• Carmen Marie Fabio

Residents suspicious of Enbridge tree-planting initiative


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

A joint tree-planting initiative by Projets Citoyens Quebec President Sébastien Léonard (second from left) and Enbridge Pipeline Public Aff airs manager Éric Prud’homme (second from right) in Rigaud September 25 was met with protests from members of Les Citoyens au Courants who accuse the pipeline company of using the partnership to ‘greenwash’ its image.

A vocal group of protestors consisting of both private landowners and municipal representatives, along with members of the media were the only attendees at a September 25 symbolic tree-planting collaboration between Enbridge Pipelines Inc. and Projets Citoyens Quebec held in Rigaud.

“I’m surprised by this strange operation,” said Très Saint Rédempteur resident Katherine Massam of the pairing of the oil company and environmental group to plant trees in an empty lot off rue de la Cooperative in the industrial sector. “I think this is an attempt by Enbridge to change their image and I think it’s a shame the mayor of Rigaud has collaborated with this. He’s a trusted elected official, and people voted for him,” said Massam.

“I don’t know if he realizes what a gift he’s giving to Enbridge here.” The tree-planting event is part of Enbridge’s ongoing ‘Green Corridor’ that began in 2013, reportedly to improve soil quality and biodiversity in old crop fields. The pipeline company touts itself as being in the top 100 companies most committed to sustainable development in the world.

“Enbridge approached us to put together a tree-planting program along line 9A, which we did in collaboration with the municipalities,” said Projets Citoyens Quebec President Sébastien Léonard. “We discussed (the partnering) internally but decided, even though there’s a debate going on, it was still an envelope that would give us the opportunity to plant trees, and we’re all about that.”

A corporate-issued press communiqué from Enbridge says 20,000 trees have been planted since 2013 and Projets Citoyens Quebec will manage the trees over the coming year. The release indicates 16 native species will be planted in the region. Not everyone in attendance was buying the environmental angle of the pipeline company’s actions. “We’re really worried actually,” said MRC Communications Advisor Simon Richard about Enbridge’s 9B reversal plan to reverse the flow of heavy crude from Alberta to refineries in Montreal East.

“We filed an access to information request last year asking for two things; what’s the current quality of the pipeline on our territory (following Enbridge inspection and testing), and second, what’s the emergency plan?” Richard says the MRC continues to wait for detailed emergency plans so they can coordinate with each of the 23 municipalities in the MRC given Enbridge’s high-risk infrastructure.

“We have the mandate from the Quebec government to organize fi re and public security but we can’t do our job properly since they don’t give us the information we want.” Richard said he understands the frustration expressed by the citizens in attendance including young families, members of Les Citoyens au Courant made up of residents and farmers living near the 9B pipeline, Sainte Justine de Newton spokesperson Patricia Domingos, and Executive Director of COBAVER water table group Isabelle Rodrigue.

Enbridge spokesman Éric Prud’homme dismissed the hostile reception and said the project involves an ongoing dialogue with the involved communities, citing the company’s efforts at greater levels of communications and consultations, including the question of hydrostatic testing of the existing 38-year-old pipeline.

“We have a robot that travels the (interior) length of the pipeline to assess its condition, checking for corrosion, dents, and cracks,” he said of the five robots used to inspect the 764-kilometre line between Sarnia and Montreal. “The line is in very good condition. Any anomalies are not threatening.” Prud’homme said if an anomaly is detected, the company will dig and perform a magnetic resonance inspection on the section of pipeline.

Corrective measures include re-sleeving and replacement of portions of the pipe. He reiterated the pipeline poses no threat to communities along the 9B right of way, a claim questioned by many in attendance. “I’m seriously concerned about the security issue,” said Rigaud resident, and father of five, Jean-Philippe Lafortune. “We can’t do this with our own pipes in our own houses. How could this be safe?”

Lafortune said rather than focusing on transporting oil, government should be thinking forward to invest more eff orts into alternative energies. Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald, said the event was orchestrated prior to his November 2013 election and declined to comment on the pipeline issue, saying only, “I support the planting of the trees. We’re here to talk about trees today, not about any pipeline.” Gruenwald concluded by saying, “We have our opinions of the pipeline at the table of the MRC, and that’s it.”

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