TransCanada set to file with NEB: What to watch for; and need to know

TransCanada should be filing their Energy East pipeline project with the National Energy Board soon. This quick starts an up to 18 month process where the Board reviews TransCanada’s pipeline application and gives a final recommendation to the federal Cabinet which then has 180 days to make a final decision.

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Energy East pipeline which is all risk and no reward.

What to look for in TransCanada’s filing:

Energy East: Where oil meets water

Energy East would cross at least 90 watersheds and 961 waterways along its route. This includes drinking water sources, important fishing waters, historically significant rivers, and the Gulf of St Lawrence and Bay of Fundy.

Will TransCanada change course and recognize the heightened risks of a diluted bitumen spill in water?  What is the proposed spacing between valves along the route? Enbridge’s Line 9 was recently delayed because the company only had valves within 1km of both sides at 6 of the 104 Major Water Crossings, as required by regulations. How will TransCanada classify which waterways are ‘major’? Will they provide this list?

Pipeline safety:

TransCanada will have a lot to say in media about why they are the best and safest company for transporting crude. They won’t mention their 4 pipeline leaks in the past year. They won’t mention that only one of the 9 incidents on TransCanada’s mainline pipeline system (one of these pipelines is slated for conversion) was discovered by remote sensors. The others were found by a police officer, TransCanada staff and passer-by’s. One rupture took up to 6 hours to completely shut off the supply of natural gas.

Will TransCanada come to its senses and recognize that converting an up to 40 year old natural gas pipeline to carry diluted bitumen is a recipe for disaster (highly unlikely seeing as converting the pipeline instead of building a new pipeline saves them over 5 billion dollars)?  Will TransCanada commit to hydrostatic testing the full pipeline length?

Filling out the gaps in their pre-application:

TransCanada’s pre-application had a number of gaps. For example, the text and list of waterways doesn’t recognize that the pipeline crosses a tributary of Trout Lake, the drinking water source of 55,000 North Bay residents. This has been the source of considerable opposition led by local residents, volunteering their time. Nor does it recognize that the pipeline runs alongside Falcon Lake and High Lake which drains into Shoal Lake, the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water. The threat to Shoal Lake is a source of serious concern and opposition from members of First Nation’s whose land the pipeline crosses. Elder Nancy Morrison from Onigaming living near Kenora recently disrupted a TransCanada open house in  Kenora over concerns with the pipeline. 

Will TransCanada respect Free Prior and Informed Consent as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? This means recognizing no means no.

Predictably, TransCanada had no mention of the upstream impacts of their project in their pre-application when it comes to tar sands expansion and climate pollution (but they are more than happy to talk about the jobs it could generate). I expect this to stay the same.  The National Energy Board (NEB) wants to let them get away with this. Despite logic and good sense, the NEB refuses to recognize the climate pollution impacts of pipelines in their reviews, suggesting it is outside the scope of their mandate. This is the source of considerable criticism and is being challenged in Court.   Send a message here to the NEB calling for a fair review of the Energy East pipeline.

Challenging TransCanada’s spin:

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs?

TransCanada will trumpet Energy East as creating over 10,000 job. They will fail to highlight that, after 4 years, their own report indicates there will be only 1087 long-term jobs. They won’t recognize the conflicting report by the Goodman group released by Equiterre and Greenpeace Canada finding that Energy East would provide few (if any) benefits for Quebec, "but would expose Quebec to substantial risks, costs, and negative environmental impacts."

Bear in mind TransCanada’s track record on jobs. The Cornell Labour Institute has provided evidence that their Keystone XL job promises were seriously overblown. While TransCanada had referred to 20,000 jobs generated, even President Obama now talks about 50 to 100 long-term jobs. Conversely, investments in transit, energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy have far greater potential for generating jobs.

Nation-builder? Energy Export East pipeline

I expect TransCanada to continue to pitch the pipeline as a ‘nation-builder.’ With a little bit of prying, this position falls apart as quickly as a house of cards. This argument plays on the patriotic notion that that the pipeline will provide Atlantic Canadians with Canadian oil.

This simply isn’t accurate – and they know it. The three refineries along the Energy East path have limited capacity to accept the crude. Up to 1 million of the 1.1 million barrels to be shipped daily is expected for export, unrefined.   Meanwhile, Atlantic Canada is now supplied primarily by imports from the U.S. and Atlantic sources, not from so-called ‘foreign countries’ that TransCanada is so eager to displace.

Energy East is a nation-builder, just not for the reasons TransCanada claims. It is uniting people in their opposition to further expansion in the tar sands, to the risks along the route, and for better alternatives.

Find out more about our campaign and upcoming Atlantic Canada tour.