Winnipeg – Falcon Beach, Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake 39) and Shoal Lake 40 residents met near the proposed path of the controversial Energy East pipeline with the Council of Canadians and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition at Falcon Beach, Manitoba today (see photo). At the public meeting local residents voiced concerns over Energy East pipeline risks for Falcon and Shoal Lake, following a town hall yesterday in Winnipeg.
A pipeline spill would be devastating in the area, near Whiteshell Provincial Park, which is important to local cottagers and would flow via Falcon River into Shoal Lake.
“With 1.1 million barrels a day of bitumen flowing from the oil sands through our Treaty territory, the risk to the environment resulting from a pipeline rupture or leak is significantly high, especially when Energy East is proposing to use old pipeline infrastructure,” shared Fred Greene, consultations officer with Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake 39). “With water supply sources located in the Falcon and Shoal Lake areas, a bitumen-based spill would be hard to clean up and cause much damage to the land and the ecosystem. I don't see how Energy East is going to contribute long-term to a sustainable economy in our region.”
Greene joined local residents and Shoal Lake 40 members at the information session this afternoon. TransCanada’s project would see an existing, old natural gas pipeline in the area converted to carry oil as part of a plan to get oil from the Prairies to a new deep sea Bay of Fundy port in Saint John, New Brunswick, primarily for export. The controversial pipeline cuts through the Shoal Lake watershed, including alongside Falcon Lake where a spill could contaminate the lake and spread to Shoal Lake.
“We all depend on the Shoal Lake watershed and we all need to be concerned about the serious impacts a spill from Energy East threatens to have here,” said Chief Irwin Redsky of Shoal Lake 40. Daryl Redsky, consultations officer with Shoal Lake 40, was also in attendance.
The proposed 1.1 million barrel-per-day multi-use oil pipeline would include diluted bitumen produced in the Alberta tar sands. In July 2010, an Enbridge pipeline spilled 3.8 million litres of diluted bitumen in the Kalamazoo River, which sank to the riverbed. More than five years later, and with over $1 billion spent, submerged oil still remains in the river.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently released the most comprehensive analysis to date of diluted bitumen spills. The study confirms diluted bitumen sinks in water, making it extremely difficult to clean up. It further finds spill responders are poorly equipped to deal with the unique challenges of these spills.
“This is a beautiful area. It is hard to fathom an up to 40-year-old pipeline transporting diluted bitumen here,” said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “There are thousands of waterways along Energy East’s path, including drinking water sources. The sheer size of this pipeline means any spill threatens to be the largest in Canadian history – this is just too risky.”
Based on TransCanada’s Canadian track record of pipeline ruptures, Energy East has a 15 per cent chance of a full bore rupture somewhere along its length every year. TransCanada’s leak detection system can’t pick up leaks smaller than 1.5 per cent of pipeline’s capacity. This means up to 2.62 million litres of oil could spill daily without TransCanada even knowing. In just 48 hours this could cause the worst oil spill in Canadian history.
“This pipeline will generate few long-term jobs while locking us into more tar sands production, which is incompatible with doing our fair share on climate change. All while putting our waterways at unacceptable risk,” commented Alex Paterson, with the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, also present for today’s Falcon Beach information session. “The Trudeau government needs to stop waffling and plan for a shift to support impacted oil workers and their families while prioritizing investments in sustainable solutions and generating good green jobs.”