• Jules-Pierre Malartre

Enbridge pipeline reversal decision a bitter pill for residents


No retirement for Enbridge’s aging pipeline 9b: Enbridge received the green light for its flow reversal and pressure increase of diluted bitumen in the 40-year-old pipeline running through the region and close to drinking water sources.

On September 30, the National Energy Board (NEB) gave Enbridge the all-clear for its controversial line reversal and pressure increase project on the 40-year-old pipeline 9B, an unexpected decision that irked a number of regional stakeholders, including the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) that lobbied for full hydrostatic pressure testing along the pipeline.

“This is a very disappointing result, and I share the MRC’s reaction,” incumbent NDP Member of Parliament Jamie Nicholls said. “If we look at the history of the company that applies to this reduction of pressure, Enbridge, according to the National Transportation Safety Board in the US, has a culture of deviance; meaning that not adhering to required safety procedures has become normalized. The NEB has been granting them exemption after exemption, not just this year, but for the past 15 years. Line 9B was out of compliance for over 14 years.”

“The NEB decision is an important step back for the safety of local residents and the environment,” Lorraine Caron of grassroots citizen action group Citoyens au courant said. “We feel the hydrostatic tests should have been performed over the entire length of the pipeline per the original specifications, and not per the lowered pressure that was accepted by the NEB following a request from Enbridge.”

The limited number of pipeline segments targeted for the tests also baffled a number of interveners, including Nicholls who question the wisdom of not having included any parts of the pipeline that course through Vaudreuil-Soulanges, most notably the critical segment that crosses into the Outaouais River that feeds drinking water to local communities. “Water is non-negotiable,” Nicholls stressed.

“The MRC passed a resolution September 2 to demand hydrostatic testing at the prescribed pressure along the entire length of the pipeline, and not only at limited points,” said Jean A. Lalonde, MRC prefect and mayor of Très-Saint- Rédempteur.

“We wanted a test done under the Outaouais River, which would have been normal,” Lalonde added. “There are 2.5 million people from here to Montreal who take their water from that river.” According to Lalonde, the NEB has not offered any reason for not doing any testing at that location.

Caron also questions why tests were not performed at that critical point given its strategic importance and the extent of the pipeline wear and tear at that location. “While reading Enbridge’s report, we noted that the number of anomalies increased by a factor of five or six between 2004 and 2012 in the Outaouais River segment.

Lalonde states that the MRC asked why the NEB authorized a pressure reduction for the hydrostatic tests. “They explained a technique to us, something using a rule of three. We’ve asked to see the report. We will show it to people who can understand it. We won’t let it go at that.”

In a letter to NEB President Peter Watson dated October 5, Lalonde states the MRC is bitterly disappointed by its October 2 meeting with NEB representatives, a meeting that had been scheduled in order for the NEB to explain its decision. “Once again, we come out of a meeting with more questions than answers,” Lalonde said.

On top of lamenting the NEB’s refusal to address the MRC’s request for using the original standards for hydrostatic testing, the MRC still has no visibility regarding the emergency plans that Enbridge had to prepare. Part of the NEB requirements for approving the project included the submission of emergency plans by Enbridge, but if the oil company submitted such plans, the MRC has yet to see them. After over two years of requesting emergency plans, the MRC and Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents still do not know what will happen should the 40-year-old pipeline develop a leak.

While we wait for Enbridge and the NEB to release the details of their emergency plans, municipalities can only prepare for the worst and dust off their own emergency plans. These, however, are limited to cordoning off any areas affected by a spill. Local emergency teams are not trained, equipped, or authorized to access any installations privately-owned by Enbridge. In other words, the role of our local emergency teams is reduced to that of security guards in the event of an oil spill, while the population waits for as of yet undisclosed Enbridge emergency teams to be deployed. The MRC has not been informed if the emergency teams used by Enbridge are locally situated.