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Environmentalists speak out against proposal to transport heavy crude oil by pipeline along Great Lakes watersheds

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Environmental groups from the Great Lakes region, including Save the River, Clayton, are speaking out against a proposal to move heavy crude oil using a pipeline that passes through the watersheds of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River.

In a joint letter Tuesday to Canada’s National Energy Board, the groups demanded that the board reject Enbridge Pipelines Inc.’s request to make a number of changes to a 397-mile section of the company’s “Line 9” pipeline connecting Montreal, Quebec, to Sarnia, Ontario, so it can eventually transport heavy crude — such as diluted bitumen tar sands — between central Canada and New England.

The letter addressed to Sheri Young, secretary of NEB, was signed by the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Ottawa Riverkeeper, Lake Erie Waterkeeper and the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper/Save the River.

Collectively, the groups are also calling for thicker pipes, better leak detection and spill prevention systems among other safety measures to reduce the risk of environmental hazards — like the 2010 oil spill in southwestern Michigan, where a rupture in Enbridge’s “Line 6B” caused more than 1 million gallons of diluted bitumen to leak into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

In the letter, environmental advocates argue that Line 9 and Line 6B are “similar in structure and age” and that Enbridge’s proposal has the “potential to negatively impact the swimmability, drinkability and fishability of water in our watersheds.”

At the very least, they said, Enbridge should install double-insulated pipes wherever the pipeline crosses water bodies or wetlands.

“If Enbridge continues to operate Line 9, reverses its flow, and increases its capacity in order to transport heavy crude, then the NEB should require Enbridge to implement the best available technology to prevent spills and monitor for those that do occur,” their letter said.

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