Environmentalists mount campaign against Enbridge’s eastward pipeline

Enviro-critics argue Enbridge is trying to create an eastern export route for “dirty oil.”

CALGARY—Environmental groups have mounted a campaign against a plan to ship western crude to Quebec, saying it’s just one step towards creating an eastern route for “dirty” oilsands crude exports.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, meanwhile, shrugged off concerns that environmental opposition could hinder Enbridge’s plan to reverse the flow of its Line 9 pipeline from Montreal to southern Ontario.

He said opposition is inevitable to a project that has otherwise garnered a great deal of “enthusiasm.”

“That certainly has been my experience since I became the minister of natural resources—there hasn’t been a single project anywhere in the country, irrespective of what it is, that isn’t opposed by someone,” Oliver told reporters in Calgary.

Enbridge has applied to the National Energy Board to reverse a stretch of its Line 9 pipeline that currently runs from Montreal to Westover, Ont. It also wants to increase the line’s capacity from 240,000 barrels per day to 300,000 barrels per day.

However, a group of environmentalist organizations argue Enbridge wants to create an eastern export route for “dirty oil” from Alberta and that the pipeline reversal is the first step in that plan.

The groups say they don’t believe Enbridge’s assurances that it has no plans for creating an eastern export route and that the “the full reversal of Line 9 is almost certainly a precursor to a reversal of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline.”

Enbridge’s Line 9 flowed from west to east when it was built in the 1970s, but it was reversed two decades later to respond to market conditions at the time. Now, Enbridge wants to restore its original flow so that eastern refineries can have access to western crude.

During the summer, the NEB gave Enbridge the green light to reverse a segment of Line 9 between Sarnia, Ont., and Westover, close to Imperial Oil’s Nanticoke refinery.

The latest application covers the remaining stretch to Montreal, where Suncor has a refinery.

Eastern refineries currently rely on crude imported from overseas, which is more expensive than oil that comes from Western Canada. It’s one of the reasons why gasoline prices are much higher in the East than they are the West, though there are many other factors at play.

A lack of adequate pipeline capacity has meant Alberta crude hasn’t been able to find its way to the most lucrative markets, leading to a supply glut that has depressed prices and eroded producers’ profits.

Enbridge says the environmentalists’ claims are “false.”

“The market demand driving the Line 9 reversal projects, from Ontario and Quebec refiners, is for light crude oil, which is generally sourced from regions other than the Canadian oilsands,” it said.

©The Canadian Press