Canada's energy regulator refuses to read this

Introduction
by John Riddell

Canada’s National Energy Board excluded my neighborhood committee on tar sands pipelines, East End Against Line 9, from its hearing on the Enbridge project, which aims to run diluted bitumen through Toronto. Here is the letter we sent them in response. I was among ten committee members, listed at the end, who helped compile it.

The NEB told Donna Sinclair, a long-time activist and writer in the United Church, that she was forbidden even to write a letter. Sinclair and Forest Ethics have sued the Canadian government for writing the undemocratic rules that have excluded her and other Canadian residents from freely debating Enbridge’s dangerous Line 9 project.

Although scorned by the NEB, the East End committee has been busy knocking on doors and setting up information tables, placing over 100 lawn signs and signing up more than 500 interested residents. On August 25 it is holding a public event, ‘How Tar Sands Threaten Our Communities.’ For Information see Facebook Toronto East End Against Line 9 or write eastendnotar [at] gmail [dot] com. 


NO THANKS, ENBRIDGE: LINE 9 REFIT IS ALL PAIN, NO GAIN

The National Energy Board (NEB) has been empowered by the federal government to rule on Enbridge Inc.’s project to re-purpose a pipeline (Line 9) so it can carry tar sands oil across Toronto. We regret that the NEB has declined to allow East End Against Line 9 to take part in its hearing on the Enbridge project. The reason given is that the areas we represent — 8-15 kilometres downstream from Line 9 — are allegedly “not in close vicinity to the pipeline route” and we “therefore did not persuasively demonstrate a specific and detailed interest that would be directly affected by the Project.” [1]

The views of all East End Toronto residents are thus dismissed from consideration. Yet we all live in the city affected by Line 9, drink water and breathe air that would be polluted by a potential pipeline spill, and experience Line 9′s broader impact on Canada and the world.

During the five months since its formation, East End Against Line 9 has talked to thousands of East End residents, chiefly in personal encounters. Most were not previously aware of the Enbridge project. On learning of it, the majority expressed strong concern. But the NEB refuses to accept their written comments except via a complex application procedure, the deadline for which is long past. The NEB also expressly excludes from consideration concerns about the project’s broader impact on Canada and the world (“upstream and downstream effects”). These rules arouse concern that the NEB inquiry is structured so as to obstruct citizen involvement and predetermine its outcome.

Nonetheless, East End Against Line 9 believes that the voice of the citizenry can win a hearing and influence official outcomes. In that spirit, we present the concerns and convictions expressed in our meetings and discussions.

Fouling the water, air, and land

Enbridge pipelines are prone to leaks, spills, and ruptures. The company has reported 804 pipeline spills between 1999 and 2010, releasing about 160,000 barrels of oil into the environment. [2] Transport of tar sands crude is especially hazardous. Thick heavy tar (bitumen) must be diluted with toxic chemicals, heated and pressurized, creating a “hot liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way” through the pipe — in this case a 38-year old pipe not built for this purpose. [3]

In 2010, an 840,000-gallon spill from an Enbridge tar sands pipeline in a rural area near Kalamazoo, Michigan, affected more than 50 kilometres of waterways and wetlands; 320 people reported symptoms from exposure. Damage is estimated at $800 million and the clean-up remains incomplete. [4] U.S. official bodies have fined and criticized Enbridge for safety violations, and local residents are still pressing their demands for fair treatment. [5]

Such a spill on Line 9 in Toronto could cause devastating damage, polluting subdivisions, waterways, urban farmland, and recreational lands, while putting our water supply at risk.

Lethal dangers

If the Line 9 project is approved, toxic diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) could be flowing through Line 9 as early as 2014. Indeed, dilbit may already be crossing Toronto already on rail lines.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for dilbit are alarming (see appendix). Possible effects of dilbit exposure may include “breathing failure, coma and death,” “central nervous system effects, including death,” “cancer, leukaemia, serious blood disorders.” The public remains uninformed of such dangers and of appropriate emergency measures. It is urgent that citizens and independent scientific groups be engaged in planning regarding transport of dilbit. [6]

Moreover, Enbridge is proposing to pump dilbit through a 38-year-old pipeline designed for a much less corrosive substance. There is little relevant data on pipeline safety under such conditions.

Meanwhile, the growing epidemic of extreme weather events, fed by climate change, puts in question the engineering data on which Enbridge’s Line 9 refit project is based.

During Toronto’s mega-storm on July 8, 2013, residents were officially warned that floodwaters threatened to sweep away the banks of the Don River. If that had happened, how would it affect Enbridge’s pipeline buried in these riverbanks? Even normal erosion recently exposed Line 9 at the Rouge River. Have Enbridge’s engineers provided for the future superstorms that accelerating climate change makes ever more likely?

