Enbridge Pipelines is ducking questions and concerns raised by city staff about its practices leading up to the National Energy Board (NEB) hearing about the Line 9B pipeline reversal, a Hamilton councillor says.

"I'm quite surprised that Enbridge would behave this way," Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie told CBC Hamilton. "Now that real concerns have been expressed, they're just turtling and refusing to answer."

Enbridge says it is answering all relevant questions and suggests some of what is being asked of it amounts to a "fishing expedition."

One hundred and seventy-seven citizens, organizations and municipalities have applied to take part in NEB hearings about Enbridge's plan to reverse the oil flow of the Line 9B pipeline which runs from Montreal to Westover near Hamilton.

As part of the process, Hamilton provided input into an information request compiled by the city of Toronto, alongside other municipalities such as Burlington and Mississauga. The request asks for clarification into a number of the company's practices.

Enbridge didn't answer some two-dozen questions from the request — citing privacy concerns, saying some questions are irrelevant while others were "fishing expeditions."

"They answered some of our questions — others they said we're on a fishing expedition, and we're not," said Guy Paperella, who is co-ordinating the municipal response on the project for Hamilton.

For example, the information request asked Enbridge for the total number of spills greater than 26.3 gallons that happened because of internal corrosion in its pipelines shipping bitumen and blends of bitumen from 1975 to 2010. The company "objected to the request," saying it wasn't reasonable and that the municipalities were on a "fishing expedition."

"We're not on a fishing expedition," Paperella said. "It's very important to our constituents. They're not irrelevant in our minds."

"To just stop answering questions makes it seem like they've got something to hide," McHattie said.

Questions unrelated to application

But Enbridge spokesperson Ken Hall says the company is simply declining to answer questions that have nothing to do with the application and issues before the NEB. The company has also refused to produce confidential information on the record, he says.

"Both of these approaches are common in regulatory proceedings, and supported by the NEB," Hall said in an email.

"Toronto has filed a motion with the NEB asking Enbridge to file certain information which was not provided. Enbridge has responded to this motion, and filed some revised answers to be helpful to Toronto. The NEB will ultimately determine whether the information must be provided on the record or not."

The company did offer to meet with Toronto staff and officials outside of the hearing process to discuss questions unrelated to the scope of the Line 9 hearing, Hall added.

But McHattie says he's warier of the company's practices of late. "They've almost done a 180 from the way they were in the beginning," he said.

He says he was ignored when he requested that Enbridge hold a public information session in the lower city last month. "I didn't even receive a return email or phone call," he said. "They've really changed their behavior significantly."

'Good, sober look'

But Hall says the company felt it was more important to hold their open house in Westover, in the immediate vicinity of the pipeline and the people that live next to it.

"We see them as a particularly important stakeholder group," he said.

The city has until July 23 to submit comments to a second information request. When those answers are released via the NEB process, the city then has until Aug. 26 to draft a letter of comment to the NEB.

Paperella says the city needs a "good, sober look" at Enbridge's practices.

"We have to make sure we ask the right questions so the NEB understands we want them to put their feet to the fire."