Hundreds Protest Tar Sands Pipeline as Expert Warns of 90 Percent Probability of Line 9 Rupture
By Derek Leahy
The international pipeline safety expert who last August described Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline as “high risk for a rupture” now says the probability of Line 9 rupturing is “over 90 percent.”
“I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often," said Richard Kuprewicz in an interview with DeSmog Canada. "There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed.” Kuprewicz is a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector.
Kuprewicz also expressed concerns about transporting diluted bitumen through Line 9 saying it will increase the growth rates of cracks on the pipeline. Line 9 lies in the most populated part of Canada and crosses the St. Lawrence River and major waterways flowing into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. A Line 9 spill could pollute the drinking water of millions of Canadians.
Extensive Stress Corrosion Cracking on Line 9
“Existing SCC (stress corrosion cracking) on Line 9 can worsen due to the increase in pressure cycling associated with shipping dilbit (diluted bitumen)," explained Kuprewicz. "This could lead to a rupture.”
The thick heavy crude bitumen is diluted with a condensate (natural gas or naphtha) so it can flow through pipelines. ‘Pressure cycling,’ or the variations in operating pressures of a pipeline, increase with dilbit, because dilbit can vary more in composition than light conventional oil. The greater swings in the levels of operating pressures can create cracks in a pipeline.
Kuprewicz examined Enbridge’s assessments of Line 9 and found evidence of extensive stress corrosion cracking on Line 9, most likely caused by the pipeline’s external protective coating (polyethylene tape or PE-tape) separating from the sections of Line 9, allowing water to damage the pipeline.
Kuprewicz has seen this problem before. He researched the U.S. federal investigation into the Kalamazoo, MI, dilbit spill—the largest onshore oil spill in US.. history—on behalf of various concerned parties. The disbondment of PE-tape on Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline and subsequent SCC on the pipe caused the rupture. Three million litres of dilbit were spilled into the Kalamazoo River and the surrounding waterways, and the $1 billion cleanup continues to this day.
Enbridge claims that its in-line inspection tool can detect any serious SCC threats to the pipeline. According to Kuprewicz, the in-line detection technology Enbridge is using has yet to be proven effective.
Hydrostatic Testing of Pipelines is the “Gold Standard” for Safety
“Enbridge needs to conduct a hydrostatic test on Line 9," Kuprewicz told DeSmog Canada. "It is the gold standard for pipeline integrity and safety. Canada has a well-established history of hydrotesting its pipelines.”
A hydrostatic test would pump water through Line 9 at similar pressures to those the pipeline is expected to operate at, but there is no indication that Enbridge plans to conduct hydrostatic testing.
Kuprewicz also questions Enbridge’s claims of an automatic shutdown in the event of a pressure drop in Line 9 or a 10-minute shutdown if an unexplained reading comes in from the pipeline. When a pipeline ruptures, pressure loss as well as detecting the drop can take quite a while. The 10-minute shutdown procedure existed at the time of the Kalamazoo spill and it still took Enbridge 17 hours to shut down the ruptured pipeline.
“I am not trying to be hard on Enbridge. There are definite improvements they could make to their pipeline management system that would significantly reduce the chances of a Line 9 rupture,” said Kuprewicz.
Enbridge Lacks Adequate Liability Insurance for a Line 9 Spill
The Goodman Group Ltd found that, in the event of a Line 9 spill, Enbridge’s $685 million liability insurance for all its operations (not just Line 9) would be inadequate. The California-based consulting firm says Enbridge needs $3 billion of liability insurance for Line 9 alone.
"This is especially true in Toronto and Montreal, where the pipeline runs parallel to or across key urban infrastructure and could threaten the drinking water supply, resulting in multi-billion dollar costs," warned Ian Goodman, president of the Goodman Group.
Cleanup costs of other onshore oil spills such as Lac-Megantic in Quebec and the Kalamazoo spill were analyzed by the Goodman Group, and Line 9’s location in a highly populated area was considered. The firm concluded that a bad Line 9 spill would cost at least $1 billion. The worst-case scenario was pegged between $5-10 billion.
Ontario Demands Independent Third-Party Assessment of Line 9
The Ontario government in some ways echoed the recommendations of Kuprewicz and the Goodman Group on Oct. 17 during a National Energy Board (NEB) public hearing in Toronto.
Ontario demanded that Enbridge conduct a hydrostatic test on Line 9, and that the company maintain $1 billion in insurance for the pipeline. The province also called on the NEB to initiate an independent third party assessment on the state of Line 9, and not rely solely on Enbridge’s findings.
“Given the age of the pipeline, its location in a large part of southern Ontario, its additional service life of 30 years or more, and the potential adverse consequences of a rupture, it seems a matter of simple prudence and common sense to ensure the (assessments) are as thorough, comprehensive and as accurate as possible,” Rick Jennings told the NEB panel. Jennings is an assistant deputy minister with Ontario’s Ministry of Energy.
“In our view, an independent third-party review is required for that assurance,” said Jennings.
The NEB hearings on Line 9 were scheduled to wrap up in Toronto on Oct. 19, but the NEB postponed the final hearing to an unknown date and location. The NEB could make its final decision on Line 9 as early as January 2014.
Enbridge has applied with the NEB to increase the capacity of Line 9 from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day, reverse the pipeline to flow west-to-east and ship ‘heavy crudes’ such as dilbit through the line.
Critics of the Line 9 project say the pipeline should not be approved to ship dilbit because of the likelihood of a rupture and the adverse impacts that further expansion of the tar sands will have on climate change and the people and environment of northern Alberta.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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