The National Energy Board (NEB) just rejected Enbridge’s request for permission to restart its Line 9 pipeline until further notice.

It turns out that Enbridge has failed to meet one of the most important and basic safety requirements – providing proof that there are emergency shut-off valves on both sides of all major water crossings along the pipeline’s route.

These valves are critical. If the pipeline were to rupture anywhere near a river and there was no valve, huge quantities of oil could spill into the waterway, even if the pipeline had been shut down by the company.

The Line 9b portion of the pipeline alone crosses 36 different rivers and streams that drain into Lake Ontario. Ontario residents will be familiar with many of these tributaries that are at risk; the Credit, the Humber, the Rouge, the Trent, the Rideau rivers… all of which flow directly through densely populated areas into the Great Lakes – the source of drinking water for millions of Ontarians.

Let’s not forget what happened to the Kalamazoo River when Enbridge’s Line 6b pipeline ruptured. Over 3 million litres of tar sands bitumen spilled into the river, contaminating nearly 40 kilometers downstream. More than four years later, with more than $1 billion spent, the cleanup still isn’t finished.

The NEB defines a major water crossing as, “ a water crossing that in the event of an uncontrolled product release poses a significant risk to the public or the environment.”

Practically, this means that every river or water body in Ontario and Quebec that Line 9 crosses needs check valves in order to ensure public safety. But, Enbridge is being cagey about telling the public which rivers have valves, and which do not.

One thing is certain – Enbridge’s definition of a ‘major river’ doesn’t match the NEB’s definition. That likely means that many rivers crossed by Line 9 do not currently have check valves on both sides to protect them from a devastating oil spill.

With the NEB rejecting Enbridge’s request for permission to restart its Line 9 pipeline, it looks like Enbridge is going to have some explaining to do before its plans for Line 9 can go any further.

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