Pipeline Deadline: Rushed Review Process for Tar Sands Line 9 Stifles Public Participation

Canadians you will need to brush up on those resume writing skills and sharpen your pencils because it is time to fill out your 10-page applications to get permission to send in your comments about another oil pipeline.

And as of Monday, April 15th, you have less than five days left of the 14 days the National Energy Board (NEB) allows to do it. The deadline is noon on April 19th.

The permission-to-comment application consists of 10 pages of essay-style questions that should be submitted with a resume and references to backup your claim that you have a right to participate in the Line 9 pipeline public hearings.

Enbridge's 37-old Line 9 is being reversed to pump 300,000 bpd (barrels per day) of oil and bitumen from Alberta's tar sands through southern Ontario and Quebec.

Since when does someone’s resume determine if they have the right to be concerned about what’s happening in their home community?” asked Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.

Anyone who lives and works in southern Ontario could be affected by a spill and everyone is affected by climate change,” Stewart said in a statement.

Under the new rules created by the 2012 federal omnibus bill C-38 the NEB can deny Canadians their right to participate in public hearings on energy projects. Only those “directly affected” by the Line 9 project and persons with “relevant information or expertise” will be approved to participate in the hearings, even be permitted to write a letter.

Enbridge's Line 9 crosses almost every major waterway that empties into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It's often less than 10 kilometres away from Lake Ontario. Enbridge wants to reverse Line 9 to flow from Sarnia to Montreal, expand its maximum capacity from 250,000 bpd to 300,000 bpd and ship “heavy crude” such as bitumen from the Alberta tar sands through the pipeline.

Few people have heard of Line 9. It has remained in the shadows of its younger, bigger – some may say better looking – siblings: the proposed Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines. More people know about Enbridge's Line 6B – Line 9's twin in age and design– that spilled thousands of barrels into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 than Line 9.

It remains unclear who the NEB will allow to participate. It is likely most Ontarians will not be allowed to express their views even if they'd lose their only source of drinking water from a Line 9 leak that contaminates Lake Ontario or their groundwater. 

Canadians do not have access to a venue where their concerns about the larger issues related to pipeline projects can be heard,” says Dayna Nadine Scott, associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. 

Those permitted to speak are restricted in what they can say. The NEB will not listen to views or concerns over issues such as the expansion of the tar sands industry or the possibility that Line 9's oil will be exported or even climate change.

If the NEB refuses to listen to the public's concerns such as the way it (Line 9) will fuel expansion in the tar sands and contribute to climate change, or how it will lead to more deadly air emissions from the refineries around Sarnia, Montreal or Saint John, where else are Canadians to go?” Scott told DeSmog.

Setting restrictions on what issues people can comment on in the hearings is like telling people what they can care about.” says Maryam Adrangi, a climate and energy campaigner for the Council of Canadians.

Ontarians and Quebeckers have every right to cry foul. Until recently there has been a virtual media black out on Line 9. The NEB or Enbridge are not required to advertise in newspapers, television or radio that the application to participate form is available. To make matters more confusing Albertans were given five weeks to submit their applications on a newer and smaller pipeline (see Edmonton-Hardisty pipeline).

Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver made it quite clear last week the new NEB rules are “to limit the number of people who participate in the public hearings to avoid what happened in the past.”

In 2011, more than 4,300 British Columbians - a record for public participation in a regulatory process - registered to participate in the Northern Gateway hearings. The historic turnout demonstrated widespread public concern regarding the pipeline, sparking a media frenzy and ultimately forcing the NEB to delay the process on Northern Gateway by one year to accommodate this surge.

The final decision on Line 9 will be made no later than March 19, 2014, but could come as early as December 1st, 2013.

The long and detailed application form and having to get NEB approval is going to discourage members of our community from getting involved,” says Doug Anderson, president of Ontario DurhamCLEAR, a local environmental advocacy group.

But we have little choice in the matter. We have to protect our communities and our water despite these obstacles,” Anderson told DeSmog.

Image Credit: Environmental Defense


There will need to be more and louder protests.

Also, look to the premier's in the affected provinces.  In BC's case the NDP made Northern Gateway an election issue.  It became so unbearable for the Liberals that they switched from pro-pipeline, to anti pipeline.


