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TransCanada bird study “either incompetence or intellectual fraud”

In an article in today’s Le Devoir newspaper,  a bird biologist makes a scathing assessment of TransCanada’s impact assessment on seabirds in the St Lawrence River area near their proposed Energy East pipeline’s export terminal at Cacouna. Read the article in French at this link or read the Google translation of the article to English below.

TransCanada study judged inacceptable

Although the oil port of Cacouna is located in the heart of a very important area for seabirds, impact assessment for these many species was downright sloppy, says an avian biologist.

Documents filed by TransCanada with the National Energy Board (NEB) conclude that the construction and operation of the export port will not have significant effects on birds that depend on the marine habitat, coastal areas and the Cacouna area islands.

Professor Jean-François Giroux, Department of Biological Sciences at UQAM, said however, that this conclusion “is at least premature, if not unfounded.” “The incomplete data provided by the company to the National Energy Board is either incompetence or intellectual fraud”, he says in an analysis sent to Le Devoir. “Whatever the reason, it is legitimate to question the quality of information” transmitted to the ONE earlier this fall.

The article continues:

Mr. Giroux points out in particular that the 2013 bird inventories TransCanada did along the shore and at sea were carried out in November. At that time of year, the vast majority of species normally present in the region have already migrated.

…In July and August, there are also clusters of more than 10,000 scoters (diving ducks) molting, resting and feeding both upstream and downstream of Cacouna. “These birds had finished moulting and had migrated to their wintering grounds in the south when TransCanada completed its inventory,” says the biologist.

A computerized data bank of Quebec seabirds indicates that more than 18,000 birds nest in the spring on islands within 15 km of the site planned for the oil export port. These areas provide habitat for several species that had already left the area at the time of the inventories.

Oiled Birds

Jean-François Giroux also argues that there is no infrastructure in Quebec that would be able to handle the many seabirds that are oiled because of an oil spill.

“The capture of oiled birds is a very complex operation that becomes an additional source of stress for these animals” further underlines the scientist. Cleaning of oiled birds is often only intended to give good conscience to polluters, as the subsequent survival of rehabilitated and released birds is generally very low.

According to a report on the “spill scenarios” produced for TransCanada and obtained by Le Devoir, an oil spill in Cacouna could contaminate more than 100 kilometers of coastline along the south shore of the St. Lawrence, and in just five days. And any cleaning operation would be very complicated in the presence of ice.

“There is no measure of remediation that can recreate natural environments such as those used by the birds that frequent the estuary of the St. Lawrence,” said Giroux. For him, the conclusion is clear: “The only way to prevent the impact of oil spills is to reduce risk by not building an oil terminal at Gros Cacouna or elsewhere in Quebec.”

The article concludes:

For now, the only place proposed by TransCanada to build the export port remains Cacouna. Of their total 27 registered lobbyists in  Quebec, 14 have a mandate related to the construction of the port.