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Large coalition of Canadian and US environmental groups calls for more information on Enbridge’s Line 9B Reversal Project

Montreal, March 26, 2013 - Environmental groups in the United States, Ontario and Quebec have criticised the limited mandate of the National Energy Board (NEB) and the lack of transparency from Enbridge regarding the energy giant’s proposed reversal of its 9B oil pipeline. On March 21, the groups informed the NEB of their concerns regarding a draft “List of Issues” related to the project that the Board will be considering. The NEB is the federal agency responsible for ensuring the protection of the public and the environment with regard to energy development, and it will be holding public hearings on the proposed 9B pipeline reversal this year.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from tar sands production are three to four times higher than those caused by the production of conventional oil, which makes the tar sands the largest contributor to the growth in Canada’s GHG emissions and one of the world’s largest sources of GHGs.

Enbridge’s proposed project involves transporting oil from the tar sands to Quebec, using a pipeline running eastward to Montreal that passes through a number of densely populated areas. “This is not simply about reversing the flow of oil between Montreal and Sarnia; Enbridge also wants to increase daily capacity and transport heavy crude oil in a pipeline that’s over 40 years old. Doing so would pose serious environmental risks, particularly in the event of a spill,” says Steven Guilbeault, deputy director of Équiterre. “People need to know the real risks involved with pipeline safety,” he adds.

It is worth remembering that Enbridge is responsible for the largest onshore oil spill ever to occur in North America; in 2010, one of its pipelines spilled more than 3.7 million litres of tar sands oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. It was recently announced that the clean-up bill for this disaster could come to nearly $1 billion, and Enbridge is currently contesting some of the costs it has been ordered to cover.

There are several signs that this project is part of a bigger plan, formerly called Trailbreaker, which was going to bring tar sands oil to New England. We need to know what would happen to the oil once it gets to Montreal.

“A reversal of flow direction in Enbridge’s pipeline means that Quebec could potentially see a considerable increase in atmospheric emissions from refineries here receiving this heavy oil, along with all the pollution and public health problems that this would involve. These issues cannot be ignored,” argues André Bélisle, President of the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique.

“Oil from the tar sands is among the dirtiest in the world,” says Patrick Bonin, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. “The National Energy Board cannot simply stick its head in the sand; it must examine the potential impacts of increased production of this type of oil, including elevated levels of greenhouse gases.”

The NEB is inviting members of the public and organisations to apply to participate in the upcoming hearing on the proposed 9B reversal; those granted the right to participate will have a chance to express their views at the hearing. The deadline to apply to become a participant is April 11. Please visit the NEB’s application page or for more information.

Groups in Ontario and Quebec are: Équiterre, Environmental Defence, Climate Justice Montreal, Sierra Club of Canada - Quebec chapter, Greenpeace Canada - Montréal and Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique.

To read Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) release


Loïc Dehoux, Équiterre
514 -605-2000

André Bélisle, Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique

Patrick Bonin, Greenpeace Canada