In truth, there is no way to make such provision. Engineers predict the future based on past experience. But climate change is revving up the atmosphere: rains are heavier; winds are stronger; flooding is more severe. And these effects are escalating. [7] The engineering data underlying Enbridge’s Line 9 project is compromised. [8]

Not a NIMBY issue

By excluding East End Against Line 9 from its hearing, the NEB implies that its requirement of a “specific and detailed interest … directly affected by the Project” applies only to the risk of dilbit spillage in the immediate neighbourhood. Most East End residents view Line 9 as more than a “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) issue.

One resident comments, “We are concerned about our neighbours’ safety whether they live 8, 80, or 800 kilometres from us … We are all interconnected through the air, water, and food sources we share.”

Another quotes the Earth Charter [9]: we “declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations…. The protection of the Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.” [10]

All of us feel an urgent and direct interest in the quality of life of our children and grandchildren — of the future generations imperilled by climate change — another not important consideration excluded from the NEB hearing.

Impact on aboriginal communities

The NEB has requested comment on “the potential impacts of the proposed Project on Aboriginal interests.” [11] East End residents who identify as Indigenous people have told us this:

“As Native people, our whole life is on the land. We respect Mother Earth as a living being. Some of us live in the cities, but we go to the reserves to visit and stay.”

“In our territories, tar sands are poisoning the land. People cannot hunt or fish. Native brothers and sisters are dying of cancer. The oil companies don’t care; they just want to make money.”

“All the pressure on Mother Earth is more than she can bear. We are all endangered; we are all in this together.” [12]

Balancing benefits and harm

The NEB has requested comment on the benefits of the Line 9 refit. Enbridge’s claims for the project are, in fact very modest. Examining Enbridge’s published statements, an East End resident reports: “When Enbridge speaks briefly about observing ethics, it means towards those with whom they do business. There is no sign of concern or even awareness of larger communities, no mention of how Enbridge contributes to the good of the natural world.” [13]

Enbridge explains the benefits of the Line 9 refit in 11 words: “Increasing the supply of lower-priced Canadian oil to Canadian refineries,” which, it claims, will assist the refining industry and the Ontario and Quebec economies. [14]

The Line 9 refit, in itself, will have little economic impact, accounting for an estimated 174 jobs a year. [15] Apart from that, the claimed benefits relate not to the pipeline itself but to “upstream” and “downstream” factors. Since the NEB hearing encompasses Enbridge’s claims of benefits in these domains, it is unclear how the Board can justify exclusion of other such “upstream” and “downstream” effects of a detrimental character.

The Line 9 refit aims to improve access to markets for Alberta oil producers who are increasingly dependent on tar sands extraction. Since the pipeline must be kept flowing, producers must maintain and increase the pace of tar sands extraction, despite all its harmful effects on Alberta’s natural environment and the world. A government-financed study shows levels of carcinogens 2.5 to 23 times higher than before tar sands extraction. [16]

Price of tar sands addiction

Between 1990 and 2005, there were 4,670 pipeline spills in Alberta alone. That’s close to one system failure a week. But even more frightening are the dangers that result from the system working properly. When pipelines break, they devastate a specific area; when they don’t break, they deliver destruction to the entire world. [17]

That is the inescapable conclusion of climate change science, which demonstrates that carbon emissions, chiefly from burning fossil fuels, have unleashed a process of climate change that, unless halted, will have catastrophic results. Already the number of people displaced by climate change-related issues is estimated at more than 10 million. [18]

Public policy urgently needs to steer a course away from this danger. Instead, Canada’s tar sands addiction is heightening the peril for our country and the world.

Tar sands provide the dirtiest oil in the world. Extracting the oil emits 3.2 to 4.5 times as much carbon as for conventional crude oil. [19] In 2010, tar sands extraction accounted for 7 per cent of Canada’s carbon emissions; this proportion will more than triple when currently announced new projects by oil companies are factored in. [20]

Given the huge extent of Canada’s tar sands, their full exploitation would doom attempts to rein in carbon emissions and bring climate change under control. If we continue to approve pipelines bringing tar sands oil to market, says renowned climate scientist James Hansen, “there is no hope of keeping [atmospheric] carbon concentrations below 500 parts per million — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.” We must end our reliance on tar sands oil, he says, or it is “game over” for the climate. [21]

Approval of the Line 9 refit would take Canada in the wrong direction, deepening our dependency on the tar sands while blocking off the opportunity to develop ecologically sound alternatives.

Alternatives to tar sands

In our conversations with East End residents, we meet some who protest that we must not challenge the tar sands because it is the only remaining source of good blue-collar jobs. There is a bitter truth in what they say. However, this phenomenon must be viewed not as a justification of tar sands expansion but as a symptom of illness in Canada’s economy.

Work in the tar sands fields pays well, but it is dangerous, unhealthy, and disruptive of family life for tar sands workers — quite apart from the harm done to the Indigenous population, the country as a whole, and the world.

