On January 29th, I participated in the Ontario Energy Board Stakeholder session held in Ottawa. It was an interesting day.
I spent most of it sitting with Ben Powless of Ecology Ottawa and Adam Scott of Environmental Defence, asking some hard hitting questions of the technical advisors hired by the OEB. I also had the opportunity to make a presentation to other stakeholders and members of the Ontario Energy Board.
You can watch my presentation on CPAC here, starting at 106:50.
You can also watch Adam Scott of Environmental Defence starting at 61:55, Rolly Montpellier of 350.org Ottawa at 80:55 and and Ben Powless at 94:27. Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch also gave a presentation remotely, unfortunately the footage doesn’t appear is CPAC coverage. Alan Hepburn (at 22:37) of the Ontario Rivers Alliance also gave an interesting presentation highlighting some serious concerns with TransCanada’s pipeline safety record.
You can watch the technical experts report on their preliminary findings (more on our take of these reports in this blog) here:
A lively question and answer period followed their presentations.
At 67:40 in this link I raise a question to Dean and receive an interesting answer.
In his assessment Dean underscores the lack of information provided by TransCanada on drinking water, and waterways impacts. Have a listen to my question which goes to the 3 examples TransCanada does evaluate more closely in Ontario, in particular well clusters outside of Ottawa.
Being a big fan of Sustainable North Grenville’s and Ian Angus’ research on the risks of the Energy East pipeline to the highly vulnerable Oxford aquifer, I questioned how Dean could classify TransCanada’s take on the risk as adequately assessed.
I raised the example of a spill of 1 tank of dry cleaner fluid in nearby Manotick that managed to poison 74 wells. Millions spent and over 21 years later, the water remains contaminated. Yet a 1.1 million barrel per day pipeline carrying diluted bitumen over a highly vulnerable to contamination aquifer is ok? Dean’s response suggests ‘adequately assessed’ was perhaps not the right language to choose, and was more a reflection on the fact that there was more data provided on this example of a risk, compared to 95 per cent of the waterways along the path in Ontario having no thorough assessment in TransCanada’s applications.
The threat to the Oxford aquifer is clearly not the only concern in the Ottawa area. Here at 64:33 a local landowner, Doug asks an important question about one of the ‘solutions’ being proposed by TransCanada in the wake of a spill entering the Rideau River that he finds problematic.
Adam Scott also raised a key question here at 61:26 that highlights that these expert reports are solely looking at TransCanada’s application itself, not soliciting independent assessments.
Here at 77:37 I pick up on an earlier statement from Jake highlighting that TransCanada recognizes in its application that diluted bitumen reacts differently in water, and that this will influence the local spill response plans to be submitted to the National Energy Board.
I highlight that this is inconsistent with what we’ve heard from TransCanada in the past, noting their Energy East pipeline website, under dispelling myths, suggests that cleaning up diluted bitumen poses the same challenges as cleaning up conventional oil. I suggest this is something the OEB should encourage their technical advisors to dig in further, and to also recognize that being forced to dredge the bottom of a river bed to clean up submerged oil is not an acceptable solution.
Certainly one of the more interesting back and forths concerned the report prepared by Navius, a firm retained by the OEB to estimate the potential impacts of the proposed Energy East Pipeline on greenhouse gas emissions.
You can watch Jotham of Navius present their findings here at 32:21. Navius concludes that the pipeline’s impact on Canadian climate pollution is moderate. This is in striking contrast to Pembina Institute’s findings that filling the pipeline would help spur a close to 40 per cent increase in tar sands production and unleash close to 32 million tonnes of climatee pollution – enough to undo the emissions saved by phasing out coal power in Ontario.
This appears to be primarily explained in a difference of assumptions used in the modeling. For more on this, and why we, along with others in the environmental community, and more broadly the public (as reflected in the meeting notes from the recent public consultations), watch the Q/A after Jotham’s presentation, here, starting at 51:30, and then addressed further in Adam and Ben’s presentations.
This session provided all members of the Province-wide Stakeholder group – from the oil and gas industry, large gas users alongside environmental, conservation, consumer and tourism groups, the Association of Ontario Municipalities and more – the opportunity to hear the technical experts hired by the OEB to present on their findings, raise questions as well as have the opportunity to make a 15 minute presentation. There were a number of OEB board members in a attendance and the 2 day session was recorded and will influence the final report prepared for the Ontario government.
This final report will also include the conclusions of the expert reports, reflect the feedback received on the 2, 6 community public consultations, written submissions and First Nations and Metis consultation. For more on the OEB process, see this presentation.
While the two rounds of public consultations have concluded, you can still have your say. The OEB has recently extended the deadline for submitting written comments, use our action alert to send in your own personalized message. You can also send a message to the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec to stay strong, and include upstream climate pollution impacts in their evaluation of the Energy East pipeline.