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TransCanada responds to Council of Canadians critique of pipeline safety

Tim Duboyce

TransCanada’s Tim Duboyce.

In a letter to the editor recently published in the Regina Leader-Post, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow highlighted the dangers posed by TransCanada’s proposed 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East pipeline. She was responding to a Leader-Post editorial that argued Energy East would be safer than the oil by rail shipments.

Now Tim Duboyce, a Montreal-based spokesperson for TransCanada’s Energy East project, has taken issue with our arguments against the pipeline. He writes in the Leader-Post, “it is imperative I address some misleading statements” in Barlow’s letter to the editor.

But let’s go through Duboyce’s assertions and see how they stand up to scrutiny:

1- “Rail is a suitable and necessary means of getting oil to the places where it is needed.”

Reality check: According to U.S. data, rail incidents happened twice as often as pipeline spills during the period 2004 to 2012. And NBC has reported, “American oil trains spilled crude oil more often in 2014 than in any year since the federal government began collecting data on such incidents in 1975.”

2- “Pipelines are the safest, most efficient and most environmentally respectful way to move large quantities of oil over long distances.”

Reality check: The Harper government’s 2012 omnibus budget bill almost entirely wiped out environmental regulation in Canada. To streamline project approvals, the industry-friendly National Energy Board was put in charge of energy projects and final decision-making power was given to the cabinet.

3- “Pipelines are designed and built to respond to demand in the marketplace – generated by all of us.”

Reality check: The International Energy Agency has stated that two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. Investing in public transit, energy efficiency and renewable energy is an environmental imperative, but would also generate more jobs than pipeline and fossil-fuel development.

4- “The oil that Energy East will transport is already being produced – it will not spur a 40-per-cent increase in oil sands production, as the Council of Canadians claims.”

Reality check: A February 2014 Pembina Institute study report stated, “The volume of new oilsands production associated with the Energy East pipeline’s capacity would represent a 34 to 39% increase from current (2012) oilsands production levels.”

5- “If a problem does arise, [our skilled teams] shut the pipeline down in a matter of minutes.”

Reality check: A report commissioned by the Ontario Energy Board found that if TransCanada’s leak detection and shut down system worked perfectly, 22 minutes could elapse after a leak before pumping stops. At its full capacity of 1.1 million barrels per day, that means more than 2.6 million litres (16,400 barrels) of oil could be pumped out in addition to the ‘draindown’ of oil remaining in the pipeline.

Barlow will be speaking against the Energy East pipeline in Regina this spring. We’ll have more details on that soon.

For more about our campaign against Energy East, please click here. For our fact sheet Countering Energy East Pipeline Spin: Talking Points, click here.

Further reading
Energy East could leak 16,400 barrels per day for two weeks without detection (February 2015 blog)
Judge TransCanada by their explosive record (January 2015 blog by Mark Calzavara)
Whistleblower presents ‘bleak picture’ of TransCanada pipeline safety (June 2013 blog)