Home Again from Energy East

It’s good to be home. Thanks to everyone who wrote to me to show support and send their good wishes as we entered Day 1 of the National Energy Board’s public sessions on the Energy East pipeline.A couple people wrote to ask if pipelines like Energy East were really so bad – what about the dangers of carrying oil by rail, or would the pipeline result in less oil being imported?We decided to put these questions to TransCanada. The response Emma Hebb, Chair of the Atlantic Canada Chapter, received will not reassure those who think this pipeline will reduce the amount of oil being shipped by rail car or oil imported into Atlantic Canada.  TransCanada told us they have no commitments to divert oil from these pathways. Rather, they said, “market forces” would determine if the oil would go in the pipe or in a rail car. Similarly, there is no firm commitment that the oil in the pipe would be refined at the refinery in Saint John, thus decreasing the need for imported oil. In fact, the section of pipe that would carry any oil to the Saint John refinery is not even part of the maps drawn up for the assessment.Almost three decades of climate inaction and industry-fed climate denial has shown that leaving environmental protection to “market forces” is simply not going to work. Essentially, there is no reason to believe that this oil will displace any of the oil being shipped around the continent. And a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives by energy expert, Dr. David Hughes, shows that there is no economic case for a new pipeline if we are serious about our climate commitments.We also asked about impacts of an oil spill on the watersheds that supply New Brunswickers with drinking water and the tidal waters of the Bay of Fundy, and whether the company had considered the fact that spills of bitumen are harder to clean up because the oil sinks and is sticky. We heard that no special considerations have been taken to address these issues and, most importantly, a spill was so unlikely we should feel these places are safe from spills.As we said in our press release yesterday, the NEB Panel is going to have their work cut out for them.But there is much more to share than simply the proceedings in the Hearings themselves.Ron Tremblay, Grand Chief of the Wolastoqewi Kci-putuwosuwinuwok (Maliseet Grand Council) spoke at a press conference about the history of the place where we stood, on the banks of the Wolostok (Saint John) River. He told us the people who lived there were called Wolastoqiyik meaning “People of the Bountiful and Good River.” He said his heart went out to the people of Saskatchewan who were experiencing a pipeline spill now, and said it was too big a risk for the rivers and lakes in this region, where his people have lived, hunted and fished for thousands of years.Residents of Red Head / Anthony’s Cove made powerful presentations. Some of them live right next to where twenty-two, six-story high storage tanks are to be built. They are concerned about explosions, fires, and spills from the tanks – catastrophes for which TransCanada has not yet developed emergency response plans. With one road in and one road out, no wonder they are worried. Lynaya Astephen,leader of the Red Head / Anthony’s Cove Preservation Society, spoke eloquently about how the beauty, peace of her property would be destroyed forever by the project, and how there should be a right to a safe and healthy environment. Others spoke of the danger to water wells from contamination from the tanks.What I also experienced was the support and camaraderie of those citizens and groups who are bringing their expertise, experiences, and courage to these hearings. The well-respected leader of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick – the province’s largest environmental group – Lois Corbett, patting the arm of a resident from the community before she addressed the rows of TransCanada representatives, saying, “just breathe” is but a small glimpse of this.Meantime, as the National Energy Board Panel travels to communities along the pipeline route, I encourage you to attend, and observe deliberations about a project that will affect all of our futures. I encourage you to provide us with information you have about how this pipeline will affect you, concerns you have, and the places you love, so we can incorporate these things in our submissions.  And finally, please remember, that for the residents of Red Head, Anthony’s Cove, and other communities of the Bay of Fundy being asked to accept 1.1 million barrels of oil per day oil from this pipeline, this is their home. It should be good to be home. Gretchen Fitzgerald – National Program DirectorSierra Club Canada Foundation P.S.: Any donation you can make to help support these urgent efforts to stop this harmful pipeline are most gratefully accepted! Thank you.