Councillors to Discuss Pipeline Plans

The Enbridge Line 9 pipeline reversal poses a very clear risk of a significant environmental disaster throughout a long corridor of our rural lands.

By Undustrial
Published October 15, 2012

This Wednesday at the General Issues Committee, Councillors will be receiving a staff report [PDF] about the proposed reversal of Enbridge's Line 9 oil pipeline, which cuts through Flamborough on its path from Montreal to Sarnia.

Line 9 Reversal route (Image Credit: Enbridge)
Line 9 Reversal route (Image Credit: Enbridge)

Though publicly confirmed details are hazy and somewhat contradictory at this point, it looks very likely that this is part of plans to connect Alberta's Tar Sands with the Atlantic, now that eastern and southern pipeline routes are proving too controversial. Enbridge had requested to address council about the matter, but has now canceled, after twice rescheduling already.

Nevertheless, discussions are planned to go ahead, with a number of groups planning to speak to the issue, from environmentalists to a representative from Six Nations, very likely the reason Enbridge now seems so hesitant to appear.

Growing Controversy

Over the past year or so, the "Keystone XL" pipeline, which had planned to connect Alberta to America's South has become one of the most difficult issues of U.S. President Barack Obama's term. Thousands of people, many famous, lined up outside the White House (and our Parliament) to be arrested in protest.

Then the "Northern Gateway" pipeline became an issue in British Columbia, threatening to cut through the northern part of the province to connect with oil tankers in the coastal islands, banished since the infamous Exxon Valdez spill devastated the region.

Given this legacy, there was a furious reaction causing even the B.C. Liberal government to oppose it (eventually), as well as the NDP, who seem poised to take power in next Spring's elections.

Undeterred, the petrochemical industry is now planning an even longer route toward Eastern Canada and it seems to have considerable political support.

Beyond the now obvious support from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, even NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has voiced support for this route, a notable change from his opinion regarding the Northern Gateway or "Dutch Disease". (So far, David Christopherson doesn't seem to be returning calls on the matter.)


What will be pumped through this pipeline? That's not exactly clear. When discussing Mulcair, the press made specific mention of Albertan oil flowing through Line 9. In other discussions, Enbrige has made vague mentions of a "light oil" pipeline from Bakken, ND, which also mentioned Line 9.

As much of an issue as the source is, though, there's also the question of where it's refined - before or after it reaches us. The Tar Sands are exactly what they sound like, a mixture of "heavy" petrochemicals ("bitumen"/tar) and sand.

In order to pump bitumen through a pipeline, it must be mixed with other petrochemicals to dilute it such as naphtha ("zippo fuel"). This produces diluted bitumen, or "dilbit".

When dilbit spills, it produces a nasty mix of air and waterborne toxins making an ordinary (crude) oil spill seem tame in comparison. Residents of Marshall, Michigan learned this when, in 2010, Line 6B burst, dumping around 20 000 barrels of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River, creating an ecological nightmare which may never be completely cleaned up.

Effects here depend largely on how much (highly toxic) refining and upgrading take place in Sarnia's "Chemical Alley", and how much the pipeline will be used for exports of raw dilbit to be refined elsewhere (like Northern Gateway plans). Regardless, with a capacity of 225 000 barrels/day, chances of a very serious spill exist for thousands of kilometres along the route.

Line 9 and Hamilton

What should Hamiltonians know about this Line 9? It's now 37 years old and has already been reversed once. Both reversals and (corrosive) dilbit significantly increase chances of a leak or spill.

The pipeline passes through the Beverly Swamp, which alone holds three important area watersheds in an area where most depend on wells for drinking water. Line 9 is a part of the same route as Enbridge's ill-fated Line 6B which spilled in Michigan.

Of course, so far most of this has been planned behind closed doors and like thousands of other projects, has been exempted from legally required environmental assessments by Harper's budget omnibus bill.


Since last spring, this proposal has faced increasing public scrutiny. Last May, protesters burst in on National Energy Board hearings in London, shutting them down for the day. More recently in Hamilton, a packed public forum was held last month at the First Unitarian church.

