Tars Sands Oil in Hamilton?

Posted: August 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Line 9 Map showing Sarnia to Westover, in Hamilton

In late July, the National Energy Board approved a plan by Enbridge to reverse the flow of their Line 9 pipeline all the way from Sarnia to Westover, and they are currently seeking approval to move it to Montreal. Although Enbridge denies it, this is part of a plan to move Tar Sands oil from Alberta to ports on the Atlantic coast. On its way, this oil will have to go through Hamilton, stopping at the Westover Terminal near Westover Rd and Concession 6 W in Flamborough. (http://goo.gl/maps/tC8cz)

As you all certainly know: “The Tar Sands ‘Gigaproject’ is the largest industrial project in human history and likely also the most destructive. The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to Climate Change (oilsandstruth.org).” The human and environmental costs of the Tar Sands are staggering, and there is an accelerating movement to stop the flow of Tar Sands oil – if they can’t ship it, they can’t afford to take it out of the ground.

Opposition to the ludicrous Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry Tar Sands oil west, and to the Keystone XL that would carry it south has already been historic. It is in the context of this powerful resistance, especially the unbroken wall of Indigenous communities blocking any route to the Pacific ocean (the Yinka Dene Alliance: http://yinkadene.ca/), that Enbridge is dusting off their old Trailbreaker pipeline proposal.

Enbridge first proposed Trailbreaker in 2008 explicitly to carry Tar Sands oil east by way of Sarnia, Westover, Montreal, and Portland, Maine. However, united opposition to this combined with the skepticism about the safety of this project from even the typically corrupt regulators lead Enbridge to use the financial collape of 2008 as a pretense to shelve it.

Line 6b spilled diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River, and will feed into Line 9 if Enbridge’s plan goes ahead.

Now Enbridge appears to be putting the same project forward in small steps: first, seeking approval to reverse Line 9 between Sarnia and Westover while denying they intend to go any further; then, once that was approved, seeking to reverse it between Westover and Montreal while refusing to talk about shipping it to Maine. And all the while, they refer to some mythical “light oil” (as opposed to Tar Sands heavy oil) the line will carry,  even though Line 6b into Sarnia already carries Tar Sands diluted bitumen.

Ever since it became clear that attempts to move Tar Sands oil to Canadian ports in the Pacific will be met with massive resistance, there has been an increasing drumbeat among conservatives in Alberta to move the oil east instead. Politically, the timing of the Line 9 reversal can be read as an attempt to play Ontario and BC against each other for the benefit of oil money in Alberta: “If BC is going to play politics with this great opportunity, then we’ll ship all the jobs and cheap oil opportunities to Ontario.” But are there really any advantages for people here?

The nationalist claim that Tar Sands oil is somehow more ethical than oil from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia are an attempt to dress up an economic incentive in altruistic clothes – oil from the Tar Sands is currently much cheaper than overseas oil, creating immense opportunities for the powerful to profit in areas that gain access to it. The jobs oil profiteers claim will be created are in Sarnia and Nanticoke working in heavily toxic atmospheres amid downwards pressure on wages, benefits, and worker protections. Only the powerful have anything to gain by involving Southern Ontario in the Tar Sands racket, but all of us will share the costs as this dirty oil makes catastropic climate change inevitable.

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