The pipeline in our back yard

By  | December 14, 2011 | 5 Comments | Filed under: Enbridge

Enbridge Oil 1430 Branchton Rd. Photo by Krysta Lee

I’ve had this on my story list for awhile now, but after some preliminary investigation I knew it was going to be time consuming. After our journalism  students had done a couple of fluff stories, I gave it to Brendan to see what he could come up with. I expected them to stonewall him, and although they didn’t disapoint me he showed tenacity and got enough of the story for Sue Taylor and I to start digging.

This is a big story, and crosses all political boundaries.  One of the main reasons we started this site was to have discussions about what’s going on in Cambridge, to bring awareness to situations that might otherwise go unnoticed, and most importantly, to do something when we can. I don’t want this to be a bitch session about Enbridge, council, Rob Leone, Gary Goodyear or anyone else.  When we are done presenting our case there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind we deserve some answers, and there is also no doubt in my mind that we will get them.

The Citizen has established, for the most part, at least a grudging respect from most of our local politicians. I know most of them personally, and I doubt any of them know all of the things we are about to post. I’m sure that if we have an intelligent discussion about what can be done we can collectively come up with a solution. The water pipes breaking this week were a warning to everyone!

If these oil pipes break we will have an environmental disaster on our hands the like of which Southern Ontario has never seen, and when you read the first few columns we have on this topic you will not only agree with me, you’ll probably think I’m being optimistic.

Sue Taylor is going to help with the Enbridge stories. She’s an expert at both environmental and legal research, and has a good working relationship with Kitchener Council, so it will be good chance for her to meet our gang.


December 5, 2011

Headlines and photographs depicting trouble in far away lands may not faze you. However, that oil pipeline in your backyard should.
Well, maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t. But it should at least invoke concern and curiosity. After all, Cambridge is home to the Grand River – a nation wide attraction for nature enthusiasts of decades past, and decades to come.
Like a radio on the ledge of a bathtub, there is no room for error. One unexpected accident can transpire into a world of harm.
We hope that and possible risks are properly addressed and that safety measures are in place. But are we being naïve?
Allow me to introduce you to Enbridge Inc. Founded in 1949 in Calgary, Alberta, Enbridge (meaning “energy bridge”) is one of Canada’s leading players in the pipeline business. After Canada’s first major oil discovery in Leduc, Alberta, Enbridge set out to construct a pipeline spanning from Canada’s west to its east.
Fast forward into the future, Enbridge’s single pipeline has multiplied into many. While the business has grown, one thing has stayed the same – the apparent risks associated with the transportation of oil. This is especially true during the present, as Enbridge plans to reverse the flow of oil in its “Line 9”.
As seen in the map, Line 9 spans from Sarnia to Montreal. Along its route, it passes through Cambridge and surrounding areas.

Pipeline Map

Currently, Line 9’s function is to ship oil west from Montreal to Sarnia. However, Enbridge’s planned $17-million project will reverse the flow of oil in the section of pipeline from Sarnia to North Westover. Apparently, these changes are meant to help meet business demands.
Canadian and American environmental have spoken up about the project, accusing Enbridge of avoiding an adequate assessment of the project.
According to environmental groups, Enbridge is breaking down reversal plans into small sections in order to avoid an overall assessment of their final goal – completely reversing the flow of oil in Line 9.
While breaking the project up into small phases might help Enbridge to lie low, it may not be helping anybody in the long run. Environmental groups say that important issues associated with the reversal are being ignored. What about the potential for spills, emissions created by refining tar sands oil in Montreal, etc.? All valid questions, but with no answers.
Two years ago, Enbridge launched a project called “Trailbreaker”. Trailbreaker was intended to ship oil from northern Alberta tar sands to Montreal, where it would then be conveyed south into the United States. Ultimately, Trailbreaker was never launched due to the economy.
A project as large as Trailbreaker would have required Enbridge to assess its impact on the environment and commit to lengthy investigations.
Two years later, Enbridge is seeking an exemption from the National Energy Board Act to complete the Sarnia-Westover reversal, claiming that the benefits outweigh the possible dangers. Plans are also in effect to start reversing other sections of Line 9 at this time.
Kind of sounds like a sequential version of Trailbreaker doesn’t it?
While the Gulf of Mexico, may not hit home, remember that Line 9’s reversal is happening right in our backyard. Enbridge wouldn’t give us the courtesy to respond to our emails, but maybe they will respond to you – a concerned citizen.


5 Responses to The pipeline in our back yard

  1. Ruth McCauley December 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Breaker wall between wetlands and pipeline comes to mind, $$$$$$$. Hopefully one day we just won’t be using it, and relying on our solar or windmill energy and shut it down. Yes, I know I am naive. Very good article, thanks for writing it.

  2. Scot Ferguson-Barber December 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Ruth, a bigger concern is the groundwater. I don’t think there is anything that can prevent the pipes from breaking at some point, as we are currently witnessing with our water pipes.

  3. curmudgeon December 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Great job Scotty, see note at “something afoot”

  4. Sue Taylor December 15, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    You always brag me up way too much. It’s true I’m a competent researcher with a good environmental background. And I have good experiences from working with many councils. I have no reason to believe Cambridge would be any worse. Of course, the ‘jury’ is still out on that other matter. I guess I’ll see how that resolves. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure you can imagine that could change my mind.

  5. Sue Taylor December 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    One of my greatest concerns is in Enbridge’s plan to reverse flow on these lines. It’s important to know the age and condition of the check valves for starters. These are essential for limiting the damage to flow metres, control valves, etc., that is caused by reversing flow. At this point, I have no reason to trust the configurations and infrastructure in place out there. A copy of a permit I have on file from the City of Hamilton also raised my brow – what sort of ‘addition’ have they been working on? I’m also concerned that this installation sits far too near one of the most vulnerable aquifers in the Grand River Watershed.

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