City staff say the municipality's hands are tied over plans for the Enbridge pipeline that runs though Hamilton, but councillors want to know what more the municipality can do.

Enbridge Pipelines Inc. was granted approval by the NEB at the end of July to change the direction of the flow of Line 9 pipeline which runs from Sarnia to Hamilton. The gas would change flow from westbound to eastbound.

"I don't want to play the jurisdictional card, but we don't have any approved authority to deal with this," said Guy Papperella, director of industrial parks and airport development division.

A report on the Enbridge Line 9 reversal was presented to councillors at the general issues committee meeting Wednesday. The report said staff is satisfied with the issues the National Energy Board addressed about safety and emergency response protocol.

It concludes it will have no foreseeable impact on Hamilton.

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Protestors outside City Hall Wednesday morning before the Enbridge pipeline reversal was discussed. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

Papperella said the report was put together with city legal staff and emergency services.

"The [NEB] takes jurisdiction over projects," said Lia Magi, city solitictor. "But there is always the opportunity to make complaints."

Enbridge applied to reverse approximately 194 kilometres of pipeline between the Sarnia Terminal and the North Westover Pump Station near Flamborough to flow in an eastward direction in August 2011.

Line 9 was originally built in 1975 to transport crude oil from Western Canada to Montreal refineries, in an eastbound direction. Thirteen years ago, the pipeline flow was changed to bring imported oil into Ontario.

When the flow reversal occurs, there is a possibility of accident or malfunction of the pumps directing flow inside the pipes. In other words, there is a chance of a spill.

The information report presented Wednesday identifies four environmentally-significant areas in the vicinity of the Westover project site: Hyde-Rockton-Beverly Complex, Westover Drumlin Field, Westover Lowland Forest and Westover Southwest Complex as well as one significant wetland, the Sheffield-Rockton Complex. It also mentions 109 waterwells around the pipeline.

City staff were directed to review the pipeline reversal prior to NEB approval after a motion from councillor Brian McHattie.

The pipeline could transport between 50,000 and 90,000 barrels of gas a day, but "is capable of carrying 'beyond 150,000 [barrels per day],'" reads McHattie's original motion.

Graham White, spokesperson for Enbridge, said with the reversal "we will be able to provide Canadian crude to Canadian refineries." Enbridge's target is to pump primarily light crude through Line 9, he said.

Enbridge hopes to apply to the NEB for the second phase of the reversal, for the part of the pipeline that runs from Westover through to Quebec, White said. He said environmental assessments in the Westover area are underway.

Binbrook resident John McGreal reminded councillors that Hamilton has seen a spill before. On Sept. 29, 2001, Enbridge Line 10 which runs though Binbrook to Buffalo ruptured in a soybean field.

According to a Transportation Safety of Canada report, the spill was a result of a communications failure between a pump station in Tonawanda and a control centre in Edmonton. The Tonawanda station's failure alarm didn't go off when the rupture occurred.

"They didn't do their due diligence back in the 1990s and early 2000s with the spill in 2001," McGreal said.

More recently, Enbridge has experienced pipeline spills in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and in Northern Alberta.

Seven other delegates spoke to councillors, urging them to act on the pipeline.

"The company, in a flattering way, is misleading. It's having hundred of spills," said Hamilton resident Janet Chafe. "We are not ignorant about Enbridge."

Councillors largely echoed the delegates concerns.

"I know our position is our hands are tied, " said councillor Maria Pearson."I want to make sure that it's on record how this council feels."

Councillors Judi Partridge and Robert Pasuta, who represent the wards the pipeline runs through, said they haven't heard complaints from their constituents.

"Westover is my ward and I'm not getting anything from my residents," Pasuta said. "They say Enbridge is a good neighbor."

Enbridge did not attend Wednesday's meeting.

White said the target for reversing the pipeline flow is late 2014.