Locals oppose changes to pipeline

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

While most are aware of the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline project, only recently has similar attention been raised locally about Waterloo Region’s own pipeline, Line 9.

A small group of protestors gathered in Uptown Waterloo last Monday night to raise awareness about the issue.

It’s just kind of this pipeline that’s sneaking past people,” said Paisley Cozzarin, a third-year student at the University of Waterloo and founder of Stop the Tar Sands K-W who also spoke at the event.

The problem isn’t the creation of a new pipeline — Line 9 has been running south of Cambridge and under the Grand River since 1976. What has changed is that Enbridge Pipelines has decided to reverse the direction of flow in the pipeline to have oil be pumped eastward from Alberta.

The first phase of the reversal has already been approved by the National Energy Board.

For Cozzarin and several environmental groups, the concern is that Enbridge will be using the pipeline to transport oil from the tar sands — rather than the light crude oil it has in the past— which, according to them, existing infrastructure may not be able to accommodate.

“This project doesn’t make sense unless they’re shipping tar sands crude oil through it,” she said. While Enbridge has not stated that the pipeline will be used for this, according to Cozzarin, “they’ve applied to put heavy crude through it and they’re not denying that it could be used for diluted bitumen.”

Bitumen would allegedly be more difficult to clean up in the event of a leak in the pipeline because  it sinks. Additional concerns are being raised by protestors about how this might impact groundwater, potentially poisoning local wells should an incident occur.

Protest organizer Louisette Lanteigne said that although she became involved in the issue as a means of gaining more knowledge, “when I learned more, I saw the alarming risks.”

Lanteigne was at the first hearing, which allowed citizens to ask Enbridge questions. She believes that awareness is growing.

“From the time I was involved with phase one, I was the only citizen participant. I think the next hearing we’re going to see a lot more people,” she said.

The goal of protestors is not necessarily to eliminate the pipeline, but to have an environmental review done by the province before the second phase is approved.

“Because Harper cut back so much on the review process at the federal level, I’m trying to get the provincial government to pick up that slack,” Lanteigne explained.

Sarah Morgan, a master’s candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University who attended the protest, said that she had been surprised to hear about the pipeline and wasn’t aware that one existed in Waterloo Region.

“It’s always been an issue that’s always out west, it’s never actually here, at least with respect to oil,” she said.

Morgan acknowledged that getting the government to take action on such issues can be challenging.

“Transparency and accountability are key,” she noted.

Petitions which were passed around at the protest will continue to circulate over the next couple of months, which will then be given to Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife to bring to the attention of provincial parliament.

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