by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The board of a pipeline landowners’ group will meet next week to plan next steps after the National Energy Board granted their request for a public hearing concerning a major oil producer’s application to change the flow in a pipeline that crosses Ontario.
Margaret Vance, president of the Ontario Pipeline Landowners Association, says the hearing regarding the Enbridge Pipelines Inc. proposal is a step in the right direction but unlikely to help her association.
“It’s like you’re invited to a wedding and you have $10 to go buy a new dress,” Vance says, referring to the costs involved in organizing experts and evidence for such hearings. A previous challenge cost the group $300,000 to present its case. And while the Energy Board now provides funding through a participant funding program, Vance doubts that the group’s costs will be covered.
“I don’t know what the next step (for the association) will be,” she says. The Energy Board is “trying. It’s just the whole hearing process going right back to the (National Energy Board) Act, it just stacks everything against the landowners to participate in these hearings.”
The group, made up of about 150 farmers in western Ontario, fears that Enbridge’s proposal to reverse the flow in a portion of its Line 9 pipeline in western Ontario could lead to a rupture and rather than fixing it, the company will abandon the line and saddle landowners with the liability.
The pipeline was built nearly 40 years ago to convey oil to refineries near Montreal but the company reversed the flow in the 1990s to bring oil imports to Sarnia refineries.
The group was one of more than 100 individuals and organizations that responded to the Energy Board’s call for feedback earlier this year. Many of the other respondents also called for a public hearing.
The Energy Board was not required to hold a hearing before deciding whether to approve the Enbridge application. It targeted the fall 2012 for the oral portion of the hearing process. A location has not yet been established. BF