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Council of Canadians joins flood of people wanting their say on Energy East before NEB

Today is the final day the National Energy Board (NEB) is receiving applications to participate in  TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project review. As I write this, close to 1700 applications have been submitted. From impacted landowners, farmers, First Nations and Indigenous organizations, to municipalities and provincial governments along the route, special interest groups, NGOs, and more.

The Council of Canadians has been heavily mobilizing on a number of levels around the NEB.

Let me first affirm, the NEB review is a broken process.

The Harper government eliminated federal environmental assessments of pipeline projects, put the industry-friendly National Energy Board in charge of pipeline reviews, limited public participation in reviews to “directly affected” people, shortened the timeline for participation, and gave federal cabinet the final decision making power over pipeline projects.

Yet it remains an important opportunity, or moment, to have our concerns with this massive project heard.

From seeing participant funding going towards critical research proving the very serious risks we highlight, to supporting frontline people and communities participating in the process. This is consistent with remaining critical of the process and the refusal to consider climate impacts, including through other efforts and mobilizations outside of the review process.

Council of Canadians applies to intervene on water, safety and climate

The Council of Canadians has applied to intervene on behalf of our over 100,000 supporters. Included below is a copy of the text we submitted. Our application proposes to tackle three areas – the impacts of diluted bitumen spills in waterways, pipeline safety concerns and climate pollution impacts. We have proposed hiring Dr. David Schindler, renown water expert, and Evan Vokes, previously a pipeline engineer with TransCanada to review the application and help us present information to the Board.

While both these areas fall within the proposed list of issues, the NEB refuses to consider the upstream climate pollution impacts. Here we are working with a lawyer, Jason Maclean, arguing that the NEB is incorrect in refusing to hear these serious concerns.

  The NEB’s mandate in reviewing infrastructure in the Canadian public interest absolutely must include considering how the pipe could spur a forty per cent increase in Canada’s fastest growing source of climate pollution. This is completely incompatible with Canada’s proposed 2020 emission reduction target.  We further maintain a constitutional right to raise these issues before the board (section 2(b) and 7).

Working with Jason we fully intend on pursuing this fight, raising similar concerns as lawsuits involving Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion project. 

Council of Canadians supporter /chapters join People’s Intervention for Climate Review of Energy East

Alongside 350.org, Greenpeace and other groups, we have been actively involved in encouraging people to sign up to intervene in the NEB review, including their concerns with the pipeline’s climate impact.

We have communicated with our supports and chapters – and they have responded!

I’ve personally helped four people apply just today and we’ve had numerous email responses over the past few weeks. 

Council of Canadians chapters in Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto (including the York University chapter), Guelph, Charlottetown, Fredericton and Saint John have organized application writing parties. The Thunder Bay chapter has been actively asking their members to apply.

We’ve also reached out to the landowners and directly affected (according the NEB’s strict definition) we’ve come to know through our campaign to ensure they are aware of the NEB process.

In New Brunswick, our Saint John chapter door-knocked in the frontline community of Red Head in Saint John (where the project ends – would be home to an 18 tank farm and deep sea water port) encouraging participation for an application writing party.  Our new campaigner, Mark D’Arcy was recently again in Red Head, discussing the project with community members and encouraging people to apply.

Problems with applying and asking for a deadline extension

A number of concerns with the NEB website have been brought to our attention that have led to people trying to apply, not being able to do so.  In particular, our Winnipeg chapter, as part of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, has been supporting individuals and groups affected by TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline to have the opportunity to participate in the NEB review. As they report:

Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition has hosted two workshops on Saturdays to assist people with the application process.  The first was held on February 7th and the second was held on February, 28th.

On both dates, workshop attendees were unable to successfully register for a GCKey Login.  After filling in all required fields and having them accepted, the screen below appeared.  This occurred at least 15 times on at least four different computers.

Equally concerning is news that residents in Red Head, New Brunswick have not been fully informed about the NEB process. Red Head is a small community of approximately 500 residents just east of Saint John and situated right beside the Bay of Fundy.  Red Head is the final destination for the Energy East pipeline, the location of a proposed 18-tank storage facility and a newly proposed marine terminal.

It has come to our attention that at least three Red Head residents that had signed a TransCanada Open House sign-up sheet requesting further contact about the NEB application process, have, to the best of their knowledge, not received any follow up information. These residents are undeniably directly affected by proposed project and should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the NEB process. A two week window allowing us to ensure they are aware of the process, and have the needed information about how to apply, would facilitate this.

We have formally raised these concerns in a letter to the NEB, requesting a 2 week extension of the proposed deadline for submitting applications.

This is consistent with other calls for a extension and suspension of the process citing serious concerns. This includes Ontario First Nation leaders calling for a halt to the review until adequately consulted, as well as demands like those raised by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and a coalition of Quebec groups over the lack of access to needed French documents from TransCanada, on the National Energy Board website.

Council of Canadians application text to the NEB

The Council of Canadians (“Council”) is a social action organization with over 100,000 supporters.  The Council intends to intervene in this review, working with legal counsel, to present these risks which speak to the first, seventh and tenth issues.

Addressing the seventh issue, we intend to hire Dr. David Schindler, OC, AOE, DPhil, FRS, FRSC, a limnologist to critically assess whether the company has adequately considered the impacts of a diluted bitumen spill entering waterways, particularly in icy conditions and whether there is enough known about the toxicity of diluted bitumen and its impacts. The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Schindler is clearly qualified to carry out this review.

Addressing the tenth issue, the Council will hire Evan Vokes, a specialist engineer with a strong understanding of multi-disciplinary engineering functions, with major focus on Welding Engineering and Non Destructive Examination. He has extensive knowledge of pipeline engineering and regulatory standards, vendor qualification, and audit and project support. He worked as a Welding and Non-Destructive Examination Specialist for TransCanada Pipelines Inc. from 2007-2012. He brings a unique perspective pertaining to engineering design, integrity of the project, and business practices of the proponent.

The Council [of Canadians] also intends on presenting evidence regarding the cumulative upstream climate pollution impacts of the proposed pipeline, including the “upstream activities associated with the development of oil sands, or the downstream and end use of the oil transported by the Project.” 

This evidence will include an analysis conducted by qualified climate change scientists at Lakehead University of the Project’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in relation to existing and other proposed oil pipeline project proposals falling under the Board’s jurisdiction.

We believe the NEB is incorrect in refusing to hear these serious concerns. The NEB’s mandate is to promote “safety and security, environmental protection and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest.” A pipeline that has the potential to spur a forty per cent increase in Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, the tar sands, is absolutely a matter of public interest. Approving this pipeline is incompatible with Canada’s proposed target for emission reductions by 2020. This directly speaks to the need for the project, the first issue identified

Moreover, the Council maintains that it has the constitutional right to raise these issues before the Board — not only does the Council have the right to make submissions about the relationship between the Energy East pipeline proposal and climate pollution under s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Council, its over 100,000 supporters, and indeed all Canadians — including future generations — have a fundamental right to “life, liberty and security of the person” under s. 7 of the Charter. The Council submits that any refusal of the Board to allow submissions on the climate implications of the Energy East pipeline proposal will unjustifiably violate ss. 2(b) and 7 of the Charter, and will also constitute an unreasonable decision under Canadian administrative law.