Toronto council wants a say in Enbridge’s proposal to pipe western Canadian oil, including oil sands crude, through Toronto.
By: John Spears Business reporter, Published on Fri Feb 22 2013
Toronto council wants a say in a proposal to pipe western Canadian oil – including oil sands crude – through the city.
A report from city lawyers warns that a study by local conservation authorities shows a bad spill could threaten the city’s drinking water and air.
On Thursday, city council authorized the city’s legal staff to take part in hearings on the proposal to pump more oil through the pipeline.
The line crosses every major watercourse in the city, and a city report notes that a pipeline break “is a potential threat to City of Toronto water treatment plant intakes.”
“We need to be there, we need to be at the table,” said Councillor Anthony Perruzza, who proposed the motion at council.
“We have a pipeline that currently exists, it’s 40 years old, it runs through the entire city and we’ve seen in other jurisdictions what can happen if the line breaks.”
Built in 1976, the 30-inch pipe carried western Canadian crude east until 1999, when Enbridge reversed the flow to carry imported oil from the east coast westward to Sarnia.
Now, with a glut of oil in western Canada and the U.S., Enbridge wants to restore the eastward flow.
It also wants to boost the pipeline’s capacity to 300,000 barrels a day, from 240,000 barrels.
The westernmost part of the line – between Sarnia and Westover, near Hamilton, got clearance last year to reverse its flow, to supply a refinery in Nanticoke.
Enbridge now wants to reverse the rest of the line to carry oil first to Montreal – and then possibly to east coast ports and refineries.
The line could either transport conventional crude or “dilbit”, which is oil sands crude, diluted with solvents so it can pass through the pipeline more easily.
Critics argue that dilbit is more corrosive and riskier to transport – a claim that Enbridge denies.
The company needs clearance from the National Energy Board to reverse the remainder of the line; the board is now preparing for hearings.
In a report to council, city solicitor Anna Kinastowksi says she has already written to the board “to preserve the City of Toronto’s rights to participate in the proceedings.”
Enbridge has also sent information to the city, which staff is now reviewing.
Kinastowski lists a number of city concerns about possible spills, which she says were highlighted by a spill from an Enbridge pipe in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010.
The chemicals used to dilute the bitumen polluted local air, and forced residents to evacuate, the report notes.
The dilbit also proved very difficult to clean up, especially in wet conditions.
A large spill could also threaten drinking water, according to a report by three Toronto area region conservation authorities that identified a string of sites where a spill could contaminate drinking water intakes.
“The product that is being piped through the line is a very, very hazardous one,” said Perruzza. “You have lots of contamination, lots of chemicals that are harmful than become airborne.
“We need to know what the integrity of the line is. We need to know what the safety systems will be.”
“Should there be a leak or a spill we need to know how that gets responded to, how information is shared and how everyone is mobilized to react.”
Toronto legal staff have talked to conservation staff and to city officials in Hamilton, Burlington, Ajax, Mississauga and Kingston about the line, Kinastowski says in her report.
“These groups have unanswered questions and concerns,” she wrote.
Enbridge spokesman Graham White said Enbridge regularly provides information to municipalities.
“We look forward to continuing to provide clarification and factual information about the project to counter inaccurate claims and to continue to work to provide this essential service and greater energy security for the people of Ontario and Quebec,” he said in an email.
Adam Scott of Environmental Defence, a group that has opposed the Line 9 reversal at the energy board hearings, said Toronto council’s action is “a pretty strong thing for the city to do.”
“I’m pretty encouraged by it, I’m happy to see it,” he said.
Environmental Defence is opposing Enbridge’s plan.
“Pipelines like this facilitate the reckless expansion of tar sands in Alberta,” he said.http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/02/22/toronto_council_eyes_enbridge_proposal_for_toronto_oil_sands_pipeline.html