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St. Lawrence mayors oppose Energy East plan for 175 tar sands tankers a year on their river

Whale watching on the St. Lawrence River near Tadoussac. Photo by Croisieres AML.

Whale watching on the St. Lawrence River near Tadoussac. Photo by Croisieres AML.

Mayors on the St. Lawrence River are beginning to speak against the Energy East pipeline saying it will provide only a few jobs and endanger their valuable tourism economy.

TransCanada is proposing that supertankers would transport bitumen on the St. Lawrence about 175 times a year. It would be carried by Suezmax supertankers which are typically 50 metres wide (equivalent to a building 15 storeys high) and 285 metres in length (86 storeys). This type of supertanker carries about 800,000 to more than 1,000,000 barrels of bitumen.

The Globe and Mail reports, “For a number of regional lawmakers and business people in communities bordering the St. Lawrence River, the project represents the possible destruction of their economic lifeblood: tourism. They simply don’t believe the benefit projections from TransCanada. And they fear one small spill from the tanker ships slated to carry the crude for export will wipe out decades of effort they’ve spent luring visitors to their nature-rich regions.”

Tadoussac mayor Hugues Tremblay says, “Water is our life. And I have serious concerns about what this project will mean for our local economy. Those accidents in the Gulf of Mexico and with Japan’s nuclear reactors weren’t supposed to happen but they did. We’re not insulated from a mishap either.” Saint-Siméon mayor Sylvain Tremblay says, “We’re on our knees for what probably amounts to about 20 or so jobs. We’re being asked to pay the price so people somewhere in the rest of Canada might make more money.”

In reference to the tar sands tankers now leaving Sorel-Tracy west of Cacouna, a dozen municipalities along the river have said they do not have the capacity to deal with an oil spill.

The newspaper explains, “Under TransCanada’s project description filed to the National Energy Board, the pipeline would link to a newly planned marine export terminal and storage facility at the port of Gros-Cacouna near Rivière-du-Loup. The site is just across the river from the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, a national marine conservation area known for its colony of beluga whales. A study cited by the company in its filing found the belugas, an endangered species, have 28 areas of so-called high-residency’ in the St. Lawrence, including one area next to the proposed Cacouna terminal site considered a key calving spot.”

“Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberal government has said Calgary-based TransCanada has work to do to win its approval for the plan.” In October, Parti Québécois MNAs Pascal Bérubé, Martine Ouellet and Harold Lebel, and Québec solidaire MNA Françoise David marched with thousands in Cacouna against the proposed oil terminal on the St. Lawrence River.

An online petition calling for a permanent ban on “all work in the critical habitat for beluga whales” has now collected 47,544 signatures.

The Council of Canadians stands in full solidarity with this demand. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “To protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River we must ban all transport of tar sands bitumen on, under and near the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.”

We call on the Harper government to respect the Species at Risk Act and declare the St. Lawrence Estuary a protected zone.

We also expect this issue will be discussed by mayors and city officials at the next Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities annual meeting in Sarnia, Ontario this coming June.

Further reading
Liberals, Conservatives support support Energy East oil terminal on the St. Lawrence River (October 22 blog)
Thousands march against Energy East pipeline in Quebec (October 12 blog)
Council of Canadians writes UNESCO to stop tar sands tankers on the St. Lawrence River (October 24 blog)
Mr. Harper’s tar sands export agenda vs. whales (October 10 blog)
Will Harper fail to protect whales for the Energy East pipeline? (April 22 blog)