The National Energy Board ruling on the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9B pipeline addresses most of the city’s concerns about the project, says the staffer who heads the city’s committee on oil and gas pipelines.

The NEB announced on Thursday that it would approve the energy giant Enbridge’s application to make changes to a segment of its Line 9 pipeline, which runs from Sarnia to Montreal. The decision gives Enbridge the go-ahead to reverse the flow of the pipeline — which currently runs east to west — and permission to funnel a maximum of 300,000 barrels of oil per day, up from 240,000, through the conduit.

But the national energy regulator’s blessing, which sparked renewed protests from environmentalists and First Nations groups, comes with list of 30 strict rules that govern the planning, implementation and monitoring of the changes.

Guy Paparella, the city manager who oversees a committee that reports to council about pipelines running through Hamilton, said the NEB has taken “a responsible route” by imposing the conditions.

“For the most part, they’ve addressed our safety and environmental concerns,” he said.

Consultation, monitoring

The 141-page ruling, Paparella explained, responds to most of the issues that the city, in conjunction with the city of Toronto, raised in an official submission to the NEB during public hearings on Line 9 in the fall.

In particular, he mentioned conditions that require Enbridge to submit detailed, up-to-date emergency response procedures to the national energy regulator and conduct constant environmental reporting on the watercourses that the pipeline crosses.

Rubber stamp

About 60 protesters gathered at Hamilton City Hall on Friday to protest the National Energy Board's approval of the plan to reverse the flow of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline. (Adam Carter/CBC)

“The NEB has required consultation with municipalities and organizations like the conservation authority before [Enbridge officials] finalize any steps they might be taking,” added Paparella, the city's director of growth planning.

But he said the NEB didn’t adopt one major recommendation the municipalities had requested. They had asked that Enbridge be forced to take stronger measures to demonstrate it could pay for any damages associated with catastrophic leaks, fires or other disasters on its pipelines.

Currently, the Calgary-based corporation is insured for $685-million a year for its entire network of pipelines. The city of Toronto’s submission argued the insurance policy isn’t large enough to ensure that all stakeholders would be compensated adequately in the event of a devastating accident.

However, in its decision, the NEB ruled Enbridge’s financial resources are of “a sufficient evidence of the size and strength” to guarantee that it would be able to pay for any disaster, even if third-party insurance won't cover the entire cost.

Assessing more pipeline proposals

Paparella is working with other city staffers to review the NEB decision. He said the group will likely report to council next week about its findings.

In the coming months, he said, the committee will also be assessing new proposals for construction on Hamilton-area pipelines.

Union Gas has submitted a proposal to install a 14-km natural gas pipeline that would replace an old line running under Highway 6 in Flamborough. The proposed Dawn West Parkway Extension has already received the OK from the Ontario Energy Board, but it's awaiting approval from the NEB.

Paparella’s group will also examine Enbridge’s plan to make changes to two more of its Hamilton-area pipelines.

Last year, the corporation announced its intentions to repair or replace segments of its Line 10 and Line 11 pipelines, which cross rural areas along the city’s south and west ends. Both pipelines are around four decades old, and Line 10 leaked 95,000 litres of crude oil in an accident in 2001.

Paparella said it’s good news that Enbridge is looking at replacing segments of the two pipelines.

“If they’re replacing these segments… I think that’s better than just continually repairing old ones.”