Enbridge wins pipeline flow battle

Enbridge Inc. CEO Patrick Daniel speaks during their annual general meeting for shareholders in...

Enbridge Inc. CEO Patrick Daniel speaks during their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto May 9, 2012. (Reuters/MARK BLINCH)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge has scored a victory in Southwestern Ontario after a rocky month in the United States.

On Friday, federal regulators approved a bid by the Calgary-based company to reverse the flow of a 190-km segment of oil pipeline between Sarnia and the Hamilton area, so that oil will flow from west to east. But the National Energy Board also imposed a series of conditions on Enbridge to safeguard the pipeline’s integrity.

Enbridge sought approval for the nearly $17-million project to help move Western Canadian crude oil into the Ontario market, but some opponents fear the move could eventually be a way to extend the reach of the Alberta oilsands to the U.S. east coast.

The approval comes little more than two weeks after Enbridge was dealt a withering broadside by U.S. regulators over the company’s handling of a 2010 pipeline rupture in Michigan. The National Transportation Safety Board called the break of that line “tragic and needless,” with the board chairperson blasting the company’s “Keystone Cops” response to the rupture -- waiting 17 hours to stop the oil flowing into the Kalamazoo River -- and noting the company hadn’t dealt with years-old corrosion issues.

The disaster led American regulators to recommend a record $3.7-million fine against Enbridge.

Enbridge maintains the pipeline reversal in Ontario is needed to help supply the Ontario market with Western Canadian crude oil, and that the move will help ease pricing and production fallout if traditional oil supplies to refiners are interrupted.

The National Energy Board held a hearing into the company’s proposal in London in May, but citizens were barred from the meeting after Native and other protesters brought the session to a halt.