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Saint John chapter warns legislative committee about health impacts of Energy East project

Dr. Paula Tippett

CHSJ reports, “Dr. Paula Tippett with the Council of Canadians in Saint John recently addressed members of the select committee on climate change with her concerns surrounding the Energy East Pipeline.”

Dr. Tippett is a retired family doctor from Saint John. She has a BSc. from McGill, an M.D. from Dalhousie University, and a Masters in Public Health (Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences) from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She practiced family medicine in east Saint John for over 25 years.

In April, a Government of New Brunswick media release stated, “A select committee of the legislative assembly is being established to develop a stronger New Brunswick response to climate change. …The all-party committee is charged with consulting the public and interested stakeholders on options to strengthen New Brunswick’s response to climate change.” The provincial minister of the environment has commented, “Through this select committee, we will foster dialogue on how we can seize the opportunities that come along with fighting climate change and address its impacts in a way that respects New Brunswick’s distinct economic challenges and opportunities.”

The CHSJ article highlights, “Tippett says hazardous air pollutants from oil and gas pipelines are unexpectedly high, which can cause problems for people in Saint John. If the tank farm and marine terminal are built, Tippett says it will increase premature deaths in Saint John and especially for those 65 years and older.”

If the Energy East project were to proceed, it would include the construction of an Irving Oil tank farm and export terminal in Saint John. The oil storage tank farm would be capable of holding 7.8 million barrels of bitumen and the deep water marine terminal on the Bay of Fundy would be capable of loading about 115 supertankers a year.

The Globe and Mail has reported, “Vapours can escape during ship loading when fuels are briefly exposed to open air.” Those vapours include volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs, such as the cancer-causing benzene and toluene. “Irving Oil records reviewed by Reuters show the vapour recovery equipment at the [existing] terminal on the edge of [Saint John] was shut 37 per cent of the time between December 2012 and March 2015 due to near-constant mechanical problems, as millions of barrels of gasoline were loaded onto ships mainly bound for New England.”

The Energy East project would represent a dramatic increase in the amount of VOCs that could escape during the ship loading process.

Dr. Ken Froese has also highlighted, “The human health assessments for the Energy East project are limited in scope. TransCanada evaluates only a subset of compounds people may be exposed to and fails to adequately explain why certain reference guidelines were chosen from one jurisdiction over another.” His Environmental Health in Red Head: The Energy East Project report found that the risks from benzene emissions may be understated, that worst-case scenarios were not accounted for, and that there was minimal discussion of the impact of odours from the proposed infrastructure.

The CHSJ article concludes, “Tippett says the provincial government needs a concrete plan to convert everything possible in New Brunswick to renewable energy as soon as possible. She says Canada is rich in wind, water, solar and tidal power, which we should be using to provide for our own energy needs. Tippett says we need to do whatever we can to stop the Energy East Pipeline from happening.”

The committee is expected to publish its report on October 14.

For more on our campaign to stop the Energy East pipeline, please click here.