Last week, the National Energy Board held a two-day hearing into Enbridge’s application to reverse the flow of its pipeline between Sarnia and Hamilton. The pipeline has been carrying light crude from Montreal to Sarnia via Hamilton.
During the hearing the company stressed how it intended to be a good neighbour to various communities.
We all have an idea about what neighbourliness means.
Let’s say you plan to have a big party that might go late into the night. It’s a common courtesy to let your neighbour know.
And if you plan to do a major renovation on the exterior of your home — again it’s a nice thing to give your neighbour a heads up.
I’m sure Enbridge executives would agree on both counts.
But what if you plan to ship oil sands bitumen across your neighbour’s back yard?
Here’s where Enbridge appears to draw the line.
A key point raised by intervenors such as Equiterre and Environmental Defence, which were represented by Ecojustice, at the hearing in London, Ont., was whether the application included sufficient information to allow the Board to make a decision “in the public interest.” Although reports filed by Enbridge suggested that the pipeline would be safe from corrosion for light and medium crude oil — which the company has been shipping through the pipeline — there was no information about dangers associated with shipping diluted bitumen from Western Canada.
Shipping oil sands crude through Ontario and Quebec, and potentially to the East Coast, would facilitate even more oil sands expansion and overwhelm hopes to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions while developing renewable sources of energy.
For Enbridge to start shipping oil sands crude through its pipeline — instead of light and medium crude — is a simple administrative process routinely done without public scrutiny. In other words an approval based on the current information opens the door wide open for Enbridge to ship oil sands crude across Ontario for the first time.
In closing arguments to the NEB we challenged Enbridge lawyers to tell the Board that “it ain’t so.” We wanted them to say that they don’t plan to ship oil sands bitumen across this province and that we were wrong about our assertion that changing to oil sands crude is a slam dunk once the approval is granted.
Their lawyers simply ignored the questions and said Enbridge ships oil safely.
We asked the Board to impose a particular condition if the approval is granted, namely, that the findings relating to Enbridge’s massive pipeline spill in Michigan be considered in an approval in this case.