In our discussions with East End Toronto residents, many suggestions have been raised for measures to help us shake off our dependence on dirty fossil fuels such as those being pumped out of the tar sands. At the top of the list: Large-scale government investment in conservation efforts and renewable energy initiatives could help us shake off our dependence on dirty fossil fuels such as those being pumped out of the tar sands.

In addition, the billions of taxpayers’ dollars currently paid as subsidies to oil producers could finance a ‘just transition’ for workers leaving the industry as it scales down. Many more jobs and long-term economic benefits could be generated by focusing on renewable energy and conservation.

We can also learn from traditional Indigenous knowledge, which suggests a more harmonious and sustainable lifestyle that takes into account the needs of future generations. [22]

An opportunity for such a redirection is close at hand. Amid Toronto’s public transit crisis, the city’s East End is blessed with a rich transit potential — rail, streetcar, subway, and bus. These resources, however, are ill-coordinated, outdated, and often ineffective. Our local rail corridors are underutilised for transit and ignored in mass transit planning.

Enbridge suggests that Line 9 will lower gas prices. Even if that is true, it will do nothing to alleviate the East End’s transit dilemma. What we need is resources and government resolve to create a new, state-of-the-art, integrated public transit system, which can reduce reliance on private cars and cut traffic congestion. Such a plan can reduce carbon emissions while creating the well-paying and rewarding jobs that we so need. [23]

For democratic consultation on our energy future

East End Against Line 9 urges the National Energy Board not to approve but to halt Enbridge’s application for the Line 9 refit.

We propose that the NEB initiate an open and democratic discussion on Canada’s energy future, one that informs and engages the citizenry. Such a course would enable us to collectively map out an alternative to Enbridge’s harmful proposal.

Yours truly,

East End Against Line 9

Contributors to this statement: Doreen Bull, Joan Chaboyer, Bryan Dale, Mary Gaultier, Diane Gordon, Paul Kellogg, Marilyn McKim, Hans Modlich, John Riddell, and Dick Troy

Contact: eastendnotar[at]gmail[dot]com

First published in Rabble.ca

Notes

[1] https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/ll-eng/livelink.exe?func=ll&objId=956610&objAction=Open

[2] http://www.tarsandswatch.org/files/Updated%20Enbridge%20Profile.pdf.

[3]http://environmentaldefence.ca/sites/default/files/report_files/ED_enb_factsheet_FINAL.PDF.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enbridge_Energy_Partners

[5] http://grangehallpress.com/Enbridgeblog/

[6] With thanks to Dick Troy for organizing the investigative work.

[7] http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/20/design-collapse-and-crash/?pagination=false.

[8] With thanks to John Riddell.

[9] http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/pages/Read-the-Charter.html.

[10] With thanks to Marilyn McKim and Mary Gaultier.

[11] Hearing Order OH-002-2013, Letter to Enbridge, 4 April 2013.

[12] With thanks to Doreen Bull and Joan Chaboyer.

[13] With thanks to Diane Gordon.

[14] http://www.enbridge.com/ECRAI/Line9BReversalProject.aspx.

[15] http://rabble.ca/news/2013/01/mcethicaltm-enbridge-line-9-and-tar-sands-gigaproject.

[16] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/world/americas/oil-sand-industry-in-canada-tied-to-higher-carcinogen-level.html?_r=1&.

[17] http://climateandcapitalism.com/2013/04/10/ian-angus-speech-to-toronto-line-9-protest/.

[18] http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/08/20/Environmental-Refugees/.

[19] http://www.pembina.org/oil-sands/os101/climate.

[20] With thanks to Paul Kellogg.

[21] http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ddroitsch/nasas_james_hansen_says_tar_sa.html.

[22] With thanks to Bryan Dale.

[23] With thanks to Hans Modlich.


APPENDIX: Dilbit-Related Material Safety Data Sheets

DILBIT – Imperial Oil – MSDS # 11174 – CAS# Not applicable

“A naturally occurring bitumen blended with a diluent.”

WHMIS class D2A – Very toxic material

SG 0.9 to 1.2

Chronic Health Hazard

H2S may cause breathing failure, coma and death

High vapour may cause central nervous system effects, including death

Contains benzene, n-hexane, Xylene, Pentane

Land Spills – Keep public away

Vapours or dust may be harmful or fatal.

Prevent spills from entering sewers, watercourses or low area

BENZENE (A Dilbit component) Imperial Oil – MSDS # 216, CAS # 71-43-2

WHMIS class D2A, – Carcinogenicity, Toxicity, Mutagenicity – very toxic

D2B – Eye & skin irritation – toxic- may cause cancer

WHMIS Hazard class – 3

Health effects – May cause cancer, leukaemia, serious blood disorders

May form flammable/explosive, vapour-air mixture. Extremely flammable.

Evacuate area.

Prevent run-off from entering streams, sewers or drinking water supply.

Posted in Canada & Quebec, Featured, Tar Sands

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