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Thunder Bay chapter disappointed by City Council vote to back Energy East pipeline

The Thunder Bay chapter will continue to moibilize to stop the Energy East pipeline.

The Council of Canadians Thunder Bay chapter is expressing disappointment that its City Council has voted to endorse the Energy East tar sands pipeline.

TBNewsWatch reports, “After three hours of debate Monday night council voted in favour of a motion calling on the National Energy Board to green light the TransCanada Pipelines project…”

The news article highlights, “The approval was met with opposition by councillors Paul Pugh, Shelby Ch’ng and mayor Keith Hobbs. In August 2015, Pugh had brought forward a motion calling on his council colleagues to ‘communicate its opposition to the development of the proposed Energy East pipeline’.”

Chapter activist Ruth Cook says, “We are extremely disappointed with Council’s rejection of our request for them to take a leadership stance on the issue of climate change. They have been leaders in reducing carbon in City operations, adopting a Climate Adaption Plan, and developing ‘climate ready’ infrastructure. We hoped that they were ready to extend their leadership to a broader level, but industry won out.  It seems that this council, with a few very notable exceptions, is willing only to place some conditions on their approval of the Energy East proposal, and to not ask the hard questions about the role of fossil fuels in our collective future. We are very disappointed, but this will not stop us from continuing our fight against the expansion of the tar sands.”

Cook highlights, “The mayor [Keith Hobbs] and two councillors [Paul Pugh, Shelby Ch’ng] who spoke in favor of the motion were quite inspiring; they showed the kind of understanding and thoughtfulness that we had hoped for from the rest, as well as the passion which underlies true leadership.” She notes that Councillor Andrew Foulds also spoke passionately about the need to move on climate change.

In an op-ed published in The Chronicle-Journal before the vote, Cook wrote, “In parts of Northwestern Ontario, there is a waterway of some sort every 500 metres; most of the area north of Thunder Bay has a waterway at least once every kilometre. These waterways are all interconnected, and are the lifeblood of the several aquifers which exist in this area. The Lake Superior Watershed pours its water into Lake Superior: a spill would threaten the drinking water of many citizens in our area and downstream. In total, the proposed Energy East pipeline threatens almost 3,000 lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers – the source of drinking water for over 5 million Canadians.”

The National Energy Board hearings into the Energy East pipeline were stopped in August 2016 following the scandal of two review panel commissioners privately having met with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, a paid consultant with TransCanada. In January 2017, the NEB officially appointed three new members to a panel to review the pipeline proposal. It has not been made public when the NEB hearings – in which The Council of Canadians is registered as an intervenor – will resume.

This past February, TransCanada told a Senate committee that it has long-term contracts from shippers and that it will proceed with its application despite forecasts of surplus pipeline capacity for the next ten years and questions over whether it can finance both the $5.4 billion Keystone XL and $15.7 billion Energy East pipelines.

While it had been expected that the National Energy Board would make its recommendation on Energy East by March 2018, with the federal government making its decision by September 2018, and the pipeline operational by 2020, it’s unclear now what that timeline might be. There is speculation that the NEB review would not be complete until early 2020 meaning 2022 could be the new target date for the pipeline to be operational.

The Council of Canadians formally announced its campaign against the Energy East pipeline in August 2013.