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90 Minutes for 90 Spills: Line 9 activists take Highway 6



(Hamilton, ON) A group of activists from across Southern Ontario have blockaded Highway 6 at Enbridge's controversial Line 9 crossing. The group intends to hold the space for ninety minutes; one minute for each of the significant spills Enbridge has annually[i]. This action includes a simulated oil spill and ineffective cleanup to demonstrate the dangers of transporting diluted bitumen through our communities.


They have taken this step to ensure their voices are heard and encourage public debate - something the Canadian government has gone to extreme lengths to prevent. The National Energy Board - providing sole oversight on the Line 9 reversal - has introduced new controls to the public hearing process based on new legislation enacted last. It is through this that they have also excluded the issues of climate change, Tar Sands Issues, and oil exportation from the decision making process. Additionally only a two-week window was provided to fill out a lengthy application, complete with resume or letter of reference.


There are 11 million people who live along the pipeline route. These communities are being asked to take all the risk; blindly and without benefit. It is not if line 9 will spill, but rather when and where.


Of Enbridge's reportable spills in 2009, 71.2% took place at pump stations and terminals[ii]. The Westover Terminal and pump station are in the headwaters of Hamilton's Spencer Creek and the Beverly Swamp. Our local watersheds are at a disproportionately high risk of contamination, but Line 9 crosses every major river in Southern Ontario. A spill in any one of these would be devastating to Lake Ontario and its ecosystem – and the 6.3 million individuals who rely on the lake for drinking water.


When an identical pipeline ruptured in Michigan's Kalamazoo River, it led to the permanent evacuation of over one hundred homes while leaving an uncleanable mess in the river. The rupture occurred after a reversal project and the line began carrying diluted bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands – the dirtiest, most polluting project on the planet.


Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by the existing development. They have also taken an inspiring lead in resisting Tar Sands expansion, and its pipelines. This action is in solidarity with those Indigenous communities and with everyone who opposes the extraction and transportation of Tar Sands oil throughout Turtle Island.


The individuals involved in this action believe that this disruption is appropriate but recognize and apologize for the potential inconvenience to drivers. They have prepared and are sharing homemade treats with drivers, insistent that the inevitability of an actual spill would be far more disruptive. They are confident that many of those who encounter the blockade will be far more upset to learn of the risks of the Line 9 reversal than the brief delay.



[i] In 2010 there were 91 reportable spills, while in 2009 there were 103. These two years are the most recent readily available statistics acknowledged and released by Enbridge. We have chosen to use the lowest number available while understanding that the likelihood is that there are, or have been, far more spills per year.

[ii] In 2009 there were 89 reportable spills acknowledged by Enbridge. Eighty of the 89 spills took place at pump stations and terminals (71.2%).




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