The NDP plans to pull the plug on Northern Gateway, hence its dead.  Alberta needs to get these pipelines ram rodded through as fast as possible.

I am in support of government putting up a relatively simple roadblock to uncontrolled participation in regulatory processes.  After looking at the form, I think that if somebody has something important to contribute to the hearing, they will indeed take the time to make this step.  

Question: If 4,301 British Columbians had shown up at the Northern Gateway hearing and said that the pipeline was essential to their well-being as it would support their continued employment and survival for the next several years, would it mean that there was wider-spread public support for the pipeline?

The likely answer: of course not.

Implication: Participation in a regulatory process is not a representative indicator of support.  By requiring participants to fill in a form, it will help the Board to avoid spurious claims or claims that provide no additional evidence that can be used in the decision-making process. This is essential for ensuring that evidence can be properly presented, that important details are not missed in in a sea of information, and that a proper decision can be made based on the general political attitude at the time (which is the real driver of development anyway).

And that's what it comes down to.  Development is driven by the polticial and economic environment at the time.  Flooding a legitimate EIA hearing with arguments that fair to contribute new information is a kind of public disobedience, rather than a respectful contribution to a social decision.  This simple form (have you taken a look?  It's really not very complicated) helps to ensure that social resources are properly used and that new arguments are heard at the hearing to help make a decision.

Unfortunately, Canadians have a particular government that can't see past the end of it's nose.  Even more unfortunately, Canadians seem to be satisfied with this government because they keep electing them over and over again (Lord knows, Stephen Harper is somehow my MP).  Given this rather irreputable FACT (and regardless of all the problems with the electoral process), opponents to many of these big messy projects are in fact special interest groups that, while deserving to be heard, should be heard insofar as they can contribute new information that could change the decision of the Board.

SO next time, get out and vote Green.  Run for office as a Green. Vote Green in your province and nationally.  Vote for a green local politician. Get out and get your friends and family to vote Green.  Make a big donation to the Green party so that they can get people you don't know to listen to them. Change Canada's direction so that we have people solving Canada's economic and social troubles in an environmentally responsible way! 

I don't trust the Harper Government to do anything but muck with the process and manipulate it.  This is Harper's MO.  Given that Harper deleted, and or neutered much of Canada's environmental laws at the special request of CAPP, I think its safe to say that this new review process will be completely cooked.

I'm also concerned with Harper's attitude towards BC Harper called what appears to be 70% of BC's population, extremists.  In reality, existing workers in the Kitimat region would be displaced by pipeline and port development.  Furthermore thousands of workers would have their livelihoods, jeopardized by tanker accidents.

The CERI Industry report stated that BC would see $50 million a year in tax revenue.  That's chump change in government speak.  It wouldn't cover oil spill clean ups, and it certainly wouldn't pay for lost jobs if there was an accident.

This is an Alberta problem. Its Alberta's resources.  Alberta fought to have resources provincially controlled.  Now they want everyone else to roll over and let them do what they want.  BC Liberals asked for a cut to pay for the risks they were taking, and Alberta said no. Christy Clark had nothing to offer the people of BC.  The rest is history.

All that aside, I'm quite concerned by the ongoing heavy heavy subsidy for oil and gas.  Tanker insurance is capped at $30 million.  If they are so safe, why do they carry no insurance?  $16 billion should be a snap if its safe.  Right?

Harper's response to all this has been to regulate tankers to be double hulled.  Just like the Titanic…

In short, you don't have to be Green to oppose that pipeline. My opposition is very conservative, and I abhor industry subsidy. (Obviously, neither applies to Harper.)

As for the Eastern pipeline..  Good luck getting Quebec to support it.  If I went over there and played Klein saying “Send the bums back east!” over and over, I don't think it would go over very well.  I have to admit that I think its a safer port to ship from.  Maybe if Easterners took the time to read the red-neck comments online from Alberta, they'd think differently.

All of this, is side stepping real discussion on real issues.  Like Climate Change, and whether we want Canada transformed to a Petro State.

I'm likely to vote Liberal in the next election.  Trudeau has said he's interested in a Carbon Tax, and I find Liberals easier to stomach than the creepy Harper and steaming pile I Kent we have now. I did vote Green the last few elections, but that was because the Liberals didn't have a platform and didn't have a credible leader, till now.