Inadequate review of tar sands pipeline proposal

The National Energy Board’s (NEB) planned review of the Enbridge Inc. proposal to ship diluted bitumen across southern Ontario via their Line 9 pipeline is deeply flawed and, as it stands, will result in a grossly inadequate examination of the full impact of the Line 9 proposals. To ensure the efficacy of this review, Toronto350.org calls for the NEB to expand its “list of issues” to include the impacts associated with all upstream and downstream activities associated with the project. Without doing so, we believe this review will be an illegitimate and incomplete environmental assessment.


Toronto350.org calls for the National Energy Board (NEB) to substantially expand its planned review of the Enbridge Inc proposal to ship diluted bitumen from the tar sands across southern Ontario. Enbridge currently has plans to increase capacity of their 38-year-old Line 9 pipeline, which runs through northern Toronto and the GTA, between Sarnia and Montreal, to 300,000 barrels a day (over 200 barrels per minute). They also have plans to reverse the direction of flow to allow shipment of western crude oil including diluted bitumen.

The National Energy Board will be the only entity to perform a review of the Enbridge plans, as a result of amendments made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act by the Harper government’s omnibus bill last spring. Moreover, the NEB’s decision can be overruled by the federal cabinet. Unfortunately, the NEB has put forth a very limited “list of issues” to be addressed by the review that excludes critical issues and, as it stands, does not allow for an adequate assessment of the Enbridge plans.

The NEB specifically proposes to exclude examination of “the environmental and socio-economic effects associated with upstream activities, the development of oil [tar] sands, or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.” (see attached NEB draft issues list)

The implications of this proposed increase and transport of crude oil must be examined. Approving the transport of diluted bitumen will encourage increased extraction and refining activities, resulting in significant greenhouse gas release and damaging climatic consequences. It is now well documented that over 80 percent of the identified reserves of fossil fuels must be left in the ground if catastrophic climatic changes are to be avoided.

Moreover, unlike a proper environmental assessment, the NEB issues list also excludes consideration of reasonable alternatives or compensation to be provided to the province of Ontario, which faces all the risks and none of the benefits of the Enbridge proposal. For instance, it is widely acknowledged that the so-called “Dutch disease” is an effect of current levels of hydrocarbon export, which is negatively impacting Ontario’s manufacturing sector.

The issues list also needs to be amended to ensure recognition of the treaty rights guaranteed to Aboriginal Nations, including their right to decide what takes place on Aboriginal treaty lands. Similarly, although protections are offered to landowners living along the pipeline route, no mention is made of the millions living downstream that will be subjected to the effects of near-certain leaks, spills, ruptures or other malfunctions of Line 9. There is also considerable evidence that diluted bitumen is much more corrosive and damaging to pipeline integrity, but again the NEB doesn’t specifically plan a full evaluation of the safety factors associated with the bitumen transport.

Toronto350 has submitted a formal response to the NEB to urge it to expand its review, but remains convinced that a full and proper environmental assessment is the minimum requirement – conducted either by the federal government, or failing that, by the Ontario government.

For more information: Stuart Basden, Director of Operations, Toronto350.org. 
Email: [email protected]
Attachments: Response to the draft “Issues List” for the NEB hearings on Line 9 review
 Submitted to the NEB by Toronto350.org