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Energy East: when oil meets water – Jobs will be lost

TransCanada and Energy East advocates like to talk a lot about the jobs that would be generated by the project. But they don’t want to talk about the jobs a spill would threaten.

The New Brunswick ocean sector generates $1.1 billion in direct and spin-off gross domestic product (GDP), along with 25,500 full-time equivalent jobs, and $950 million in earned income(source: joint  federal and NB government report on estimates of economic impacts of the NB Ocean Sector 2003-2008).

The seafood industry (fishing, aquaculture and seafood process) makes the biggest contribution to both GPD (44% of ocean related GDP) and employment (representing 36% of ocean related employment). Tourism isn’t far behind, securing 16% of ocean related GDP and 27 of employment.

Energy East would see a doubling, or tripling of tankers through the Bay of Fundy, carrying crude oil including unrefined dilbit to international markets. A spill from one of these tankers that can carry up to 2.2 million barrels of oil, or from loading the crude onto these tankers, into the world’s largest tides, threatens to be dramatic. It could be a serious blow to ocean-related jobs.

Recent studies by federal government scientists have shown that diluted bitumen spilled in cold salt water, beaten by waves and mixed with sediment (pretty much a give-in for the Bay of Fundy) forms tar balls that sink. This would at best complicate clean-up plans, at worst, make them ineffective. Oil spill clean up methods are typically planned for handling floating crude. 

Contaminated waters near fisheries would compromise this industry – take for example, the impacts of the BP oil spill.  

Energy East’s threat to jobs doesn’t end with the Bay of Fundy.

The Fleuve St Laurent, which the pipeline runs alongside and crosses, is a critical body of water supplying water for drinking, for agriculture and industry as well as for fishing and recreation.

The Fleuve St Laurent is also part of a global network of marine conservation areas. It is home to a protected beluga whale habitat, important to the thriving local tourism industry.

 As documented in our new report, Energy East: Where oil meets water, the pipeline crosses numerous waterways that sustain a range of economic opportunities, all dependent on clean water. A spill from what would be North America’s largest pipeline near or in these waterways stands to have a significant economic impact including short and even long-term job loss.

Other waterways with thriving fishing, recreation and tourism uses include (see this blog for potential impacts on drinking water):

  • Battle River, Alberta (the most important fishery in east-central Alberta)

  • Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan

  • Swift Current Creek, Saskatchewan

  • Red River, Manitoba  

  • Assiniboine River, Manitoba (see this additional source)

  • Falcon Lake, Manitoba

  • Lake of the Woods, Ontario

  • Missinaibi River, Ontario

  • Lake Nipissing, Ontario

  • Lake Superior, Ontario

  • Madawaska River, Ontario  

  • Riviere des Prairies, Quebec

  • Fleuve Saint-Laurent, Quebec

  • St. John River, New Brunswick 

  • Grand Lake, New Brunswick

  • Miramachi River, New Brunswick

  • Tobique River, New Brunswick

  • Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick