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The National Energy Board handed a conditional approval to a proposal to reverse the flow and expand Enbridge’s controversial Line 9 so it can move western oil to refineries in Ontario and Quebec, and doled out harsh words to activists who disrupted its hearings.
In a 141-page ruling released Thursday, the board said the decision “enables Enbridge to react to market forces and provide benefits to Canadians, while at the same time implementing the project in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner.”
The federal regulator said the 30 conditions imposed on Enbridge would enhance the pipeline’s integrity and environmental protection, improve emergency response and require continued consultation. The regulator turned down a request by Enbridge to exempt it from a final check to ensure all conditions are met.
The approval is final. It involves a 639-kilometre stretch between North Westover, Ont., and Montreal, Que., as well as an increase of the pipeline’s capacity to 300,000 from 240,000 barrels per day. Enbridge also won permission to move heavy oil. The NEB had already approved the reversal of the western portion of Line 9, a 194-kilometre segment linking Sarnia to North Westover.
The federal regulator’s endorsement comes three months after a panel of regulators backed another major pipeline, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway from Alberta to the West Coast, after finding that Canada would be better off with the new project than without it.
The pipelines are part of a build up of transportation capacity to expand markets for western Canada’s growing oil production. Two other major projects, Energy East from Alberta to the East Coast proposed by TransCanada Corp., and the expansion of the TransMountain pipeline by Kinder Morgan from Alberta to Vancouver, are also before Canadian regulators.
The board’s decision was welcomed by the Natural Resources Minister, who said the NEB had conducted “an independent, scientific review” of Enbridge’s proposal.
“This will protect high-quality, skilled jobs in Quebec and create market opportunities for Western Canada’s oil producers,” Joe Oliver said. “Furthermore, by replacing higher-cost foreign crude with Canadian crude, the reversal will strengthen Quebec’s refining and petrochemical industries.”
For environmental organizations targeting pipeline expansions to constrain oil sands growth, Line 9’s approval marks another setback.
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