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New pipeline role a concern: region

The regional body of Vaudreuil-Soulanges fears a new plan to repurpose a pipeline on the territory could threaten residents’ drinking water.

A proposal by Enbridge to reverse the flow of its 9B pipeline has raised concerns among residents. The company has asked the National Energy Board to approve a $129-million project to reverse the flow in the pipeline and increase its capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day. It has also asked to be allowed to ship heavy crude oil through the pipeline.

For the last three years, about 64,000 barrels of crude oil per day have been shipped from Montreal to Ontario on Line 9B, which has a capacity of 240,000 barrels per day, Enbridge says.

If the NEB approves the project – which could happen as early as the fall – Line 9B would carry light crude oil from Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota to Montreal, said Eric Prud’homme, the company’s public-affairs manager for Eastern Canada. It could also carry heavy crude or bitumen, from the oilsands. The pipeline passes through Rigaud, before heading out to Two Mountains and Laval, and ending in Montreal East. Another pipeline could also bring oilsands oil to the region, as the Trans-Canada Pipeline Co. is considering a project to convert a natural-gas pipeline in its Mainline pipeline network between Alberta and Quebec to carry crude oil. That pipeline follows the route of the Trans-Canada Highway, so it passes through Vaudreuil-Dorion, the most densely populated part of the region.

Guy-Lin Beaudoin, the general manager of the MRC of Vaudreuil-Soulanges explained pipelines are a concern because a leak could threaten the drinking water of many residents in the region even if that leak occurs hundreds of kilometres away.

“It’s definitely a concern,” Beaudoin said. “We know that a single litre of oil can pollute millions of litres of water for hundreds of years, and 90 per cent of the groundwater from the area comes from Ontario. So even a leak in Ontario could affect us.”

Environmental groups say heavy crude oil is more corrosive than light, and increases the risk of a leak from the pipeline, and it’s more difficult to clean up in the event of a spill.

“I think people should be very concerned,” said Steven Guilbeault, the deputy executive director of the group Équiterre. “We’ve seen how fast they want to go ahead with these projects, and unfortunately, the priority is money, profit. It’s not public safety. It’s how much money they can make and how fast.”

Guilbeault said Enbridge doesn’t have a good track record for safety, as one of its pipelines ruptured in 2010, and 3.7 million litres of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The cleanup is ongoing, and the bill has reached $800 million.

Beaudoin said the MRC would like to have a forum where citizens can have their concerns heard. The problem is, however, that pipelines fall into federal jurisdiction, and it’s possible no environmental impact studies will need to be done, since the pipeline is already in use.

Area MP Jamie Nicholls said he would like to see more consultation, and a stricter environmental assessment done.

“Environmental regulations have been changed in the past year, which puts in question whether the process will be robust enough to assess whether the reversal is good or not,” Nicholls said.

Guilbeault said he’s also concerned about boosting the oilsands, and said he’s disappointed the NDP has not strongly denounced the project.

“I think the party is somewhat divided, because some would like to think there is some economic benefit for Eastern Canada, which we very much contest,” he said. “We question whether we in Quebec want to encourage one of the dirtiest oils in the world, which is the tarsands.”

He said municipalities aren’t powerless on this subject, and they should make their opposition to the project known. He’d like to see municipalities pass resolutions asking for the province to intervene on this subject, and some have already done so. The MRC of Vaudreuil-Soulanges expects to make a statement about the Enbridge project at its next council meeting in March.

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: @OffIslandNews
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