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Irving’s ‘environmental emergencies’ raise concerns about Energy East project

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The Council of Canadians is supporting a May 30th “End of the Line” march in Saint John against the Energy East pipeline and the new Irving marine export terminal that would be associated with it. Reuters reports, “Irving’s role [in the Energy East project] would be to build and operate a $300 million 850,000 storage tank facility capable of serving more than 100 ocean-going tankers per year.”

Fredericton-based Council of Canadians Energy East campaigner Mark D’Arcy has written, “The New Brunswick and Indigenous communities of the Saint John River Basin, the rural community of Red Head, and the remarkable bird, fish and whale populations of the Bay of Fundy will be put at unacceptable risk by Energy East. New Brunswick, the Wolastoqey Nation, the Bay of Fundy, and Red Head are not for sale!”

Now Reuters is reporting on the 19 accidents or ‘environmental emergencies’ experienced by Irving Oil over the last three years. The article notes, “In one case in 2013, New Brunswick’s Department of the Environment issued Irving a formal warning for taking more than a full day to report a storage tank leak of about 132 gallons of crude at its Canaport facility on the Bay of Fundy, near the site Irving is planning its terminal for Energy East. In back-to-back accidents a year earlier, Irving was reprimanded by regulators for failing to immediately report a release of toxic sulfur dioxide gas from the refinery, and a spill of crude oil at its rail facility near a residential zone in Saint John.”

And the article highlights, “The Energy East project suffered a setback last month when environmental groups’ concerns about endangered beluga whales led it to scrap plans for another export terminal in Quebec. …Activists now worry the Bay of Fundy off the coast of New Brunswick may present similar challenges to Quebec… The bay serves as the summer feeding grounds for North Atlantic right whales, one of the world’s most endangered whale species. [And while] Irving Oil worked together with scientists at the Boston-based New England Aquarium to reroute shipping lanes away from the whales’ habitat [activists say] increased tanker traffic could raise the risk of whales getting hit by oil-laden tankers.”

As we have previously noted, “The Bay of Fundy is a summer home for the North Atlantic right whale, who are among the most endangered whales in the world. The bay also provides an important ‘nursery’ where the calves are raised. The top threats faced by right whales include ship strikes, low-frequency ship noise (that can cause them chronic physiological stress) and climate change which can diminish the availability of food in the oceans for them. About a dozen years ago Irving Oil rerouted their shipping lanes to reduce the risk of collision, but increased shipping and associated factors clearly pose risks.”

In terms of the May 30th mobilization, D’Arcy adds, “During the Red Head March, communities will carry large banners with the names of their local river or bay that they want protected. The March will finish at the end of Anthony’s Cove Road on the beach of the Bay of Fundy. Citizens will form a human chain along the beach, building a ‘Line in the Sand’ to highlight their resolve to stop this project and the expansion of the tar sands. Kid-friendly activities, a barbecue, and an evening bonfire on the beach will follow.”

For more on the march, please see the Facebook event page for it here.

Further reading
Council of Canadians stands with Red Head residents opposed to the Energy East pipeline (November 2014 blog)
TransCanada’s decision on Cacouna port could mean intensified fight in New Brunswick (April 2015 blog)
Tour warns Bay of Fundy residents of Energy East pipeline tanker threat (October 2014 blog)