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Council of Canadians releases ‘When Oil Meets Water: How the Energy East pipeline threatens North Bay watersheds’

The Council of Canadians released a new report yesterday titled, When Oil Meets Water: How the Energy East pipeline threatens North Bay watersheds.

BayToday reports, “Mark Calzavara, Ontario Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians, released a study called ‘When Oil Meets Water’, a nine page report on the impact the pipeline would have on the North Bay watersheds. Calzavara criticized TransCanada for its poor track record with natural gas ruptures, claiming the company had eight ruptures in the past six years. ‘They have had so many ruptures, they are having more ruptures lately than before and this is not a company we can trust to have a dangerous oil pipeline going through the community’, stated Calzavara.”

The article adds, “Calzavara also pointed out other key findings including a $1 billion cost for cleaning up a Trout Lake oil spill if the natural gas pipeline near Trout Lake was transformed into a portion of the Energy East oil pipeline and a leak occurred. He also pointed out that TransCanada would not be prepared for the challenges of a spill if it occurred in the cold winter months.”

Additionally, the North Bay Nugget reports, “[Calzavara’s] report … indicates there will be a 15 per cent chance of a ‘full bore rupture per year’, that TransCanada is unable to detect oil spills of up to 2.6 million litres per day, that a spill in the Trout Lake watershed could cost more than $1 billion and that TransCanada … ‘greatly underestimates the challenges posed by an oil spill in winter conditions.'”

That article adds, “TransCanada, Calzavara said, has had ‘more ruptures than any other pipeline’ and its safety record is getting worse. The ruptures so far have involved natural gas, he said. When that occurs, the natural gas either burns off or evaporates. Many of the ruptures occur in remote areas, which is a good thing for natural gas, but ‘very bad for oil’. Dilbit – diluted bitumen – doesn’t evaporate. Instead, he said, it will threaten any watercourse in the area. Another serious concern, he said, is that TransCanada is not able to detect spills of up to 2.6 million litres per cent – about 1 1/2 per cent of its capacity. Two days of such a spill, he said, would produce the biggest spill in Canadian history. ‘They can’t detect (a spill of that size) by their own admission’, he said.”

The article also notes, “Earlier this month, a spill in South Dakota was discovered by ‘pure luck’ when 16,000 litres leaked from [TransCanada’s] Keystone 1 pipeline. ‘It was spotted by a passerby’, Calzavara said, adding TransCanada was proud of the fact it shut down the pipeline ‘as soon as they heard about the leak’. ‘The company really relies on other people finding the leaks for them’, he said. But of particular concern in North Bay – and most places in Canada – is the difficulty of dealing with a leak for one-third of the year. ‘TransCanada only devotes one paragraph in their 30,000-page sales pitch to the National Energy Board on cleaning up a spill in the winter’, he said. A spill in the United States during winter months ended up with only five per cent of the oil spilled under the ice recovered. The oil ‘went into the water intake for the nearest town.'”

Both newspapers also highlighted that Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow was at the media conference.

The Nugget notes, “Barlow also dispelled five myths about the Energy East project – that it is a nation-building project akin to the national railway in the 1800s, that it will create jobs, that it will replace rail transportation of oil, that it will help pay for the transition to a green economy and that the threat can be managed. Proponents of the project ‘say we need to do this, that we need to bring western energy to Eastern Canadians’, she said. But there are no refineries in Eastern Canada to process the dilbit. Instead, it will be shipped to foreign refineries. There will be some construction jobs created for the conversion, she admitted, but no long-term jobs.”

The article also notes, “As for helping the country transition to a green economy, Barlow said, ‘that is like saying you are going to lose weight with an all-poutine diet.’ Canada, she said, has no hope of meeting its greenhouse gas emissions targets by further developing the Alberta tar sands – the source of the dilbit – which would be the sole user of the pipeline. Further work in the tar sands, she said, is committing future generations to fossil fuels.”

In an op-ed published in The Nugget two days ago, Barlow and Stop Energy East North Bay activist Donna Sinclair write, “The more people hear about Energy East, the more they are organizing against it. …They are challenging the backward thinking that would lead to an increase in climate pollution equivalent to adding seven million cars to our roads. They are spreading the word about TransCanada’s safety record. They are challenging the company’s vague assurances that Energy East is safe. They are coming together to protect their water and their children’s future. The Energy East pipeline is a big risk to North Bay and to every other community along its route. The drinking water of more than five million people is downstream from the pipeline.”

Barlow will be the keynote speaker at a public forum in North Bay this evening. It will also feature Calzavara presenting the findings of his report, Steve Courtney of Theia GeoAnalytics on regional spill risks, and local community members. The forum is co-hosted by the Council of Canadians and Stop Energy East North Bay and co-sponsored by Friends of Temagami, Nipissing Environmental Watch, Northwatch and Transition Town North Bay.

For more on our campaign to stop the Energy East pipeline, please click here.