Many plan on heading to demonstrate inside and outside City Hall Wednesday morning to support those speaking against the reversal. Following that, Hamilton 350 is planning a protest ride to the pipeline's Westover Terminal (6th Concession and Westover Road), where they will be demonstrating on Sunday, October 21.

Others in Toronto and elsewhere are planning their own forums and demonstrations, in what it sure to become a much larger controversy.


It's still not clear how City Council will react, or what a motion from them could do either way. This pipeline poses a very clear risk of a significant environmental disaster throughout a long corridor of our rural lands. Hamilton is in no position financially to afford such a disaster, nor does our battered environmental image need further tarnishing.

We already have one nationally-famous (coal) tar spill at Randle Reef which now seems poised to cost $140 million (public) dollars to clean up (and rising).

Though Council cannot directly stop a federal project, they can stand symbolically against it, and with others who do the same.

There's also the taxation option, as pipelines are a specific section in our code. Elsewhere, cities like Victoria have seen successful with a public divestment campaigns, seeing many institutions withdraw their pension and financing holdings of Enbridge stock.

Ultimately, though, our fair city can't do it alone. Pipelines have been halted elsewhere only through vast and often unlikely alliances which span their routes. Line 9 follows a path much like the 401, cutting across the Haldimand Tract before us and GTA afterward.

With or without Council, many Hamiltonians will be opposing this pipeline, joined by countless others from cities and towns nearby.

For more information, visit

Undustrial is a writer, tinkerer, activist and father who lives in Hamilton's North End. He chooses to remain pseudonymous as he frequently works with much of Hamilton's Development industry.


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By Greg (anonymous) | Posted October 16, 2012 at 02:40:36

This will be the second time this line will be reversed.
The first time they used it as an excuse to shut down Oakville refinery and lay almost everyone off.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 16, 2012 at 09:04:15

The Feds should of steped up to Hamilton a LONGTIME ago cleaning up the Randle Reef and Hamilton Air Port show use the money to clean them up and then we will think about it .. Nottttt!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 16, 2012 at 09:09:16

Mulcair is just playing regionalism. Ontarians are envious of the easy economic boom Albertans have thanks to their herculean achievement of happening to be located over the most valuable resource of our time. So he's playing to that envy - first with his Dutch Disease (the jury's still out on that one - Canada's leading economists say no, but international economists say yes) and now figuring if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Alberta is never going to adopt a moderate, responsible resource policy so we may as well get our cut. Regionalism launched two of Canada's most successful political parties (the Refo...Conservatives, and the PQ) so it's no surprise he's trying to do it in Ontario.

Either way, there's too much money on their side... one way or another that oil is coming out of Alberta, it's only a matter of where. Maybe if the oil industry hadn't completely destroyed their own reputation with so many spills and catastrophes, the public might be more interested in the potential income instead of the liability? Because as it stands, every time I hear politicians talking about the dollar signs of these things, my first thought is always "still less than the clean-up cost if something goes wrong, and the company will somehow squirm out of paying for it and leave it in the taxpayer's lap".

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By Environmentalist (anonymous) | Posted October 16, 2012 at 14:00:40

I hate big-oil, oilsands, and pipelines. Do nothing but create spills and ruin the environment. Much better to harpoon whales, in an environmentally friendly way of course, for our heating and lighting fuel. Pack the oil in 100 gallon wooden casks and cart them around by horse drawn wagon like the good old days. Any oil spilled will be small amounts and environmentally benign.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 17, 2012 at 08:56:54

Wait a minute - this oil pipeline work does not require an environmental assessment but converting a one way street to two way does?

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2012 at 11:29:20

That does seem strange seancb without a doubt.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 17, 2012 at 13:03:50

Just got back from General Issues - the presentations (all against) raised a lot more questions than they answered, both about the pipeline and possible responses, leaving staff more homework. I was honestly impressed by the way council responded - concerned, if seemingly a bit powerless, though it's still pretty unclear what will come of all this. Will post more later when I've had time to collect my thoughts and finish my workday.

