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NEB Energy East hearings start in Saint John

It’s a beautiful day in the heavily-industrialized town of Saint John today, but I am stuck inside with the National Energy Board and TransCanada for day 1 of the Energy East intervener hearings. A process steeped in rules and seeming to favour the domination of the proponent from the outset, it has been painful. I’m almost glad there are no windows in the Saint John Convention Centre, where the hearings are being held all week.

We started the day with a media conference outside. Speakers included Ron Tremblay (Spasaqsit Possesom), Grand Chief of the Wolastoq Grand Council; Colin Sproul of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association; Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director with the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation; Gordon Dalzell of Citizen’s Coalition for Clean Air; and Lynaya Astephen of the Red Head / Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association. Many concerns with the pipeline as well as the process were raised, and many media outlets were there to cover it, too.

We weren’t without competition, however – pro-pipeline people, many of whom were Buildings Trades Union members, were standing outside of the Convention Centre with picket signs showing their support for the pipeline, and they had a large model pipeline for people to sign.

The hearings started at 9am with the process outlined by the chair of the NEB as well as introductions of the NEB members and staff, and the proponent’s 15-20 witnesses. TransCanada started with a PowerPoint presentation of the proposed pipeline, outlining their safety standards and the number of jobs (direct and indirect, of course) that would be created if the pipeline were approved. I nearly burst out laughing a few times during their presentation but figured getting kicked out that early in the process would not be useful.

Many great presentations took place throughout the day, with most opposing the Energy East pipeline and with the presenters becoming increasingly forceful with TransCanada’s responses to their questions (especially given the lack of NEB reps acting in a Chairperson role). TC representatives would take the opportunity, with each response, to purport the benefits of the pipeline within their response; Stephen Thomas of Nova Scotia’s Ecology Action Centre was last to present and – very politely – interrupted each time TC started spouting by asking them to spend their time addressing his actual question, please.

I’m surprisingly looking forward to tomorrow’s presentations. We are informed and prepared to deal with this process, and we work with some amazing people!! Damned if we aren’t going to stop this pipeline.