Kingston, Ontario (Press Release) — Residents of Kingston must fill out a 10-page form and submit a resume (* ‘by noon on 19 April 2013’, pg 4) in hopes of being allowed to ask questions or voice their concerns about an Enbridge plan to pump 300,000 barrels of oil and bitumen from the Alberta tar sands every day through the 37-year-old Line 9 pipeline.
And under new rules resident’s have less than 14 days to apply for permission to speak at the Line 9 public hearings or to even write a letter.
“Since when does someone’s resume determine if they have the right to be concerned about what’s happening in their home community? Anyone who lives and works in southern Ontario could be affected by a spill and everyone is affected by climate change. The right to send a letter of comment and have it considered by public agencies is part of the basic rights and freedoms Canadians enjoy.”
— Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. (source)
Enbridge’s Line 9 stretches from Sarnia to Montreal crossing nearly every major waterway that empties into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It’s often less than 10 kilometres away from Lake Ontario.
Pipelines do leak:
On Easter Weekend Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline burst sending thousands of barrels of bitumen running through the streets of a Arkansas suburb and into a nearby lake.
In 2010 an Enbridge pipeline of a similar age and design as Line 9 ruptured near the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The spill spread bitumen 50 kilometres downstream. The US government has forced Enbridge to continue cleanup efforts.
The 2012 federal omnibus bill C-38 allows the National Energy Board (NEB) to deny Canadians their right to participate in public hearings on energy projects. The NEB is Canada’s independent regulatory body of international and interprovincial energy projects. Under the new rules only those “directly affected” by the Line 9 project and persons with “relevant information or expertise” will be approved to participate in the hearings.
Any one who would like to comment must fill out the 10 page “application to participate” form, provide a resume with references and submit these documents by noon (Calgary time) April 19th. The form was only made available April 4th. (The NEB recently gave residents five weeks to apply to participate for a new and much smaller pipeline project in Alberta — source)
Those permitted to speak are restricted in what they can say
The NEB will not listen to views or concerns over issues such as the expansion of the tar sands industry or the possibility that Line 9’s oil will be exported or even climate change.
“Setting restrictions on what issues people can comment on in the hearings is like telling people what they can care about.”
— Maryam Adrangi, Climate and Energy Campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
“Canadians do not have access to a venue where their concerns about the larger issues related to pipeline projects can be heard. If the NEB refuses to listen to the public’s concerns on the upstream or downstream effects of the pipeline — such as the way it will fuel expansion in the tar sands and contribute to climate change, or how it will lead to more deadly air emissions from the refineries around Sarnia, Montreal or Saint John, where else are Canadians to go? The federal government seems to have turned its back.”
— Dayna Nadine Scott, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.
It remains unclear who the NEB will allow to participate. It is likely most Ontarians will not be allowed to express their views even if they’d lose their only source of drinking water from a Line 9 leak that contaminates Lake Ontario or their groundwater.
The NEB plans to hold hearings on Line 9 between August 26-30. It is also unclear how “public” these hearings will be. At the last few Northern Gateway pipeline hearings British Columbians could only watch via video in locations a kilometre or more away.
Few people have ever heard of Line 9
Line 9 has not received the same media attention as the controversial Northern Gateway or Keystone XL pipeline projects. Enbridge was only required to do minimal advertising in newspapers about the hearings. The NEB or Enbridge are not obligated to advertise in newspapers, television or radio that the application to participate form is available.
Few people are likely to know much about Line 9 even though it may run through their community. And now there is only 7 days left to get up to speed and complete the 10-page application.
“The long and detailed application form and having to get NEB approval is going to discourage members of our community from getting involved. But we have little choice in the matter. We have to protect our communities and our water despite these obstacles.”
— Doug Anderson of DurhamCLEAR, a local environmental advocacy group in Ontario.
If a resident of Ontario or Quebec is able to successfully jump through the NEB’s multiple new hoops their input on Line 9 means little because the NEB rarely rejects energy projects. And in the unlikely event the NEB rejects the Line 9 project, Bill C-38 gives the federal cabinet power to override the decision.
The Ontario government, which has been silent on Line 9, announced on April 9th they will participate as intervenors in the Line 9 hearings to ensure “the interests of the people who might be affected are protected, that the environment will be protected, that the interests of First Nations will be protected in the process.”
The final decision on Line 9 will be made no later than March 19, 2014, but could come as early as December 1st.
Line 9 Background:
Enbridge’s “Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project” was filed on November 29th, 2012 with the NEB. In recent years Line 9 has supplied refineries in Sarnia with a small amount of imported crude oil from Montreal.
Enbridge wants to reverse Line 9B to flow from Westover (near Hamilton) to Montreal. They have already received NEB approval to reverse Line 9A from Sarnia to Westover (July 2012). Enbridge hopes to increase the capacity of Line 9 from 250 000 bpd (barrels per day) to 300 000 bpd and is seeking approval to ship “heavy crude” such as bitumen through the 37 year old pipeline.
Enbridge is currently claiming Line 9 will only carry a small amount of bitumen (technically referred to as diluted bitumen or “dilbit”) from western Canada.
Provided media release | Map: Natural Energy Board