Reportback from City Hall

Posted: October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Wednesday morning council received the staff report on Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal, as well as hearing from citizens on the issue. A few dozen protesters rallied first along Main St in front of City Hall, then filed inside the gallery. No conclusions were reached, but a very interesting discussion ensued, with staff sent to research further about the pipeline and possibilities for opposing it.

Though Enbridge decided to cancel at the last minute, eight citizens stepped up to address council, all opposed to the project. John McGreal spoke about the legacy of Binbrook’s oil spill a decade ago, which burst from Line 10. Ken Stone floated legal ideas, such as banning pipelines over 30 years old, the transmission of tar sands oil or requring it to be upgraded and refined in Canada. Janet Chase floated the possibility of requiring a bond from Enbridge, an idea which seemed to gain a lot of traction with councillors. Maggie Hughes (The Other Side on CFMU) showed footage and talked about the legacy of the Kalamazoo dilbit spill. Elysia Petrone (Hamilton 350) spoke about Harper’s budget omnibus bill exempting this project from environmental assessments. Don McLean (CATCH, Hamilton 350) and Lynda Lukasik (Environment Hamilton) spoke about the connections to the Tar Sands and climate change, especially given the enormous cost we’re now suffering from the recent wave of severe storms and flooding. Wes Elliot, Ruby Montour (Six Nations) and Danielle Boisseau were unable to attend.

Reaction from councillors was mixed, but honestly better than I’d expected. Brenda Johnson asked if there were options to challenge the reversal at the Ontario Municipal Board or Federation of Canadian Municipalities, as well as asking about permits for current digs to check pipeline integrity. Maria Pearson suggested making a statement for the record, even if council’s hands were “tied”. Judi Partridge raised questions about the Emergency Plan and Brian McHattie raised again the issue of environmental assessments. Lloyd Ferguson suggested getting a professional engineer’s opinion, and stated that Enbridge had told him the pipeline’s oil wouldn’t be coming from Alberta. Mayor Bratina’s comments were perhaps most poignant, pointed a finger at Harper then brought the issue back to our own practices and suggesting that if we really wished to stop this kind of oil flow, we should look into an urban boundary freeze and end Aerotropolis plans (both good suggestions, even if they avoid the issue). Staff responded that so far, proposals haven’t mentioned “dilbit” or pressures capable of transporting it, and that there’s few options on the table to obstruct Enbridge, even if council should decide to. At the end, discussions broke for lunch, unresolved, with staff sent to research further.

Given the current climate in Federal politics, it isn’t surprising that municipalities are shut almost entirely out of these matters. Despite all the public and private lands this pipeline crosses in our city, there’s no meaningful consultation council or residents. In these matters, the National Energy Board seemingly holds all the power. This is the legacy of the “streamlined” approval processes Harper is implementing, and we’re now getting to see first-hand what that means for public input in the communities involved. Whoever makes these decisions, we’ll still be the ones to suffer if anything goes wrong.

While I still hold out a little hope for a sympathetic motion from council, it’s fairly clear at this point that municipal politicians are just as out-of-the-loop as the rest of us. Addressing council, though, was still was an important step. Not only did it bring some much-needed attention, but also showed that opponents are willing to engage with “the system” where possile. Most of all, it was an important demonstration of how much authority has been given to Enbridge and the NEB, effectively cutting entire municipalities out of the process. If opposition is going to continue (and it will), it must now look toward the grassroots. Ordinary people are not limited by the rules of intergovernmental hierarchies, and a motion from Council would mean little, anyway, without a much broader show of community support. This pipeline has seen very little public discussion so far, and most people still aren’t aware it cuts through our backyard. The tasks ahead are education, investigation, networking and ever-more demonstrations (like this Sunday’s protest ride) to raise the issue’s profile, both within Hamilton and beyond. Like the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, this route can be stopped, and it will be, if cities like Hamilton decide to stand against it.

Originally posted on undustrialism.com/

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