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Toronto Council Moves to Protect City’s Water from Pipeline Spills

by John Riddell

Last week saw three steps forward toward protection from dangerous toxic oil transport, regarding Energy East, rail safety, and the Line 9 pipeline.

On April 2, TransCanada Corp., which is proposing the huge Energy East tar sands pipeline across Ontario and down to the coast, abandoned plans to build a pipeline terminal at Cacouna, Quebec. In explanation, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling referred to the massive protests in Quebec against the terminal, stating, “We have listened.” See comments by pipeline opponents Ecology Ottawa and the Council of Canadians.

On the same day, 17 members of Toronto City Council, headed by Mayor John Tory, sent a joint letter to the federal government demanding an array of measures to reduce the danger of a rail explosion similar to the one that killed 47 residents of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in 2013. They represented every ward traversed by the CP Rail line used by the Lac-Mégantic death train.

“Never before have so many members of the council from all across Toronto, along with the mayor of our city, taken such a strong stand,” commented Councillor Josh Matlow, who headed the effort.

And still on the same day, Toronto city council voted 31 to 2 to protect the city’s water supply from oil spills on the proposed Line 9 tar sands pipeline.  Prior to the vote, many councillors discussed the issue with delegations of community activists from East End Against Line 9, Scarborough Bitumen Free Future, West Toronto Against Line 9, and other groups..

Here is the press release put out by the Toronto Network Against Line 9, which coordinated this effort.

Toronto, April 6, 2015 – Following Mayor John Tory’s appeal to the Federal government to increase rail safety in Toronto as a result of the increasing number of recent train oil tanker explosions, City Council has passed a motion to reinstate safety requirements on a pipeline project that would send tar sands bitumen through the city. The pipeline crosses all major waterways feeding Lake Ontario, the source of our drinking water.

The motion passed (29 to 2) on April 2 states that:

  1. City Council requests Enbridge to install automatic emergency shut-off valves on either side of the City of Toronto’s major watercourses.
  2. City Council requests that the NEB not allow Enbridge the Leave to Open on the grounds that Condition 16 of the NEB’s decision has not been fully met at water crossings along Line 9B and therefore the Greater Toronto Area’s drinking water has been left at risk.

“This motion reflects increased resident pressure on the city to defend us all against environmental hazards,” says Jessica Lyons, a member of the Toronto No Line 9 Network. “We hope other municipalities will pass similar motions. We look forward to further steps to ensure that no bitumen flows across our province by pipeline or by rail.”

Enbridge Inc. was recently granted permission, with 30 conditions, by the National Energy Board (NEB), to reverse the flow in its 40-year-old Line 9 pipeline, which runs from Sarnia through Toronto and on to Montreal. The company intends to move Alberta tar-sands oil to the east coast for export. This plan is opposed by many residents, municipalities and First Nations communities along the pipeline route.

In its final approval, the NEB withdrew a safety requirement that Enbridge install emergency shut-off valves within one kilometre on both sides of all major watercourses that the pipeline crosses. This effectively cancelled the addition of scores of safety valves on waterways that municipalities and First Nations had been led to believe would be mandatory.

According to Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with more than 40 years of experience in the energy sector, Line 9 is 90% likely to rupture in the first five years of operation. This danger arises because the pipeline was built for regular oil, not the much heavier and corrosive tar-sands bitumen (dilbit) proposed for transport through the aging pipeline. Kuprewicz’s warning was corroborated by a recent U.S. Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration alert bulletin. 

In 2010 Line 9’s sister pipeline in Michigan, Enbridge’s Line 6B, built at the same time and from the same materials, ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

Opponents of Line 9 have many concerns in addition to the risk to water and human health. “Where tar-sands oil is concerned, the only safe pipeline is no pipeline. Study after study repeats the same message — the tar sands need to stay in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change. Furthermore, the Line 9 reversal project should never have been allowed to go forward due to an ongoing court challenge by the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation,” explains John Sharkey.

Municipal Action Committee, Toronto No Line 9 Network
For further information, contact
Jessica Lyons:  (416) 939-2641



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Topics: Environment
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