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Husky oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River strengthens opposition to Energy East crossing the Ottawa River

Photo: The Ottawa River at Pointe-Fortune.

The Husky Energy oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River is making it harder for TransCanada to cross the Ottawa River with its proposed 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East pipeline.

The Globe and Mail reports, “TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East project is encountering a major logjam at the Ottawa River, with Quebec officials refusing to issue permits to the company that would allow it to determine how to cross the waterway – citing Husky Energy Inc.’s spill in a Saskatchewan river last month as a troubling warning sign.”

The article explains, “In filings with the National Energy Board, TransCanada said its usual method for river crossing was ‘not feasible’ at its preferred Ottawa River crossing site, near the junction with the St. Lawrence River. It had promised to provide an alternative scenario this summer, but that work is delayed because county officials from Vaudreuil-Soulanges are denying the company the permits for geological testing of the riverbed. [That’s because] local government officials remain worried about the potential for a disastrous spill into the river, which would contaminate drinking water for millions of residents in the Montreal region.”

The article also notes, “The Mohawk Council of Kanesatake [and the] Quebec wing of the Assembly of First Nations have voiced their opposition to the pipeline, and argue that neither the company nor the government has adequately consulted them before launching the review process. Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said the Husky spill in Saskatchewan and one by CNOOC’s Nexen Energy ULC in Alberta last summer serve as a warning about what can go wrong. …The Kanesatake leader said the provincial and county governments need to consult with his community on the issuing of the permit, which means work would be delayed even further.”

On March 10, Le Devoir reported (in French) that the Parti Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire are against “the granting of a certificate of authorization [by the Quebec government] for carrying out seismic surveys in the Ottawa River”. TransCanada is still waiting for that certificate of authorization for seismic testing near Pointe-Fortune, which is located about 125 kilometres east of Ottawa. The proposed crossing for Energy East is also about 25 kilometres upstream of Lake of Two Mountains, which is where the Ottawa River widens at its confluence with the St. Lawrence River.

On March 15, CBC reported, “The Grand Chief of Kanesatake, the Mohawk community hugging the north shore of Lake of Two Mountains, says the Energy East pipeline could be catastrophic for his people – and moving forward without the community’s consent violates aboriginal and treaty rights under both Canadian and international laws. …Simon said an oil spill around the Lake of Two Mountains would be disastrous for drinking water, and the proposed route cuts through traditional hunting and fishing grounds.”

And on June 6, the Montreal Gazette highlighted, “A 2014 study commissioned by TransCanada deemed the Ottawa River crossing a ‘high risk’ proposition. The study, conducted by pipeline consulting firm Entec, concluded that directional drilling required to tunnel the structure under the river would be extremely challenging.”

The Council of Canadians is campaigning to stop the Energy East pipeline and stands with both the community of Vaudreuil-Soulanges and the Mohawks in their opposition to seismic testing in the Ottawa River.

In December 2014, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow was in Kanesatake to express her support for the Declaration by the Kanien’kehà:ka Kanehsatà:ke Territory. The declaration states, “We the Kanien’kehà:ka people of Kanehsatà:ke … assert our authority and jurisdiction upon our un-ceded traditional. Resource extraction and their accompanying pipeline by companies like TransCanada, Enbridge, Gazoduc and condo development by GDB Construction violate the land rights of the Kanehsatà:ke Mohawks and threaten the health of the environment.”

Barlow has also stated, “To protect the St. Lawrence River we must ban all transport of tar sands bitumen on or near the St. Lawrence River.”

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