Pipelines are an essential part of Ontario’s and Canada’s energy infrastructure. They transport petroleum and natural gas products over thousands of kilometres from where it is produced to heat and light our homes and offices, power our industries, fuel our vehicles and export to customers in the United States and abroad. In effect, they support our modern society and economy.
If all the energy flowing through our interprovincial pipeline network was to suddenly stop, our way of life would simply grind to a halt. Yet despite this critical role played by pipelines, and the rigorous environmental and regulatory review processes and extensive community consultations that accompany new project applications, any and all changes to this critical infrastructure—either new pipelines or upgrades—are being met with opposition.
Such is the context of the current debate over Enbridge Pipeline’s Line 9B, which lies between Montreal and Sarnia. The National Energy Board has already approved the reversal of Line 9A from Sarnia to Westover in the Hamilton area, and there is currently an application before the NEB to reverse Line 9B, from Westover to Montreal.
When it was first built, Line 9 carried oil from west to east, connecting Canada’s western oilfields with refineries in Ontario and Quebec, from there it was distributed as various types of refined fuels and products to customers. When the global petroleum market shifted in the 1970s, making imported oil less expensive than Canadian oil, the flow in the line was reversed to allow these refineries to take advantage of the lower prices. The market has shifted once again, with Canadian crude oil selling at a discount, compared to foreign oil. Ontario and Quebec refineries need access to this lower-priced feedstock so they can remain competitive.
Line 9B flows across Durham Region and Oshawa, and the proposal raises legitimate questions from our community with respect to engineering, pipeline integrity and emergency response capability. Enbridge has been thorough in responding to these questions. They have been actively engaged with local stakeholders, hosting 2 information sessions meeting with the Regional Chair and Mayors in Durham Region and with the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, and have demonstrated they are responsible community partners.
The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the proposal to reverse the flow of Line 9B, and are joined in this by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and many other Chambers and Boards of Trade across the province. This project will enhance Ontario’s competitiveness through job creation, indirect and direct economic stimulus, and additional tax revenues.
“The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce does not wish to see projects like the Pipeline 9 reversal unduly delayed. As the business community, we expect due diligence and adherence to proper processes in reviewing environmental, safety and other concerns,” stated Bob Malcolmson, CEO of the Chamber.
At a time of slow and painful adjustment in our manufacturing heartland to the realities of this post-recession economy, it will generate jobs for our skilled trades people and manufacturers, support our vital refining industry, enhance and support a basic service on which we all depend, and strengthen and diversify Canada’s export markets.
Overall, pipelines are a safe, efficient and reliable means of transporting oil and gas. The safety record of pipelines far exceeds that of other modes of transporting oil, such as tanker trucks or rail.
Some have argued recently that transporting diluted bitumen through pipelines is more corrosive than transporting lighter crude oil. The facts indicate otherwise. A study commissioned by the U.S. government and published by the National Academy of Sciences on June 25 of this year concluded that the corrosivity of oil sands crudes is no different than that of other crudes.
Enbridge has clearly, publicly and repeatedly indicated it will continue to conduct safety and environmental inspections throughout the lifecycle of its pipelines above and beyond what is required by regulators as part of their commitment to protect land and waterways.
It is also fair to ask what benefits the project will bring to the local and provincial economy. This is indeed a key question given that the traditional manufacturing sectors of Ontario have experienced significant decline and job loss since the deep recession of 2008 due to reduced demand from the United States, unfavourable exchange rates and rising energy costs.
Simply stated, the reversal of Line 9B will create jobs for Ontario’s unemployed skilled workers. During construction, it is estimated 60 per cent ($73 million) of the total capital costs will be spent in Ontario. Benefits will accrue to local construction workers and contractors, some of whom live and work in the Oshawa area. Over the next three decades, it will create an additional 3,250 person years of employment in this province.
The project will further strengthen Ontario’s trade with Alberta. Over the next quarter century, the oil sands industry will spend $63 billion with Ontario companies. By 2035, seven per cent of all jobs related to this industry will be in Ontario. According to a report published last October by the Conference Board of Canada, “After Alberta, the largest oil sands-related supply chain effects occur in Ontario. Between 2012 and 2035, 214,000 person-years of employment will be supported by oil sands investment.”
Ontario’s refinery industry, which in turn supports jobs in the province’s petrochemicals and plastics industries, will be a major beneficiary, to the tune of $960 million through access to lower-priced feedstock from western Canada.