October 20, 2014

News | October 17, 2013
Climate Justice panelists talk Enbridge Line 9
Safety, environmental racism discussed
Written by | Visual by William Doan | The McGill Daily

On October 10, CKUT 90.3FM and the McGill Sustainability Projects Fund hosted the second installment of “Under the Weather,” a monthly series focusing on climate change.

This month’s panel focused on Line 9, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. that runs across Ontario and Quebec. The panel came a day before National Energy Board hearings on Enbridge’s proposal to reverse and expand the flow of Line 9 wrapped up in Montreal.

Line 9 was originally built in 1976 and flowed eastward to Montreal, but was reversed in 1998 to flow westward. It was built to transport traditional crude oil, but the proposed reversal will include the transportation of bitumen from the Alberta oil sands.

“[Bitumen] is already even more corrosive than traditional oil [and] the superheated pipeline system used to transport it makes it unconventional,” said Cameron Fenton, Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. Fenton also pointed out the allegedly elevated cancer rates in citizens living near the pipeline.

Reports have found that Line 9 is prone to spills, a fact that Amanda Lickers, a member of the Onondaga nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and an organizer at SwampLine 9 – a project that aims to stop the construction of Line 9 – is an act of “genocide and climate change” against Indigenous people. The pipeline is primarily constructed within and around Indigenous lands in Canada.

Cindy Spoon, campaign director for the Texas Tar Sands Blockade against the Keystone XL Pipeline, offered similar concerns, arguing that pipelines “disproportionately affect people of colour.” Spoon explained that companies reach out to poorer communities in order to achieve what she called a “facade of consent” in order to legally seize communities’ property to build pipelines.

These communities are less likely to resist such actions, said Spoon. She also designated the actions of Canadian and American oil companies – toward Indigenous people and minorities, respectively – as environmental racism.

“Oil and everything that is supported by oil is so ingrained in our lives that we don’t realize all the ways that we pay for it. When we keep saying that oil is just more convenient, I think we are disconnected from the fact that we’re all here to increase our well-being, but oil is not it.”

According to Fenton, the environmental impacts of the pipeline will be immense – a statement that the panelists agreed on. “It could hold upwards of 400 gigatons of recoverable carbon, which is almost the planet’s entire carbon budget,” Fenton stated, adding that this was over 25 times Canada’s carbon budget. “[Enbridge’s pipelines] have already spilled and broken over 800 times over the past decade, which comes out to about ten spills per month.”

Fenton also raised concerns about the nature of bitumen spills. “There is actually no proven way to clean up a bitumen spill, especially in a body of water.”

The panel discussion shifted from condemning the pipeline to condemning the oil and tar sands in general, and how energy is acquired in a capitalist society. According to the panelists, the current method simply secures too much profit to be changed.

“Oil and everything that is supported by oil is so ingrained in our lives that we don’t realize all the ways that we pay for it,” said Melissa Fundira, a McGill student and programmer at CKUT. “When we keep saying that oil is just more convenient, I think we are disconnected from the fact that we’re all here to increase our well-being, but oil is not it.”

Another student, Marie Dageville, was optimistic, stating, “We can come together and find a solution [but] it is just a matter of making that first step.”

Lickers said that mobilization was the way to divest from oil usage. “Direct action costs them money, and the more expensive we make it for them, the closer we get to winning.”

The panel was also broadcast on CKUT. The next event of the series will be held on November 14.

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