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Enbridge officially announces the arrival of the “Dirtiest Oil on the Planet” in Quebec on its way to export

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Groups such as Environmental Defense, Équiterre and Greenpeace are asking the National Energy Board (NEB) to investigate Enbridge’s long-term plans to pipe tar sands across Ontario and Quebec for export

MONTREAL, November 30th 2012- Canada’s mega-oil pipeline company, Enbridge, filed regulatory documents yesterday to move plans forward on the reversal of its Line 9B pipeline bringing oil – likely to include tar sands - eastward to Montreal. The announcement essentially opens the door to bringing corrosive tar sands through Ontario, Quebec, and New England for export, a project formerly known as “Trailbreaker”. With this application, the evidence becomes overwhelming that oil companies are planning to send tar sands through eastern Canada, Quebec and New England. Citizens and diverse groups called on the NEB to review the full scope of this tar sands plan, and on the U.S. State Department to require a full environmental review of any proposal to bring tar sands through the New England pipeline.

For many years now, groups such as Équiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council have been asserting that Enbridge intends on routing dirty tar sands oil to Montreal in order to export it to the United States and overseas. This project reaches another step today.

“We believe that the whole of Quebec’s population should mobilize against this project. Enbridge holds a pitiful road map when it comes to the security of its pipelines and is responsible for the biggest oil spill on North American soil in 2010 in Michigan,” declared Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre.

In yesterday’s formal application to Canada’s National Energy Board, the company seeks to:
• Reverse the flow of its “Line 9” pipeline to Montreal to carry oil from west to east.
• Transport “heavy crude” from Western Canada, which will likely include tar sands oil.
• Increase the flow of the pipeline by 25 percent to 300,000 barrels per day.

“Quebec cannot count on the Harper Government, Alberta or the National Energy Board when it comes to the environment, and must refuse this project for the common good of Quebecers,” stressed Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace. “If the province one day runs on tar sands oil, it will become an accomplice to the greatest environmental destruction in the history of humanity, and will lose its status as an environmental leader.”

The NEB must review all major pipeline projects or modifications in Canada, and has already approved reversal of part of Line 9 between Sarnia, Ontario and Montreal. Now, Enbridge is asking the NEB to approve the last leg of the path to Montreal. Citizens across New England expressed concern that there is no similar review process in the United States. The closest analogy is a Presidential Permit for cross-border oil pipelines, which can be granted by the U.S. State Department and can require a full environmental review of pipeline projects (something that is already required for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline). It is obvious that the Enbridge project aims at exporting tar sands oil and, consequently, it must rapidly be made subject to the requirement of obtaining a Presidential Permit. This permit is granted only when a project is in the national interest of the United States, which is not the case with the Enbridge project.

A broad and diverse set of citizens and organizations across the northeast have been raising concerns about tar sands pipelines over the past year. For example:
• In June, a broad coalition of 18 organizations from across the U.S. and Canada sounded the alarm on Enbridge’s plan with the release of a detailed report on the prospect of tar sands coming to New England, Ontario and Quebec.
• In April 2011, citizens from the U.S. and Canada submitted 41,000 comments to the Canadian NEB opposing the first phase of the Line 9 reversal.
• In July 2012, thousands of citizens across New England held a day of action expressing concern that a tar sands spill would be devastating to local communities in New England and Canada.

“We are persuaded in Dunham that the pipeline between Portland and Montreal, installed in 1950, will not be able to resist for long the reversal, especially if it’s heavy tar sands oil. We absolutely need an environmental and socioeconomic study conducted by independent experts,” declared Jean Binette, President of the Environmental Committee of Dunham. “We must avoid a disaster such as the spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan,” he added.
Enbridge has previously denied it is seeking to bring tar sands east, but the evidence is mounting that the company wishes to bring tar sands through Ontario, Quebec, and then to New England. In the application announcement, Enbridge and the NEB acknowledge that Line 9 may carry “heavy crude” and its purpose would be to access “Western Canadian crude.” The use of these terms indicates the line will carry tar sands oil, which is considered to be some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, having significant impacts on the climate.

Recent freedom of information documents revealed that in late 2011, the tar sands industry and Canadian government representatives met with Maine Governor Paul LePage last year to promote tar sands oil. In recent months, officials with the Portland Pipe Line Corporation have handed out information touting tar sands oil to pipeline pathway towns, while continuing to deny that the line would transport tar sands crude. The pipeline running through New England, the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, was recently exposed to be an ExxonMobil pipeline. ExxonMobil has direct interests in tar sands.

According to local and national groups, the full reversal of Line 9 is almost certainly a precursor to a reversal of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline. Tar sands oil is more toxic, corrosive and dangerous to ship through pipelines, hence, putting at risk sensitive environments in Quebec such as the Ottawa River, the Lake of Two Mountains, the Rivière des Mille Îles and that of the Prairies as well as the Saint Lawrence River. When tar sands oil does spill, it causes more damage to human and environmental health, and is nearly impossible to clean up, even at enormous expense as evidenced by the 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, which is still being cleaned today and stands as the most expensive inland pipeline spill in history. Even in its more refined form of Synthetic Crude Oil, tar sands crude has a significant environmental and climate footprint.

Environmental groups wish to commend the Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks Minister, Daniel Breton, who announced that the Quebec government will hold its own public consultation as well as an environmental review independent from that of the Federal process. Quebec will also be involved in the NEB consultation.

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Sources:
Loïc Dehoux, Équiterre, 514-605-2000
Catherine Vézina, Greenpeace, 514-212-5749
Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council, 312-651-7909