Photo Courtesy of Friends of the Earth

TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline permit hangs in the balance, up for a potential Senate vote this week, having already passed the House as part of the Transportation Bill last week. Other companies, meanwhile, are wasting no time pushing their own respective tar sands pipeline proposals while that drama unfolds.

Last week, DeSmogBlog noted that for example, Oneok is pushing a pipeline proposal that would bring oil and gas obtained via the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale down to “the pipeline crossroads of the world” in Cushing, OK, where it would be refined and sent further southward to Port Arthur, TX and then shipped off to the global export market.

Now yet another key tar sands export pipeline is in the works, this one making a voyage to New England: the Enbridge Line 9 Reversal pipeline.

Enter Enbridge’s Line 9 Pipeline

Enbridge, overseer of the controversial proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline which would send tar sands crude westward from Alberta, Calgary to Kitimat, B.C., has yet another pipeline in the works: the already existing Line 9 Pipeline.

Line 9 currently takes oil Middle Eastern/African oil imports from the Portland-Montreal Pipeline and sends it to the Imperial Oil-owned Westover, Ontario Terminal located near Lake Huron, where it then heads further westward to the Imperial Oil-owned Sarnia Terminal in Sarnia, Ontario. The oil is then refined and taken to various Canadian markets at the end of the journey.

In August 2011, while most green movement eyes were on the Keystone XL, Enbridge quietly submitted an application to Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) that would reverse the flow of oil for Line 9, sending Tar Sands crude eastward to the state of Maine, where it would be sent to the coast and placed on the European export market.

Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, is the main proponent of this plan, according to Inside Climate News, which explains, “Imperial Oil has explained to Enbridge how an easterly flow would benefit its refinery near Westover and access to the Ontario market. A subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Imperial produces more than 200,000 barrels a day from tar sands mines, and claims proven oil sands reserves of more than 2.4 billion barrels.”

Reuters explained the reversal plan further: [cont’d.]

The C$17 million ($17.2 million) project will result in oil flowing to its Westover, Ontario, station from Sarnia, Ontario. From Westover, the crude can supply Imperial Oil Ltd’s (IMO.TO: Quote) 112,000 bpd Nanticoke, Ontario, refinery and a 65,000 bpd plant in Warren, Pennsylvania, run by United Refining Co [RAPPLU.UL].

Line 9 is the artist formerly known as Enbridge’s Trailbreaker pipeline and, according to Reuters, has a “proposed in-service date [of] autumn of 2012.”

The pipeline reversal plan has — for what it’s worth, like the Keystone XL — been the target of numerous legal challenges since August 2011, including the most recently in February 2012, when the Court of Quebec shot down the pipeline — for now.

Line 9 and the Ecological Landscape

The main U.S. green NGO expressing concern over Line 9 is Friends of the Earth (FOE).

While it expresses many grievances over this proposal, the most startling one is the ecological damage the pipeline could cause. FOE breaks it down:

[Line 9] would cut through New England’s most important waters, including Sebago Lake, home to a native species of landlocked Atlantic salmon and the major drinking water resource for greater Portland, Maine’s largest metropolitan area. It also terminates at Casco Bay, a large, rich estuary near Portland, Maine that is home to a variety of coastal natural resources and a thriving marine economy.

Trailbreaker would also put at risk Grand River Basin, Lake Ontario, the Saint Lawrence River, Victory State Forest, and Androscoggin River. A spill along Trailbreaker’s corridor could harm rivers, lakes, and bays that are vital resources for millions of people in Canada and the United States.

The climate movement, quite obviously, has its work cut out for it. While it continues to play the game of “pipeline whac-a-mole,” more tar sands pipelines, like the moles in the famous game, will continue to arise time and time again like Line 9, the Northern Gateway, the Keystone XL, and the Oneok Bakken pipeline.

As Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Perhaps a new strategy, then, would be wise to take up.

David Dayen

David Dayen