Groups say local pipeline project is problematic

Enbridge will apply for approval to redirect flow of Sarnia-Montreal line that runs north of Kingston

Monday night’s event in Dupuis Hall to discuss the pipeline was hosted by Environmental Defence in conjunction with Transition Kingston and the Society for Conservation Biology.
Monday night’s event in Dupuis Hall to discuss the pipeline was hosted by Environmental Defence in conjunction with Transition Kingston and the Society for Conservation Biology.

Alberta-based company Enbridge has new plans for its pipeline that runs through Kingston, and area environmental groups are concerned.

The underground pipeline in question, Line 9 has been in operation for almost 40 years. It runs from Sarnia, ON, to Montreal, QC, through Kingston north of the 401.

Enbridge, the owner of the line, will be applying to the National Energy Board before the end of the year in order to get approval to reverse the direction of the flow in the pipe. This would allow diluted bitumen, a type of oil produced by the Alberta oil sands, to be transported eastward through Ontario to the coast.

As it stands currently, only light crude oil is sent through the line. Environmental groups are concerned about the effects that heavier bitumen oil would have on the pipe.

Phase one of the line, which runs from Sarnia to Hamilton, was approved for reversal several years ago. Now, Enbridge is looking for approval for phase two of the line, which runs from Hamilton to Montreal. They hope to have it fully functional by the end of 2014.

Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based group, held a speaking event in Dupuis Auditorium Monday night in conjunction with local groups Transition Kingston and the Society for Conservation Biology. The host groups are in opposition to the proposed changes to the pipeline.

This event follows a protest held Oct. 22 in front of the JDUC regarding the Northern Gateway Pipeline set to run from the Albertan oil sands to B.C.’s West Coast.

At the presentation Monday, speaker Adam Scott said that bitumen is more likely than light crude to corrode the pipe due to its heavy nature. “Kingston is one of the most significantly threatened places,” said Scott, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence.

This is because the pipeline runs just North of the city core, he added. Environmental Defence has been holding meetings in many of the Southern Ontario towns that the pipeline crosses in order to raise awareness and unite opposing voices. Scott said he’s sent an information package regarding the pipeline to Kingston City Council with the hopes he will get a response in the near future.

At the talk, Scott said he believes that an oil spill could occur with the reversal since there have been spills with Enbridge lines in the past.

In July 2010, the company faced a crisis when one of its pipelines spilled over 20,000 barrels of oil in Marshall, Michigan. The incident caused area homes to be evacuated and affected over 50 km of waterways in the area.

“Enbridge has a particularly bad reputation for their pipeline safety network,” Scott said.

But according to Enbridge spokesperson Graham White, the company is confident this type of transport is safe. “There’s an image out there … that this is an abrasive type of crude that has elements of clay and water. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the product is,” he said.

Before the oil is sent through the pipe, most of its clay, sand and water components are removed, he said. It goes through a test to make sure it’s in the right form to transport.

Laura Vaz-Jones, ArtSci ’14, attended the talk after she learned about the Line 9 developments at a recent conference in Ottawa.

Vaz-Jones, who’s been involved in environmental initiatives on campus in the past, said she’s opposed to the proposed reversal of the line.

“There are no benefits to this project,” she said. “There are not jobs being created, oil is not being refined in Canada because it’s intended for export.”

She’s been in contact with Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen and Kingston and the Islands MP Ted Hsu in order to get them involved in the cause. She also plans to start a petition.

She said she thinks many Queen’s students aren’t aware of the local impact of Line 9, but would become more involved if they were informed on the issue.

“This event really caught my attention. I thought it was an immediate issue in Kingston,” she said. “It’s our drinking water, our wetlands.”


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