First hurdle: the National Energy Board.

So you want to fight against bitumen slurry being piped through Toronto on its way to shipping points at Saint John, New Brunswick and Portland, Maine? Your first problem is that you have to make your pitch through the Calgary-based National Energy Board (NEB). And Prime Minister Harper has directed that the NEB speed up the process. They are doing that by controlling who the people are who are getting involved and the constraints on them.

Your next stumbling block in this process is coming to grips with the language Enbridge uses to describe the application. Enbridge does not refer to bitumen. The company wordsmiths talk of ‘heavy oil.’ The pipeline was approved over 20 years ago as an east-west route for crude oil to Sarnia and other refineries in Ontario. What Enbridge wants to use it for now is for bitumen mixed with polymers to create a mixture that can flow through a pipeline if heated and pushed at higher pressure.

Line Number 9 was designed two decades ago for crude oil at two-thirds the volume and under lower pressure and lower temperature. While the Enbridge engineers can assure us that the line can sustain this new usage, they are incapable of telling us for how long. Breaks in Line 9 in Toronto are going to be a fact of life. There are too many external factors impacting the life cycle of the line in an urban environment. The vibrations and pressures of vehicle traffic on major arteries, the laying of new utilities, constant construction, the concentration of subway and rail lines and other urban considerations have never been a major concern in the laying of pipelines.

To approve this application is not just foolhardy, it is a guarantee of a disaster that will destroy Enbridge. The very thought of bitumen slurry moving slowly down from Finch Station to York Mills Station on the Yonge Street subway line is a spill that nobody has seen before and can never be allowed to happen.

Even watercourses such as the West Don River, which the line intersects, are a direct route to fouling Toronto Harbour, the Toronto Islands and even jeopardizing Toronto’s Deep Lake Cooling System. And Toronto’s ancient storm sewers, that are not always separate from sanitary sewers, are the worst route for a slurry that could clog the system for years to come.

In case, we forgot to mention it, this commentator has already been approved by the NEB to comment on the Enbridge application. When we find out what that means, we will let you know.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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