July 25 was the four-year anniversary of the disastrous spill from Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline, which continues to contaminate the Kalamazoo River in Michigan despite a billion dollars in clean-up fees. Meanwhile, Enbridge plans on using the same type of 40-year old pipeline, Line 9, to pump tar sands east. But there is growing opposition along the route of Line 9, and in the coastal US where the tar sands bitumen is headed.
In April Toronto City Council joined other municipalities in calling on the Ontario provincial government to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) of Line 9, and the following month 1,4000 people marched from City Hall to Queen’s Park to deliver the more than 10,000 petition signatures calling for an EA. So far the Ontario Liberal government has refused to intervene, which amounts to supporting Harper’s tar sands expansion.
On July 14 people blockaded a Line 9 construction site in Toronto. According to Rising Tide Toronto, “The blockade is taking place at Rexdale Blvd. and Kipling Ave. where the Enbridge is doing an ‘integrity dig’ on Line 9. These digs, which are required before Enbridge can bring the reversed Line 9 into operation, involve digging up and repairing SOME of the over 12,000 anomalies in the pipeline. But we know that Enbridge has no integrity, and that Line 9 reversal is an unjust and dangerous project. Today we are taking a stand to say NO to Line 9 and tar sands development. Our collective future has been put at risk by the reckless greed of corporate profiteers. It is our responsibility to combat further destructive projects that push many people and the planet towards imminent danger. For us, right now, that includes saying NO to Tar Sands destruction.”
Then on July 17 members of Six Nations and their allies shut down Line 9 work in North Dumfries, Ontario, on unceded Haudenosaunee territory. According to Missy Elliot, ““Meaningful consultation isn’t just providing information and going ahead without discussion – it’s giving the opportunity to say no and having a willingness to accommodate… We’ve tried pursuing avenues with the NEB, the township and the Grand River Conservation Authority. Our concerns were dismissed. What other choice do we have if we want to protect our land, water and children?” As Daniell Boissineau, Anishnabe of the Turtle Clan, explained: “This isn’t just about line 9 – or Northern Gateway, Energy East or Keystone XL. This is about pipelines – all of them. This is about the tar sands and how destructive they are to expand, extract and transport.”
Line 9 is sold as “made in Canada” alternative to the Northern Gateway or Keystone XL export of tar sands bitumen—and the NDP leadership erroneously supports domestic refining and sending tar sands east. But regardless of where bitumen is refined, or whether or not it is used domestically or exported, tar sands expansion threatens indigenous communities and the climate, and wastes resources urgently needed for green jobs. Line 9 proponents also ignore that it’s ultimate destination is export from the US. Under Enbridge’s previous “Trailbreaker” project, the reversal of Line 9 would be tied to the reversal of the Portland-Maine Pipeline—combining to take tar sands from Sarnia to Montreal, and then to Portland, Maine for export. This plan includes building a new pump station next to an elementary school in Portand.
But after a year of organizing by Protect South Portland, the city council recently passed a “Clear Skies Ordinance” to block tar sands shipments. As a city councilor warned, bracing for a legal challenge from the pipeline company or the Canadian government “This ordinance is the will of the people. Do not spend millions of dollars and force the city of South Portland to do the same.”
This month alone has seen two actions to stop Line 9 sites, and a ban on tar sands exports from Portland, Maine. We need to continue challenging Line 9 all along its route, from motions to direct action, while supporting indigenous sovereignty and green jobs alternatives.
Next steps in the fight against Line 9 include asking Toronto city council to ban the pipeline and rail transportation of tar sands bitumen and bakken oil (which exploded in Lac Mégantic) and continuing pressure on the Ontario government. There are also two important convergences for climate justice activists: the People’s Social Forum Aug 21-24 in Ottawa, and the People’s Climate March September 21 in New York.