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The Department of National Defence has serious concerns about the Energy East pipeline

A Great Blue Heron covered in oil from North Saskatchewan River pipeline spill.

The Department of National Defence has serious concerns about the Energy East pipeline according to an article by CBC/Radio-Canada(french). (English)

The article is based on Access to Information Requests which reveal that the Canadian Armed Forces:

-worry that a pipeline rupture-even a small one- could spill more than 3 million litres of oil into the environment and have “major consequences”

-doubt TransCanada’s capacity to pay for clean up and financial compensation in the case of a spill

-are concerned about the lack of information from TransCanada concerning the protection of waterways that would be crossed by the pipeline.

TransCanada is currently seeking approval to convert their forty year old Mainline natural gas pipeline to carry tar sands crude from Alberta through Ontario and then (in a newly built section of pipeline)  across Quebec to an export terminal in New Brunswick. The Energy East pipeline would be the largest in Canada and pump 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day. It would also increase CO2 emissions by about 32 million tonnes per year- the same as putting 7 million more cars on the road.

According to the article, Energy East would pass through or near eight Canadian Armed Forces bases. 

A representative of TransCanada is quoted in the article as saying that the chances of a major spill are one in several thousand- a “fact” that according to TransCanada is based on pipeline spill statistics across North America from 2003-2012. To arrive at its results, TransCanada assumes that its pipelines are as safe as the industry average. This is like a student referring to the class average instead of his or her own grade.  Pipeline rupture data produced by the National Energy Board shows that TransCanada has the worst safety record in Canada, with 17 ruptures since 1992. TransCanada’s most recent history is even worse, with eight ruptures in the last seven years.

According to our recent report based on TransCanada’s safety record, the Energy East pipeline would have a 15 per cent chance per year of rupturing- read the report here:  Quantifying Risk: Calculating the probability of an Energy East pipeline rupture.

The Department of National Defence has good reason to be worried. The proposed capacity of Energy East is so great that even a leak of just 1.5% per day (which is under the detection limit of TransCanada’s leak detection system) would produce a massive spill- up to 2.6 million litres per day. Given how remote much of the Energy East route is, an undetected leak could easily go on for many days or even weeks before it is noticed, potentially creating the worst oil spill in Canadian history.                                  

The recent pipeline spill in Saskatchewan is estimated to have been a mere 250,000 litres but it travelled more than 500 kms downstream, cutting off the drinking water source for more than 70,000 people. Energy East would pump that much oil in just over two minutes.

“I found that TransCanada had a culture of non-compliance, deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes.”  Former TransCanada engineer Evan Vokes’ testimony before THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES- June 6th 2013