• Carmen Marie Fabio

Enbridge Line 9B pipeline reversal interrupted by protesters

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Three men locked themselves within a manual shutoff valve area on the Enbridge oil pipeline in Ste. Justin de Newton to protest what they say are safety issues with the company and the reversal project.

Citing a lack of safety for a diluted bitumen pipeline valve located in a remote area of Ste. Justine de Newton near the Ontario border, three activists scaled a fence to shut off the unguarded manual valve December 7 just before 7 a.m. and then secured themselves to the fence using bicycle locks around their necks.

“We’re here to demand an immediate end to the tarsands expansion and tarsands industry,” said one of the protestors who only identified himself as ‘Will.’

“I’m just one person,” he said. “My hope is that my action, and the action of my comrades here, will inspire others to take action and that there’ll be a cumulative effect, and that our actions will render the tarsands unviable as an industry.”

Will, accompanied by his fellow protesters Fred Brabant and Jean Léger, said they chose the valve on Rang 7 on the meandering rural road in Ste. Justine de Newton, because they considered it a ‘strategic point’.

“There’ve been many individuals and groups working against this pipeline for years on end through a variety of different means – direct action, lobbying, legal action, and community education. This is a manual valve, very easy to close, and no security,” he said. “Anyone could just stroll in here and shut down a pipeline.”

Enbridge Inc. was given permission by the National Energy Board (NEB) to begin transporting oil eastward from the Alberta tarsands operation this December, despite almost two years of repeated protests from elected officials and property owners in the region. The flow reversal in the 40-year-old pipeline began, according to the activists, this past weekend.

“It was very easy to turn the valve,” said Brabant. “We called Enbridge twice and they didn’t know what was going on.” After the third call, Enbridge reportedly called in police. Two Enbridge staffers arrived on the scene around 10 a.m. “It’s really concerning,” said Brabant. “If a leak happens anywhere, they (Enbridge) wouldn’t be able to detect it.”

Former Ste. Justine de Newton Mayor Patricia Domingos was critical of the person who took the call at Enbridge’s 1-888 number for not being able to speak or understand French.

“We consider this a justified motive,” said Domingos. “For years, as a municipality, we’ve sent five resolutions to the government, and as of last week, directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, against the NEB. The MRC is not being heard, the citizens are not being heard… (Our actions) are not legal but what else can we do? Our worries are legitimate.”

Enbridge Public Affairs spokesman Eric Prud’homme said given the proximity of the valve to the Ontario border, there are two possible numbers to call and said had the Quebec office been reached, the call would have been answered in French.

“(Domingos) call was not judged as an emergency call,” said Prud’Homme, reiterating an urgent call would be directed to the appropriate recipient.

“As a preventative measure, we did shut down the line and protocol was followed.”

When asked if Enbridge will be increasing its security at the valve to which the protestors easily accessed, Prud’Homme said Enbridge has a multitude of ways to monitor the lines 24/7. “If someone was to tamper with the installations, there are ways for us to know.”

As of 2:30 p.m., the first of three protestors had been freed by Sûreté du Québec and all three had been placed under arrest. SQ spokesperson Sgt. Christine Coulombe said the three refused to cooperate with police and were arrested for breaking and entering, and for mischief.

For more photos see our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.875033382591957.1073742039.450636595031640&type=3

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