Enbridge’s Line 9 Project: A case of salami slicing in EIA and deficiencies in the National Energy Board

With large scale pipeline projects such as Northern Gateway and Keystone attracting a slough of media attention, it can be easy to overlook apparently “smaller” pipeline projects; this is a dangerous oversight which must be addressed. Enbridge’s Line 9 project has been ongoing since 2008 when it was referred to as the “Trailbreaker” project1. It aims to carry diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Alberta and Saskatchewan (tarsands) to Montreal, before being refined and shipped south to the U.S or overseas2. In 2008, Enbridge sought approval for the Trailbreaker project but reportedly nixed it citing “lack of commercial support”1.

The project has now been resurrected and broken down into smaller sections, two of which being the “Line 9B Reversal Project” (pending approval) and “Line 9 Reversal Phase I” (approved)2, with the National Energy Board (NEB) acting as the responsible authority during the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process (See Fig. 1). This tactic has been referred to as “salami slicing” in EIA, a problem that has been addressed by the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), but has yet to be recognized by Canadian legislation. “Salami slicing” is hazardous because projects of smaller scope may not appear to have a significant adverse impact, but when considered as part of a larger plan the effects are likely synergistic and/or cumulative, and thus much more significant. In the IMPEL report, several measures are outlined during the EIA screening process that require proponents to disclose any projects approved within the last five years, any projects with common operating facilities and any operations with a close spatial connection3. Since no such substantive provisions exist in the 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA)4, some might argue that responsible authorities may not realise the project component is in fact part of a larger plan. However, the NEB cannot plead ignorance in this case. If in fact the Trailbreaker project is no longer being pursued as stated by Enbridge1, why is it included in their May 2012 map of expansion projects (See fig.2)? Furthermore, Enbridge stated in their application that the purpose of the Line 9B reversal is “to have access to the growing and less expensive supplies of crude oil production from western Canada” (p.18)5, but the scope of their assessment only includes the section of pipeline between Ontario and Quebec.

Fig. 1: The “new” proposal: Enbridge’s Line 9 Reversal and Capacity Expansion project

The “new” proposal: Line 9 Reversal project

Fig2: The whole picture: A complete map of Enbridge’s proposed project expansions (May 2012)

The whole picture: A complete map of Enbridge’s proposed project expansions (May 2012)

It is clear that “salami slicing” is occurring with the Line 9 projects, and being largely overlooked by the NEB. With access to hundreds of documented projects including past applications regarding Line 9, the NEB cannot regard these projects as independent of one another. If the NEB is approving these piecemeal projects while clearly ignoring the fact that they are part of a larger scheme, then it can be almost certain that the potential environmental impacts of the overall project are largely unknown, and that the entire EIA process is being undermined. With regulatory bodies making the final decision on projects, perhaps we should direct our attention away from companies like Enbridge, and instead to the agencies responsible for approval decisions such as the NEB.

References:

 [1]Enbridge. 2012. Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project.              http://www.enbridge.com/ECRAI/Line9BReversalProject.aspx

[2] National Energy Board. 2013. Enbridge Pipelines Inc. – Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project-OH-002-2013. http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rthnb/pplctnsbfrthnb/nbrdgln9brvrsl/nbrdgln9brvrsl-eng.html

[3] European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law. 2012. The Implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment on the Basis of Precise Examples

[4] Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. 2012. Environmental Assessment of Designated       Projects: Factors to be Considered. S.C. 2012, c. 19, s. 52 (Section 19). http://laws-   lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-15.21/page-5.html?texthighlight=cumulative+effects#s-19.

[5] Enbridge. 2012. Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project Application. https://www.neb-one.gc.ca

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