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Leaked study on Energy East risks to Quebec Rivers

Quebec news outlet Le Devoir has acquired a leaked study regarding the risk of landslides near rivers selected for the path of TransCanada`s proposed Energy East pipeline project. The study details the level of risk and the number of rivers used as drinking water sources.  Energy East would be the largest pipeline in North America if it is built. TransCanada has had five major pipeline ruptures in the last 15 months- by far the poorest safety record in the industry.  Read the original article in French here, a partial translation follows:

“In Québec, the Eastern Energy pipeline must cross over thirty rivers in areas with obvious risk of landslides due to the instability of the banks. This is the conclusion of a study produced for TransCanada and Le Devoir has obtained a copy.

The risk analysis document prepared by Golder Associates is clear: there are several water crossings where the integrity of the pipeline that will transport 1.1 million barrels of crude per day could be threatened by instability soil.

The vast majority of crossings at risk (19) are located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, where the pipeline must cross the river. On the south shore, the Lévis region also has a total of six areas where crossed rivers with known landslide risks.

In total, thirty rivers of Quebec were analyzed in the study by Golder. No less than 20 rivers are part of the lot, some of which are considered major and some are used as a source of drinking water.

Thus, the pipeline of a meter in diameter will pass through a total of 11 rivers in an area where the risk of landslides is considered “high”. This is the case of the Batiscan River. The banks where the pipeline must cross are also mapped as “landslide zone” by the MRC des Chenaux, the Golder study says.

The risk is too “high” for the Sainte-Anne River, where recent landslides were observed at the time of the work of the firm, which completed its report in July. Same for the Etchemin River, which flows into the St. Lawrence River in Lévis. In this case, the City of Lévis itself has designated the area as being a major risk of landslides. The pipeline would cross an area directly influenced by this type of phenomenon related to bank instability, particularly during the spring floods.

Other rivers at risk considered “high.” This is the case of the Chacoura River, Rivière du Loup and the Champlain River, where the pipeline crossing is already clearly recognized as being at risk. On the south shore, there are also the Aulneuse River and the Penin River.

A total of nine rivers are also at “moderate” risk of a landslide. Among these include the Maskinongé the Yamachiche (where the risk is “high”, according to Maskinongé) and St. Maurice, crossing Trois-Rivières.

In the case of several rivers, such as the Portneuf (“high” risk), the pipeline will cross near the mouth of rivers that flow into the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec. In case of breakage or spillage, the river would be directly threatened.

Framing the Issues

The spokesman for TransCanada, Tim Duboyce, declined to comment directly on the study. However, he stressed that TransCanada has commissioned several studies in the context of the development of the East Energy Project, the largest development pipeline in North America. These studies are used to “better understand the issues” for each river crossing, explained Duboyce. If the risks are too high, the company might “check out other options” to ensure the “security” of the project.

Mr. Duboyce also indicated that in the case of stream crossings, the pipeline is usually thicker. As for ways to bury it in the ground when crossing a stream, there are three methods. In the case of a stream, you can dig a trench and place the pipeline. You can perform  “horizontal directional drilling” and again insert  the pipe. In the case of larger rivers, a concrete tunnel can be built under the bed.

This method could be used to cross the St. Lawrence River, in the area of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. But in this case, another study commissioned by TransCanada  (by Entec) concluded that the project would be a world first “high risk”. The same company believes that the crossings of the Etchemin and Ottawa rivers are “technically infeasible.”

TransCanada has never specified how much time would be needed to stop the Alberta crude oil throughput in the Eastern Energy pipeline in case of leakage. Certainly the rate will be quite important. The circulation of 1.1 million barrels per day means that 764 barrels will flow in the pipe every minute, and 24 hours a day. In total, 400 million barrels will flow each year….”

The article finishes… 

“The Couillard government, however, continues to be the target of a lobbying offensive from TransCanada which has 27 registered lobbyists. Two lobbyists registered in late November are mandated to discuss the future taxes for TransCanada at Cacouna.”