Lake Ontario is fed by dozens of rivers known as “tributaries”. They range from the large, fast-flowing Niagara River to smaller creeks that slowly meander their way to the lake.
Enbridge’s Line 9B oil pipeline crosses 36 different tributaries in the Lake Ontario watershed.
Built in 1976, Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline carries up to 240,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Montreal, Quebec to Sarnia, Ontario (from east to west).
In 2012, Enbridge approached the National Energy Board looking for permission to reverse the flow of oil through the pipeline and to expand its capacity.
In March 2014, the Board granted Enbridge conditional approval to transport up to 300,000 barrels of oil per day from western Canada and the USA to Montreal (from west to east).
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper participated in the National Energy Board hearing throughout 2013 in order to draw attention to the need to better protect rivers where the pipeline crosses.
With the support of Ottawa Riverkeeper, Lake Erie Waterkeeper, and Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, we brought evidence demonstrating:
- leaks or spills along the pipeline would affect the drinking water supply for up to 26-million people as well as vulnerable waterways and wetlands,
- the industry has a history of failing to respond immediately to pipeline spills,
- spills in the past have not been easily or effectively contained.
We asked the National Energy Board to ensure that shut-off points are installed so that spills could be contained and that Enbridge be fully liable for accidents or malfunctions.
The Board approved Enbridge’s project with about 30 conditions. The conditions are not as clear as we had hoped, nor do they address many of the project’s environmental risks.
Seventeen new shut-off points were supposed to be installed on the line, which is an improvement, but doesn’t guarantee that spills will be prevented or that they can be contained.
In October 2014, the Board denied Enbridge's request to move forward and ordered the company to do more to protect water crossings.
Waterkeeper will continue to monitor the project until all of the Board’s conditions have been met.
Reversing Line 9B could have serious impacts on the public’s ability to safely swim, drink, and fish in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the Ottawa River, and St. Lawrence River watersheds. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and our peers are very concerned about irreversible harm to the natural environment that would results from spills.