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Landowners concerned about Energy East pipeline

Mark D'Arcy

Council of Canadians campaigner Mark D’Arcy regularly meets with landowners in New Brunswick to hear their concerns about the Energy East pipeline.

The Council of Canadians is working with landowners in New Brunswick whose property would be crossed by the 1.1 million barrel per day TransCanada Energy East pipeline.

To set some context, on CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup this past weekend, Maya Wengar, a landowner in Cecil Lake, British Columbia, spoke about how the National Energy Board and pipeline companies treat landowners. Even though she supports the Energy East pipeline (as a better way to move oil than by railway), Ms. Wengar commented, “The National Energy Board has a lot of rules that are very unfair against the landowners.”

She adds, “As a land owner with pipelines going through our land, we have had meetings with them and we have said, ‘Please, bury these lines deep enough’. They tell us farmers that we need special permission to go over the pipeline with our equipment because if there’s too much pressure on it, the line might blow somewhere. So our point is that they should bury it deep enough so that we can use our land. They don’t want to bury it a foot or two deeper, they just want to make it as cheap as possible. We found out one day that we’re not allowed to build over the pipeline. They never wrote us a letter, they just made a new rule.”

In terms of changes she would like to see, Ms. Wengar notes, “For example, the National Energy Board has hundreds of people working for them in their Calgary head office and not one person works on behalf of the landowner. That’s how one sided this issue is.” And presumably commenting on her experience with pipeline companies, Ms. Wengar says, “You cannot treat the people of Canada with that kind of contempt where if you don’t sign the agreement the way it’s written out then we’re going to sue you, oh, they’re nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty. They divide one farmer against the other, they have secrecy agreements, they have all kinds of things that make it really really difficult for the landowner to get a fair deal.”

Fredericton-based Council of Canadians campaigner Mark D’Arcy has been meeting with landowners in New Brunswick over the past year to hear their concerns and provide information to them.

In Oct. 2015, D’Arcy was with nine landowners and residents who requested to sit as observers at a TransCanada Energy East Pipeline Community Liaison Committee meeting in Saint John. The entrance to the meeting room was blocked by a security guard who informed them that only members of the committee were permitted at the meeting.

At that time, Red Head community resident Teresa Debly stated, “Several residents who have considerable experience with other industrial community committees, including myself, have repeatedly requested to be accepted as Committee members, but have been denied each time by TransCanada. Back in February [2015], I was utterly shocked when TransCanada hired a retired police officer to prevent landowners from attending these meetings. We are calling upon TransCanada to immediately open up their Community Liaison Committee meeting.”

Saint John area landowner Colin Seeley added, “It’s a straw horse; it’s dishonest that TransCanada will go to National Energy Board and use this Community Liaison Committee as fulfilling part of their community outreach and consultation. As a person with a proposed pipeline running across my property, I have not been contacted since TransCanada cancelled Cacouna, when it was announced that the project was being delayed for two years. Meanwhile, TransCanada has been pushing ahead with work on the project such as the recent borehole testing in Red Head.”

At a Nov. 2015 media conference organized by D’Arcy, Seeley also commented, “I have been denied twice to attend [TransCanada’s] so-called Community Liaison Committee. As an affected landowner I find that very strange they don’t want to talk to the landowner. It appears to me that there is little or no co-ordination between the emergency agencies such as the police, fire, ambulance, emergency response, etc. that would be able to rally in any kind of meaningful way should an event occur. I would like to see some sort of community plan put together that addresses these issues.”

In 2016, the Council of Canadians in New Brunswick will continue to meet with landowners, hear their stories about how TransCanada is unwilling to adequately consult and answer questions from landowners, help connect landowners and Indigenous peoples, assist landowners to speak out against Energy East, and provide information to landowners about their legal rights with respect to easement agreements.

For more on our Energy East campaign, please click here and here.