As an environmental lawyer, Mark Mattson participated in many of Ontario's biggest energy hearings. These are his thoughts on the National Energy Board's Line 9B letter, released this week.
Yesterday, the National Energy Board put Enbridge’s Line 9B pipeline project on hold until the company proves it is taking reasonable precautions to protect our drinking water.
Line 9B was originally designed to move natural gas, not bitumen along Lake Ontario. Because the danger of piping bitumen far surpasses the risk of piping natural gas, the increased risk to our environment demands greater precaution.
The NEB’s focus on water protection is warranted, if only because 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water.
Demanding Enbridge build emergency shut down capacity on its Line 9B pipeline when crossing rivers is totally justified and reasonable.
Further, the NEB’s decision sends an important signal beyond Line 9B. It will apply to other projects, such as with the 3A-West African Gas Pipeline and the Energy East Pipeline.
Many Canadians have rightly become alarmed at the federal government’s efforts to lower the bar for approvals of major energy projects through its narrowing of public approvals and weakening the Navigable Waters Protection Act and Fisheries Act.
The NEB’s decision to stand firm on protecting watersheds by demanding safety shutdowns near rivers and key water crossings has raised the bar back again – at least a little, at least for now.