Reversing Enbridge & Big Oil's Pipeline Plans

Nelson, Joyce
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/18/reversing-enbridge-big-oils-pipeline-plans/

Publisher:  Nelson, Joyce
Date Written:  18/12/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX18534

The National Academy of Sciences is skewering the industry's 'oil is oil' talking point -- making it clear that diluted bitumen is a different beast altogether and needs to be treated as such. The agonizingly slow and costly Kalamazoo River spill cleanup in Michigan made many of these points clear. Yet, the tar sands industry has continued to insist that diluted bitumen creates no deeper environmental threat as they push for unsustainable growth. While Keystone XL is off the table, there are numerous other projects being considered that extend the unique pipeline problems of dilbit into communities across North America.

Abstract:  -
Excerpt:

Big Oil is furious at a small community in Maine that has dared to throw a legal monkey wrench into their pipeline plans.

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Realizing that the PMPL, if reversed, could be used to pipe tar sands oil from Montreal to the deep-water harbour in Maine for export, the good folks of South Portland began mobilizing a few years ago to make that reversal impossible. In July 2014, City Council voted in favour of a Clear Skies Ordinance (Ordinance #1-14/15) which effectively bans the loading of piped crude oil onto tankers in South Portland’s deep-water harbour.

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On Feb. 6, 2015 The Portland Pipe Line Corporation (the U.S. segment of PMPL) and The American Waterways Operators filed a lawsuit against the City of South Portland, seeking to overturn the Ordinance. Behind them (certainly in terms of bluster, and possibly financing) is the huge American Petroleum Institute lobby group, which had been warning about a lawsuit for months.

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The City of South Portland (only about 32,000 people) has launched a Legal Defense Fund to fight the lawsuit. Mary-Jane Ferrier, spokesperson for Protect South Portland, says, “They’ve got more money than God, but we’ve got a very good case here in South Portland.”

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Finally a few days ago Sandy Fielden, a Texas consultant and director of energy analytics with RBN Energy, told the Portland Press Herald that reversing the PMPL would give Canadian-based tar sands companies “access to an ocean port and international markets. President Obama’s decision early this month to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, creates an opportunity for the Portland Pipe Line because it would provide another international pipeline route to export, he said. “There is a lot of crude in Canada looking for a way to reach the water right now,’ Fielden said.

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Actually, rather than focus on Keystone XL, there is a different Canadian pipeline that is relevant here, and one which just started pumping crude to Montreal in early December after years of opposition and controversy: Enbridge’s Line 9, which has been reversed to pipe tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) and fracked Bakken crude from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal. Line 9 is fed by Enbridge’s massive pipeline system that extends from the Alberta tar sands through the U.S. Midwest and down to the Gulf Coast.

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Demanding that Line 9 be “immediately halted and reassessed,” the December 16th Letter notes that this aging pipeline “cuts across every major river and tributary flowing into Lake Ontario,” and also endangers “the drinking water source of 2.5 million people” in Quebe

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The Letter particularly calls on PM Trudeau to act on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, stating: “Furthermore, in your mandate letter you express that there is no relationship more important ‘than the one with Indigenous Peoples.’ First Nations communities in Ontario and Quebec have been on the frontlines of this fight, resisting Line 9 and the social, economic and ecological risks it poses to the land and to their communities. You say that ‘it is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership,’ and yet treaty rights are being expressly and illegally denied with the advancement of this [Line 9] project.”

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Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution affirms the treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples, which include consultation regarding projects that would impact upon these rights. In order to uphold these laws and principles, Enbridge and the federal government would have had to undertake a process of consultation and have obtained the consent of the 18 Indigenous communities whose land would be impacted by Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal project. Lawyers for First Nations maintain that this was not done.

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In other words, with regard to Enbridge’s Line 9, First Nations have been trying to get the Canadian federal government to uphold and live up to its own law.

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In a split 2-1 decision in October 2015, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the Chippewas of the Thames’ latest case, “which was made on the basis that the Crown violated its constitutional obligation by not consulting the community before the National Energy Board approved Enbridge’s request to increase and reverse the flow of crude oil through Line 9.”

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The Crown has argued that the duty to consult can be conducted by a third party – like the National Energy Board or Enbridge – but First Nations lawyers to do not agree. Chippewas of the Thames Band Councillor Myeengun Henry told Rabble.ca that the government of Canada has “never given us one phone call or one letter” regarding Line 9. He and others worry that the October Federal Court of Appeal decision “will affect other pipeline proposals in Canada,” and First Nations’ Constitutional rights will simply be ignored to help Big Oil.

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It can cost millions of dollars to go to the Supreme Court, so the Chippewas of the Thames are fund-raising on line (www.gofundme.com/chippewas). As well, Rachel Thevenard – a 22-year-old University of Waterloo student – is running the entire length of Line 9 over the next six weeks to fund-raise for the court battle and raise awareness.

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Tar sands crude has the consistency of peanut butter, so in order to transport it by pipeline, the bitumen oil is mixed with toxic diluents. If dilbit spills, the diluents rapidly evaporate, endangering the lungs and health of local people and leaving behind a tarry sludge that sinks in water and is almost impossible to clean up.

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The National Academy of Sciences study found that “there must be a greater level of concern associated with spills of diluted bitumen compared to spills of commonly transported crude oils.” One of the recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences is that oil companies need to inform regulators which type of crude they are transporting in every pipeline segment before a spill occurs.

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Natural Resources Defense Council’s Anthony Swift told the press: “The National Academy of Sciences is skewering the industry’s ‘oil is oil’ talking point – making it clear that diluted bitumen is a different beast altogether and needs to be treated as such. The agonizingly slow and costly Kalamazoo River spill cleanup in Michigan made many of these points clear. Yet, the tar sands industry has continued to insist that diluted bitumen creates no deeper environmental threat as they push for unsustainable growth. While Keystone XL is off the table, there are numerous other projects being considered that extend the unique pipeline problems of dilbit into communities across North America.”

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