Also, it occurs to me that I forgot to include information about Binbrook's oil spill in my article, around a decade ago from Line 10, which was brought up in Council today...a frightening reminder of how close to home this kind of thing has occurred before.

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2012 at 13:43:01

Thanks Unindustrial, very interesting article and discussion. Had worked for a short time in Fort McMurray way back when and it's a very important environmental issue without a doubt.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 10:25:56

A shame (and not to divert attention from an important issue), that this extremely sensitive topic has 8 comments and the stadium is breaking records with over 200. Also, that highway on our escarpment is coming up again too. It's like the stadium is a smokescreen to divert us from much more environmentally important issues at hand.

Thanks for the council update Undustrial. Good to know council's standpoint.

If we can't stop this from happening, we need higher level of governments to protect us and at least have some solid agreement that:

  1. Government help us clean up existing issues such as Binbrook (including airport run-offs) and Randle Reef first
  2. Ensure that if a line breaks, it's cleaned up at THEIR cost and within a very short timeframe. Perhaps a valve placed often enough that if they don't comply to our cleanup standards in a timely manner, the valve get's turned off until such a time as we feel the requirements have been met. Not sure how turning a valve off would affect pressure, but perhaps many valves could be turned down more and more down the line until the final shutoff at the end to make the shutting down process less abrupt.

We need ways to protect us from bureaucracy, bankruptcy protection, etc. I don't pretend to know a great deal how pipelines and what not work, but if they are going through water bodies there must be multiple shut-off valves including before/after they enter the water,or any place that would create immediate and large devastation of wildlife if a spill couldn't otherwise be be controlled without these protective precautions in place.

I'd rather a pipeline across land than tankers going across oceans that when stuff happens, it's just a big out of control mess.

Ensure there are acceptable measures in place to limit destruction, and ensure there is a watchdog that is constantly checking the quality of valves or connection points that are prone to corrosion or breakage. Put road type systems like man/hand holes every so often so there aren't miles and miles of buried pipes that can't easily be accessed to check for quality. Maybe this is already the standard but if not, would this help?

It's not about being NIMBYists, it's about caring for our land and all of it's creatures including us.

I don't like it and would rather be a NIMBYist and say not in my back yard, but ensure our protection and we won't be so quick to tell you to get lost.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 13:46:35 in reply to Comment 81907

NIMBYism is perfectly reasonable when these companies have demonstrated a bad track record for both safety and for their willingness to pay for and assist in the cleanup when things go bad.

The pipelines aren't being battled on ideological grounds about global warming or big oil, they're being battled on the purely pragmatic reason that they're running through ecologically sensitive areas and this represents a risk that we do not and should not trust them to manage.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 18, 2012 at 14:20:33 in reply to Comment 81936

Exactly. And how do you define the backyard? I don't live near the pipeline, but I live near Cootes. Am I still a NIMBY?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 11:23:28 in reply to Comment 81907

A shame (and not to divert attention from an important issue), that this extremely sensitive topic has 8 comments and the stadium is breaking records with over 200.

Agreed. However perhaps there is no one so fervently supportive of the pipeline reversal (and the mid pen) that there's simply no one to argue with in the comments!

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 11:26:28 in reply to Comment 81919

So how about a popularity of ideas than opposition and bickering. :)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 18, 2012 at 11:01:52 in reply to Comment 81907

I'd rather a pipeline across land than tankers going across oceans that when stuff happens, it's just a big out of control mess.

Pretty sure the Kalamazoo spill qualifies as a big, out of control mess.

Line 9 runs through the Beverly Swamp and the headwaters of Spencer Creek which runs into Cootes. The impact of a Kalamazoo-type spill in our area is unimaginable.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-10-18 11:11:16

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 11:36:13 in reply to Comment 81916

Thanks for that.

"The moment they do (reopen the river), I am going to be looking for the head of the EPA, DEQ , (Calhoun County) Health Department and the CEO of Enbridge to be jumping into that river and taking their grandkids with them,” she said.

