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Visiting Red Head, the ‘End of the Line’ for Energy East

Red Head Dr. Ken Froese, Lynaya Astephen

Dr. Ken Froese and Lynaya Astephen

I spent this morning touring the Red Head, Anthony’s Cove area where TransCanada’s proposing to build a massive oil storage tank ‘farm’ and export terminal for their Energy East project.

I was with Dr. Ken Froese, a human health risk assessment expert the Council of Canadians hired to review TransCanada’s assessment for this area, as submitted to the National Energy Board. We’ll be releasing Dr. Froese’s review tomorrow publicly – so stay tuned! Today, he and I took this tour and addressed a room full of Red Head residents on the conclusions of his report.

We began our tour at Lynaya Astephen’s home who graciously offered to show us around her community. Lynaya is a member of the Saint John Council of Canadians chapter and of the local Red Head Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association, both involved in challenging this 1.1 million barrels per day pipeline.

The impacts are close to home for Lynaya. Literally. The proposed tank ‘farm’ meant to hold 7.4 million barrels of oil, including diluted bitumen from the tar sands, would be located across the street from her home. Right now, she overlooks a field with some trees (we actually saw a deer running across the property) and the Bay of Fundy in the background.

View of Bay of FUndy from Anthony's Cove Rd

The property is primarily owned by the ever-present Irvings here. Her neighbour across the street would literally be beside the tank farm.

Lynaya is committed to fighting the project. She loves her home and community. While Saint John is an industrialized city (raising concerns about the health and environmental impacts of existing infrastructure), Red Head is a quick drive away, in a more rural area in between the City on one side and the existing LNG Caneport terminal on the other.

Like many residents in Red Head, Lynaya is concerned about the health impacts of the proposed infrastructure. Will the Irvings and TransCanada strictly follow regulations at the export terminal? Irving was recently in the news for their existing Caneport oil terminal where their vapour recovery unit (for capturing cancer-causing VOCs) worked only part of the time since 2012.

Then there is the question of what happens in a worst case scenario. A tank explodes or catches fire.  A spill from the pipeline feeding the tanks or bringing it to the export terminal. As we saw for ourselves, there is just one road, Red Head rd., an emergency could literally make residents capacity to evacuate near impossible. The same goes for Anthony’s Cove Rd., closer to the Bay of Fundy. The entire community has drinking water supplied from wells. Here, these wells are located downstream from the tanks.

It was also brought to our attention from another resident that these roads can be left inaccessible with heavy snowfall and have been known to flood.

We drove down Red Head Rd., towards it’s end, passing the Caneport LNG facility (unfortunately no photos allowed there), on the way to Mispec beach. Here we saw one side of the LNG terminal, the export terminal for Energy East would be located beside it.

Along the drive Lynaya pointed out the properties that the Irvings have bought and torn down homes on. Irving has already bought a home near Lynaya’s and there is certainly indications that the pressure to sell may increase.

Mispec beach

Suffice to say, witnessing the beauty of this areas helps me better understand the local groups slogan ‘ Red Head is Not for Sale.’

With the cancelling of the proposed port in Cacouna, Quebec due to widespread opposition, there will be more pressure on Red Head and Saint John residents.

As revealed during a recent community liaison committee with TransCandaa (these committee meetings are not open to the public, a source of much criticism) TransCanada plans to double the oil storage capacity at the same Red Head location from 7.6 million barrels to 13.2 million barrels. The tanks themselves will increase in number from 18 to 22, with the new tanks holding 600,000 barrels each, at the height of a 6 story building. This will be confirmed with TransCanada’s final filing with the National Energy Board, expected in the coming week. More on this, and Dr. Froese’s report soon.