There will be a public forum held tonight in Cornwall, the final stop of the Energy East: Our Risk – Their Reward six community tour. The event, part of a series of forums and meetings along the Energy East pipeline route coordinated by the Council of Canadians alongside local partners, features Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow, Sabrina Bowman of Environmental Defence, and Andrea Harden-Donahue of the Council of Canadians.
Transporting 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, Energy East would be the largest oil pipeline in North America. The tour, happening during the Ontario Energy Board Consultations, brings to light a number of serious risks with this project.
“Almost all of the oil is expected to be exported, with benefits flowing to the oil industry,” says Barlow. “In Ontario, TransCanada will attempt to use a converted 40-year-old natural gas pipeline to carry tar sands oil, including diluted bitumen, over some of the provinces most important waterways.”
Diluted bitumen, unlike conventional oil, has proven to sink when spilled in water, causing serious harm and making full clean up near impossible. The project would see new pipeline starting at the proposed Iroquois pumping station, running as close as 2 km from the St. Lawrence near Cornwall.
“The pipeline is of both a local and national concern. Line 9 was the first tar sands pipeline to run near Cornwall and Energy East is the second. Nationally, this pipeline’s effect on climate change in Canada will be massive, equivalent to putting 7 million cars per year on the road,” adds Bowman.
Filling Energy East would help spur a 40% increase in tar sands production. Downstream First Nations are calling for an end to further expansion.
“Current production is large enough that 80 per cent of the traditional territories of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation are rendered inaccessible for periods of the year due to tar sands development. Not only do the tar sands put my communities’ culture and traditional way of life at risk for future generations, diluted bitumen shipped near Cornwall puts your land and water at risk,” adds Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Deranger spoke at earlier tour stops, a short film will be screened at tonight’s event in Cornwall describing her communities’ experiences living 200km downstream from the tar sands.
“We in Cornwall are only now emerging from an industrial past and have very recent experience with the difficulty of overcoming the toxic legacy of dirty industries in our communities,” says Susan Towndrow, a local Cornwall resident and organizer of the event. “Our reputation as an area of high pollution has been difficult to overcome, even after these industries closed and we were left with huge areas of contaminated, derelict lands. This pipeline proposal with its potential for massive oil leaks, like the one recently experienced in Kalamazoo Michigan, threatens our drinking water, our agricultural lands, our beautiful river that is the heart of our tourism industry and our very future.”