Enbridge and the lack of risk management

Suncor refinery in East-Montreal. (credit: David Vilder)

Suncor refinery in East-Montreal. (credit: David Vilder)

Enbridge 9B. This name should ring a bell as it is everywhere in the media these days.

Enbridge, based in Alberta, is seeking approval from the National Energy Board (NEB) to reverse the flow and increase capacity of the pipeline from 240 000 to 300 000 barrels a day. The 9B section in question goes from Hamilton to Montreal and is part of a broader line that links Alberta to the Atlantic. According to Enbridge this project is a “critical step in ensuring Quebec’s future in refining and petrochemical industries”; it will safeguard over a thousand permanent jobs and generate substantial taxes revenues for municipalities (Enbridge, 2012).

The project has received strong support from Suncor, who operates the Montreal-East refinery as well as from the government of Quebec (Shields, 2013). Both Enbridge and Ultramar (operating the refinery in Levis) registered lobbyists in Quebec to improve social acceptability (Shields, 2013).  Both Premier Marois and the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP) Yves-François Blanchet have been promising ‘consultations’ for months, yet now a few months before the first barrels are supposed to flow nothing has been done (Nadeau, 2013).

Enbridge's 9B pipeline

Enbridge’s 9B pipeline

Facing the government’s inaction, municipalities in Quebec have voiced their concern and on April 22nd 2013 the City of Montreal formally asked for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a public hearing to be conducted by the MDDEFP (City of Montreal, 2013). That demand has yet to be answered (Côté & Croteau, 2013).

In Canada, pipelines fall under federal competence through the NEB. Critics argue that recent amendments to the National Energy Board Act through omnibus Bill C-38 gave the NEB power to screen potential participants from public hearings (Ruby, 2013). Ottawa’s support to Enbridge is the most heard open secret, especially after the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines (Shields, 2013).

However, there is still room for leverage from the provinces. Unless deemed frivolous, article 31.3 of Quebec’s Law on the Quality of the Environment (Loi sur la qualite de l’environnement) requires the government of Quebec to hold public hearings if formally asked by a municipality, person or group. In Ontario, where line 9B also faces strong opposition, the 2006 Clean Water Act could be used to require an independent EIA. Last August, Premier Kathleen Wynne strongly came against Enbridge and threatened to do a separate EIA if the project still showed environmental concerns (CBC, 2013).

One might argue why conduct another EIA when the NEB has already done one? A brief look at the actual report gives some hints. Three issues have been voluntarily left out of the scope. First, the impact of the 12% increase of production is left unaccounted for. The same goes for the increase of CO2 emissions in Quebec that will result from the extra supply. Third, and perhaps most importantly, effects from potential spills are completely ignored (Stantec, 2013).

Whistle-blower John Bolenbaugh wades through thick mud in the Kalamazoo River looking for leftover traces of oil from the July 2010 Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill.      John W. Poole/NPR     John Bolenbaugh stands in a forested stretch of the Kalamazoo River that borders a mobile home community in Battle Creek, Mich.     John Bolenbaugh stands in a forested stretch of the Kalamazoo River that borders a mobile home community in Battle Creek, Mich.     John W. Poole/NPR     Oil rings on trees only 50 feet from the nearest home show the height of the oil and water, and its proximity to the Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek.     Oil rings on trees only 50 feet from the nearest home show the height of the oil and water, and its proximity to the Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek.     John W. Poole/NPR     Michelle BarlondSmith and her husband lived in a riverfront trailer park. BarlondSmith says the sickening fumes from the oil lasted for months.     Michelle BarlondSmith and her husband lived in a riverfront trailer park. BarlondSmith says the sickening fumes from the oil lasted for months.     John W. Poole/NPR     One of dozens of houses along the Kalamazoo River sits empty since the spill. Enbridge offered to buy up most of the property along the river immediately after the spill, and most residents sold at deflated prices to escape the area.     One of dozens of houses along the Kalamazoo River sits empty since the spill. Enbridge offered to buy up most of the property along the river immediately after the spill, and most residents sold at deflated prices to escape the area.     John W. Poole/NPR     Children fish at a newly opened recreational area built by Enbridge on the Kalamazoo River. Posted signs warn that most of the fish is not safe to eat. These children were not aware of the oil spill and were not area residents.     Children fish at a newly opened recreational area built by Enbridge on the Kalamazoo River. Posted signs warn that most of the fish is not safe to eat. These children were not aware of the oil spill and were not area residents. (John W. Poole/NPR)

