Activists ready to fight Enbridge pipeline expansion through Hamilton
Enbridge plans to replace a 12-inch pipeline running through Flamborough and Binbrook with a 20-inch one
A local environmental group is bracing itself to battle an Enbridge pipeline project that it fears will result in oil-sands bitumen running through Hamilton.
The Hamilton 350 committee is watching Enbridge's plan for Line 10, which will see a larger pipeline replace the current 12-inch one that runs from Westover and through Binbrook to the U.S. border.
Enbridge plans to apply to the National Energy Board (NEB) for permission to do the pipeline upgrades, a project it says is "part of our regular maintenance schedule." It will make a presentation to Hamilton city councillors this fall.
Line 9 was largely not about construction. There was no new pipe being laid for Line 9. With Line 10, the immediate plan is to lay 35 kilometres of pipe inside the borders of Hamilton.- Don McLean, Hamilton 350 committee
But Don McLean, a member of Hamilton 350, predicts this project could attract more attention than the Line 9B one, which will reverse the flow of oil from Westover to Montreal. That pipeline runs through rural Flamborough.
"It could draw more than what Line 9 did because it's obviously an export pipeline," said McLean, a local environmentalist who wrote about his concerns in a recent Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) article.
"Line 9 was largely not about construction. There was no new pipe being laid for Line 9. With Line 10, the immediate plan is to lay 35 kilometres of pipe inside the borders of Hamilton."
Product will be the same, Enbridge says
The Line 9 project drew protests and letters of concern, including from the City of Hamilton. At one point, activists staged an occupation of Enbridge's Westover plant, which resulted in several police charges. The NEB has ordered more testing on the line, but at this point, the flow reversal seems certain.
The Line 10 project has been ongoing for a while, Enbridge spokesperson Graham White told CBC Hamilton.
It will lay a fresh 20-inch pipe next to the existing 12-inch one, which will leave the old pipe dormant while the new one will carry "heavy and light crude oil" — the same product it has been for years, White said. The pipeline runs to a refinery in Warren, Penn.
While McLean worries about a "wild" worst-case scenario where both pipelines run, White said that's not possible. And leaving old decommissioned ones in the ground is standard practice.
"It is safer and has fewer environmental impacts to leave the line in place, which is also standard practice in pipeline replacements and maintenance," White said in an email. "It will not be physically possible to 'run both pipelines' as the segments will no longer be connected or in service."
McLean has other concerns. While Enbridge hasn't directly said it will carry bitumen — "the product will not change," White said — McLean worries that the pipeline will position the company to export oil from Alberta's oil sands.
The difference between the two lines
The new pipeline replaces one that is is only three years older than Line 9, which the company has said repeatedly is structurally sound and doesn't need to be replaced.
"They said the life span was indefinite. But there seems to be a life span on Line 10," McLean said.
White maintains that Enbridge has done "extensive maintenance and upgrade" work to Line 9 as part of the reversal project. And that it has a stringent regular maintenance program.
In any event, Hamilton 350 aims to present its concerns to councillors on the same day Enbridge does. The corporation aims to start construction by 2017. Between then and now, McLean expects opposition will grow.
"We're investigating at this point," he said.
Timeline for the Enbridge Line 10 project
- June 2015: Initial government, aboriginal, landowner and public outreach.
- June to December 2015: Pre-application consultation; open houses, roundtable discussions, and one-on-one meetings.
- July 2015 to August 2016: Civil and environmental surveying.
- December 2015: File project application with National Energy Board.
- December 2015 to 2018: Ongoing consultation.
- September 2017: Pipeline construction (contingent on NEB approval).
- First quarter 2018: Project goes into service.
- September 2018: Right-of-way restoration complete.