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North Bay seeks to protect its drinking water from the Energy East pipeline

There is strong public opposition to the Energy East tar sands pipeline in the city of North Bay which is situated in northeastern Ontario. It may even be that TransCanada – the company behind the controversial 1.1 million barrel per day pipeline – considers North Bay to be it’s ‘No. 1 trouble spot’.

It’s a view Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow heard when she spoke in opposition to the pipeline at a well-attended public forum in the community this past April.

The Toronto Star reports, “Most of the city of 55,000 is united in its opposition to Energy East: the mayor, professors at local Nipissing University, farmers, landowners and, of course, environmentalists are worried about crude running so close to Trout Lake, the city’s only source of drinking water, and about the impact of a potential spill on the environment.”

“There are broader questions about the economics of the proposed pipeline, the dirty oil and its impact on climate change. Experts across Canada have weighed in on those issues in different studies. One report by The Council of Canadians focuses on the threat the pipeline poses to waterways in case of a spill. Another report by four environmental groups says Energy East’s benefits are greatly exaggerated. Mayor McDonald has read some of them, but ‘it is the drinking water that is the biggest concern for me’, he says.”

Mayor McDonald bluntly states, “If something happens to Energy East here, if there is a spill, we’ll be ruined. Who would want to come here then?”

“For [McDonald], protecting Trout Lake is more important than anything else. In addition to providing drinking water, the picturesque, four kilometre by 11 kilometre lake is ringed by hundreds of homes. The pipeline runs along the north of the lake through the watershed and crosses beneath the lake in the east corner. It also runs through a significant groundwater ‘recharge’ area and crosses vulnerable water valley systems. ‘Any spill would make its way into the lake quickly’, McDonald says. ‘What happens to 55,000 people and their drinking water? We would never be able to recover from that stigma. The economic impact would be astronomical.'”

“The North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority has [also] been outspoken against the pipeline. [They have] four primary concerns: the protection of Trout Lake as the source of drinking water, environmental impact on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, vulnerability of the pipeline infrastructure in slopes, floodplains and valleys, and preservation of the watershed.”

“Why North Bay is against Energy East is easy to understand yet complicated. It’s a mélange of concerns and anger against TransCanada’s perceived arrogance. …Drinking water, environment and public health are the main issues in this narrative. But so is trust — or the lack of it. …Depending on whom you ask, TransCanada emissaries have been pleasant, reading scripted answers at open houses. Others say they have been downright rude. But most people … agree they haven’t been helpful: they have rarely given straight answers. …[For example, local resident Graham Robinson asks] ‘If there is a spill, will TransCanada provide us with drinking water?'”

“TransCanada is expected to file a formal application with the National Energy Board in the next few days.” Mayor McDonald will be applying for intervener status at the NEB as soon as that happens.

For more about the Council of Canadians campaign against the Energy East pipeline, please click here.

Further reading
North Bay, Ontario expresses opposition to Energy East pipeline (May 2013 blog)
TransCanada schooled in North Bay: Local organizers present their side at company open houses (August 2013 blog)