A group of around 25 protesters blockaded and successfully halted construction work at an Enbridge construction site at the pipeline known as Line 9 in southwest Ontario on Tuesday morning.
“We hope to stay here indefinitely,” protester Rachel Avery told CTV News.
The activists say the Line 9 poses a danger to people, animals, land, and water. Tuesday’s action was specifically aimed at preventing the installation of a new valve.
“This construction project is a band-aid attempt and Line 9 is too old and damaged to operate safely. The new valves aren’t designed to protect rivers, they’re designed to maximize the amount of bitumen that can flow through the line,” activist Sarah Scanlon said in a statement put out by the group.
In March, the Canadian government approved Enbridge’s plans to reverse the pipeline’s flow and increase its capacity.
Workers on Tuesday were reportedly at the site when the activists arrived, and were later moved to a different site to for the day. Although the activists were initially trespassing, Enbridge has now given them permission to remain, although such permission was due to run out at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening.
A spokesperson for the company, Kristen Higgins said that “by interfering with this important work, these protest groups have put safety at risk.”
Enbridge was notably responsible for 20,000 barrels of crude leaking into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010.
Activists say such direct action is necessary because attempts at formally raising their concerns have been ignored.
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“We’ve tried pursuing avenues with the National Energy Board and within local and regional governments,” said blockader Rachel Avery. “The concerns expressed by individual people and municipalities were ignored. The official processes have merely rubber-stamped dangerous tar sands projects and failed to protect us, so we are here out of necessity. This project is also being illegally forced through without meaningful consultation of Indigenous communities. For example, the Chippewas of the Thames have appealed the NEB approval, but Enbridge has continued to work on the line regardless,” Avery continued.
The Thames Watershed is the drinking water source for over half a million people, and numerous rare species. The construction site is situated in active farmland less than a kilometer from the river.
The protesters are asking for support either by joining the action or bringing supplies to those already there.
In July a similar group of protesters blockaded a different section of Line 9 between Cambridge and Brantford.
The group is posting updates of the blockade on Tumblr.
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