineries in Ontario and Quebec.

Enbridge spokesperson Graham White says that the corporation’s goal is to provide Canadian crude to Quebec refineries that request it. “It will support the economy of the region and will also get eastern Canada off of the foreign oil that they currently use,” he explains.

The NEB’s green light followed months of public debate over the project’s potential environmental dangers. Last August, a scathing report by U.S. research corporation Accufacts Inc. pointed out numerous safety risks, including stress corrosion cracks on the line that were likely to rupture and an inadequate emergency response. Three months later, the NEB held public forums in Toronto and Montreal to discuss the issue.

The day after the NEB announced its approval, a coalition of activist groups protested the board’s approval with a demonstration and press conference at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislature in Toronto.

“It was an emergency response, because the National Energy Board gave us basically just under 48 hours of confirmation of when they were going to release their decision,” contends Amanda Lickers, a representative with Rising Tide Toronto (RTT), about the March 7 rally. An environmental grassroots collective, RTT has been especially vocal in its opposition to the Enbridge plan.

Lickers points out that the pipeline was already an environmental threat, one that “directly jeopardizes the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River” and that of Canada’s two most densely populated urban centres. “There’s no way that we can survive as people without water. There is no economic benefit.”

If the pipeline leaks or bursts, she adds, the result could be catastrophic for municipalities across Ontario, including Toronto. “We’re going to be left cleaning up that spill. People need to realize that.”

White maintains that Enbridge has kept safety concerns in mind. “Whatever risks there may be are well planned for and well mitigated by even our existing extensive emergency response and integrity programs,” he says.

The NEB has detailed its approval in a 158-page report, with an appendix outlining 30 conditions that Enbridge must meet. Many of these conditions address issues that opponents have brought up, including reported cracks in the pipeline, transparency of information and the adequacy of Enbridge’s leak detection and emergency response measures. Enbridge also has to develop an environmental protection plan, but will not be required to conduct hydrostatic testing to ensure the integrity of the existing sections of pipeline.

“The conditions are stringent, but we feel that they’re achievable,” says White, adding that the company is in the process of reviewing the conditions and the scope of work involved.

Lickers is skeptical. “The NEB told Enbridge to do the things it hasn’t done so far,” she says, charging that Enbridge’s pipelines failed safety tests and the company has not improved its record.

White says that Enbridge had started pulling together its oh&s plan for the Line 9 project well before the equipment was ordered and the contracts were awarded. “The essence of the program lies in the project-specific safety management plan, which is based on the principles found in Enbridge’s health and safety management system,” White says.

Frontline staff, construction contractors and tradespeople completed detailed assessments to identify work hazards and the precautions that needed to be in place to prevent a safety incident. Coordinating safety concerns among dozens of contractors, subcontractors and tradespeople does take some detailed planning.

“We have a set frequency of safety-focused contractor management meetings and regular, frequent ‘all-hands’ safety meetings,” says White. Tradespeople are encouraged to identify safety concerns and bring them to the attention of their supervisors and Enbridge representatives at daily toolbox talk meetings or through hazard ID or safety observation programs. “Enbridge’s commitment to safety has taken shape in a health and safety management system that has produced safety performance metrics that are 50 per cent lower than the industry average,” says White.

RTT released its own Line 9 report, Not Worth the Risk, in February. The report documents extensive research into Line 9’s environmental hazards and weighs its apparent economic benefits against the health and safety risks; it also deals with First Nations treaty violations.

Lickers describes RTT’s report as a community response debunking Enbridge’s claims. “It’s a combination of intervenors and community members from all across the line,” she said. “It’s basically a full resource as to why this pipeline should never have been approved and needs to be decommissioned and checked out.”

The NEB decision is available in PDF format at Not Worth the Risk is available at  PL

Jeff Cottrill is the editorial assistant of OHS Canada Magazine; William M. Glenn is a writer in Toronto.

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1 Comment » for Thumbs up
  1. Common Sense Somerville says:

    We lets look at this. The only really safe way is to shut down all of the pipelines ad leave the oil in the ground where it is. But wait how will everyone heat their homes, drive their cars, fly to their winter hot spots.
    I guess Toronto will at least have lost of safe water to warm over the open fire that they will be cooking on and huddling around for heat.
    It all boils down to doing the very best we can to try to ensure that crap does not happen. Every day you walk down the street and take the chance of being struck by lightning, run over by a motorist, or being stabbed by a mugger. Is that acceptable risk to get to work, to the grocery store or to school?
    Is the acceptable risk level to be set at zero?

    Just some random thoughts.

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