The surprise with the March 6 National Energy Board approval of Enbridge’s Line 9B pipeline reversal and expansion was that … there was no surprise.

Many observers correctly predicted that the NEB would approve — as it does with most applications — Enbridge’s pipeline reversal, even though there were many reasons to say “no.”

Our top reasons to say no to Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal plan:

  • the proximity to Canada’s most heavily populated area;
  • the many water crossings;
  • the “high” likelihood of failure; and
  • the lackadaisical Enbridge response (likened by the reviewing agency to “Keystone cops”) for a 2010 pipeline failure and massive spill in Michigan.

What role did Ecojustice play in the hearings?
As an Ecojustice staff lawyer, I represented the Équiterre coalition of environmental and conservation groups at the NEB hearings in Toronto and Montreal. Our clients asked the NEB to reject the Enbridge plan, which would thereby have idled the pipeline from Hamilton to Montreal and protected Ontarians and Quebecers, who live and work along the route, from dangerous spills that could imperil their water supply, their natural areas, and even their livelihoods.

You can talk about parking spots but not climate change
Increasingly, frustrated participants get the sense that opportunities for engagement in pipeline expansion, and fossil fuel development, are simply mileposts that companies pass on their way to approval. The frustration is understandable. Although the regulatory bodies are quasi-independent, they nonetheless operate under a narrow set of considerations while hearings are “scoped” to a narrow list of issues. And to the dismay (and surprise) of many participants, the NEB didn’t actually assess the pipeline’s overall safety but restricted itself to the “incremental increased risk of [pipeline] failure” from the Enbridge proposal. A large chunk of the Enbridge application was devoted to the specific pumping stations and even to related parking spots — as opposed to the broader implications of the pipeline. Other urgent issues like the impact on our climate didn’t make it out of the starting gate.

Fossil fuels are toxic to our climate
Across Canada billions of dollars are being invested in infrastructure dedicated to a product that is quite simply toxic to us because it degrades our climate. The more money Canada allows to be invested in fossil fuel infrastructure the more we go down a road from which there is no return.

The irony in talking about a pipeline — but not about climate change — during hearing dates in Toronto that were book-ended by a heat wave and floods on one side and an ice storm on the other should have been heavy.

Fighting for a sustainable future
As a generally polite people, we don’t savour conflict. In each public hearing, however, the battle lines are being more clearly drawn. On one side the fossil fuel industry and its government facilitators; on the other a growing chorus of community voices calling for protection from the risks of fossil fuel transport, action on climate change, and for a shift away from fossil fuels.

Intervenors, including our clients, must now decide whether they have sufficient grounds on which to challenge the decision in the courts.