Whistle-blower John Bolenbaugh wades through thick mud in the Kalamazoo River looking for leftover traces of oil from the July 2010 Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill. (credit: John W. Poole/NPR)

From an EIA perspective, a pipeline is the perfect example of the need for scenario analysis. One of the main functions of this is risk management, and Enbridge’s performance with the latter is less than mediocre. In 2010 a rupture in the company’s line 6B spilled over 3.3 million litres of oil in the Kalamazoo River in what would be the largest onland spill in the history of the Unites States (Paris, 2013). Three years after the cleanup is still not complete. What’s more, between 1999 and 2010 over 800 spills occurred on Enbridge’s pipelines and almost all of the company’s pumping stations were recently deemed non-compliant by the NEB itself (Gignac & Schepper, 2013).

One wonders why the NEB insists on leaving potential spills out of the scope when Enbridge has such a history.

Whatch this video from the Off Island Gazette where The mayor of Ste-Justine-de-Newton, Patricia Domingos, explains how Enbridge has offered communities living near its pipeline donations to improve their emergency responder services.

Bibliography:

CBC. (2013, August 29). Pipeline   d’Enbridge : l’Ontario hausse le ton. Retrieved October 05, 2013, from CBC:   http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/ontario/2013/08/28/016-enbridge-pipeline-wynne.shtml

City of Montreal. (2013, Avril 22). Déclaration.   Retrieved October 05, 2013, from   http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEMQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.newswire.ca%2F643%2FEtude_Enbridge.pdf&ei=qLhQUr6FNsni4AOAkYGADw&usg=AFQjCNGNV-nADLmC818YOeXa4vkhI1oVqQ&bvm=bv.53537100,d.dmg

Côté, C., &   Croteau, M. (2013, Octobre 02). Oléoduc 9 d’Enbridge: le débat s’enflamme.   Retrieved October 05, 2013, from La   Presse:   http://www.lapresse.ca/environnement/pollution/201310/02/01-4695449-oleoduc-9-denbridge-le-debat-senflamme.php

Enbridge. (2012). Enbridge’s Line 9 Pipeline:   Open House. Calgary: Enbridge.

Gignac, R., & Schepper, B. (2013). Projet d’oléoduc   de sables bitumineux « Ligne 9B » : le Québec à l’heure des choix. Montreal:   Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS).

Nadeau, J. (2013,   Octobre 04). Ligne 9B d’Enbridge – Il y aura consultation, assure le   ministre. Le Devoir.

Paris, M. (2013, September 2013). Enbridge’s   Kalamazoo cleanup dredges up 3-year-old oil spill. Retrieved October 06,   2013, from CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/enbridge-s-kalamazoo-cleanup-dredges-up-3-year-old-oil-spill-1.1327268

Ruby, C. (2013, August 18). Harper government   unfairly limits public input on Enbridge pipeline. Retrieved October 05,   2013, from The Star: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/08/18/harper_government_unfairly_limits_public_input_on_enbridge_pipeline.print.html

Shields, A.   (2013, September 11). Inversion du pipeline – Enbridge se félicite de   l’ouverture du Québec. Le Devoir.

Stantec. (2013). Line 9B Reversal and Line 9   Capacity Expansion Project – Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact   Assessment – Addendum. Calgary: Enbridge.

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