“If they can prove to me that they do that, I might think about whether I think it’s safe.”

I can't begin to imagine.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-10-18 11:36:41

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 10:32:14

It's like the stadium is a smokescreen to divert us from much more environmentally important issues at hand.

Realistically, the city isn't going to fight against the mid-pen unless we're expected to pay for it. More expressways in Hamilton would be good for the homebuilders, and the homebuilders have a loud voice at city hall. It might get more traffic into the airport too, which will let them have their moronic aerotropolis fantasy. They want the mid-pen.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2012 at 10:58:44 in reply to Comment 81908

But it isn't (by definition anyway), their wants that matter. It's ours and yes we can put together petitions and delegate and send emails, but on this one we need to give them some solutions to help us avoid the need for more highways. We need to clear up the 403, Link, Red Hill, and QEW Toronto by jobs exploding across our industrial district. Ways to utilize empty space in schools rather than close them, so people can work in their neighborhoods and lesson the need for cars or even heavy public transit use.

WE need to come up with a plan. We need the Red Hill why, so we can get to Meadowlands or Stoney Creek shopping centres, movie theatres, Leons, etc., but whey didn't we look to give folks down here what they look for up there? What are people driving to and let's give it to them closer to home. If there was a movie theatre even like Westdale in my area (Ottawa Street), and I could also work from home or at workshare offices in Delta High School or something, I'd only need a car to pick up my girls. I have groceries, farmers market, street wall shops, bowling, coffee, dinner options, a stadium, Gage Park, and everything else I could possibly need right around me.

I'd love to team up with a bunch of folks and work on a made in Hamilton for Hamilontians business that employees 1000+ peeople, is green, is product needed in our community with no desire to sell outside our community or to add trucks/utilize space on trains to export.

If we really want to avoid more highways or mass amounts of our tax dollars going to repair roads, I think it's finally time for US to all do something about it.

This is a highly creative city from innovation to creation. I don't want more highways or trains out of here. I want to stay and keep others right here. We have beautiful conservation areas and trails and waterfalls, a hopping beach strip in Hutches and Baranga's and Waterworks, and so many beautiful spaces. Our culture is exploding as well including much talked of James North.

We can go back to the stadium and be at a point where 22,500 is enough and is filled with mostly locals because London and Niagara and Missisauga and many surrounding communities have similar sized mutli-use structures in a more regionalized game and we visit other cities to watch this game but we don't need to rely on outside fans because we have adopted such a strong live, work and play base in Hamilton more in line with a walkable template and where transit is alternatively much more popular when we do need to venture from our own hoods, than cars.

Many dreams I guess but at some point the roads thing has to come to a screeching halt. I am sure if there is one thing many of us have in common on a board like this, it's that we really care about our city and the worlds future in general and that our need for cars needs to somehow become an increasing way of the past.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-10-18 11:03:11

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2012 at 12:00:28

Excellent thoughts Lawrence. Hamilton is a "minor league city" in many people's minds but issues like this are "major league" and worth a lot of discussion in fullest context.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 19, 2012 at 12:14:04

Finished a more detailed report on how things went at council...

As for whether this issue's getting the attention it's due, I'd say that it's getting more than I expected. It's only recently started popping up in the local news, and so far a rather small group of people have been making some large waves. These things take time to build up and filter through, and for most this is the first they're hearing about it. Also, it needs to be said, that this struggle (and this comment thread) so far has no Bob Young-style villain to really inflame opposition tensions. So far the project is proceeding very quietly in small pieces and taking care not to engage with opponents - probably wise given how things went with the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway.

If this is something you think should be an issue, then make it one. Cities are defined not just by how they respond collectively to local issues, but also broader national and international questions. If we're really a "major league" city, then we'll have something to contribute to a national discussion. Say what you want about Hamilton's meagre efforts to raise this issue so far, they've gone a lot further than activists in nearby cities have managed (K-W, GTA, etc) Doesn't that, alone, say something about Hamilton?

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