Pipeline debate flows through Saint John

31 10 2014
Two sides present alternative views on economic and environmental impacts
DERWIN GOWAN TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

SAINT JOHN • Brian Harris looked closely at the maps on the table at the Saint John Exhibition Association building late Thursday afternoon.   TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline would come within a few hundred metres of his 179-acre property, the Red Head resident noted.   “It looks as though it’s going to be right behind us,”he said in a brief interview at the company’s open house on the $12-billion pipeline project that the Calgary company filed with the National Energy Board on Thursday morning. “I don’t know what could happen if it sprung a leak up there.”   The TransCanada staffer on the other side of the table suggested that he talk with the company’s emergency response team.   The pipeline would pass over a high hill overlooking Harris’ property, on its way to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery and a proposed marine terminal, part of the project.   “This is almost the top of the mountain; of course, if you did have a rupture, it would drain down here,” he told the TransCanada employee.   Harris did not say precisely whether he supported the project. Like many others, he came looking for information and answers to questions.   Energy East is“better for the environment,” TransCanada spokesman Tim Duboyce from Montreal said in an interview in the exhibition hall. “It’s cheaper, it’s safer, it’s win-win for everybody.”   The project would bring bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to the refinery in Saint John, far safer than moving it by train, he said.   A dozen or so members of the Council of Canadians holding protest signs outside begged to differ.   “It doesn’t make any sense, keep on polluting our city and shipping all this oil to China,” Elsy Mason from east Saint John said outside the open house. “It is not true they’re going to bring any jobs.”   “Clean” energy creates 15 jobs for every two from oil and gas,” Louise Melanson from Fredericton said. She does not believe this pipeline would reduce the volume of oil moving by rail. “Those trains are going to keep coming,”Melanson said.   She rejected Duboyce’s argument that moving bitumen by pipeline would reduce greenhouse gases – because train locomotive burn more fuel than the electrically powered pumping stations every 60 to 100 kilometres along the pipeline.   “We need to change our focus,” she said.   Irving Oil, which will partner with TransCanada in the development of the Canaport Energy East Marine Terminal, issued a statement on Thursday welcoming the news that TransCanada had filed the application with the NEB.   “We believe this project will benefit Canada’s overall industrial and business landscape, in addition to being good for Canadian producers, refiners and consumers,”Irving Oil refinery general manager Mark Sherman said in the statement.“We look forward to moving forward with our joint venture partner, TransCanada, and with other stakeholder to realize these benefits.”   Enterprise Saint John took a similar stance.   “The estimated impact of the project on the province is significant: 1,867 full-time equivalent jobs (annual average) during each year of the project development stage, along with an average annual increase to New Brunswick’s GDP of ap – proximately $195 million. It will also result in a new marine terminal. Enterprise Saint John believes today’s filing is a positive step in the progress of the Energy East Pipeline, moving toward increased prosperity for all New Brunswickers,” the agency said in a news release.   Colleen Mitchell, president of the Atlantica Centre for Energy, adopted a stance somewhere between the proponents inside and the protesters outside.   “This project will connect New Brunswick to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world,” she said in an interview.   “The point is to gather the information and the facts on energy projects,” she said.“Whether it’s a pipeline or it’s production, it’s important to gather the facts – not anecdotal information”   Mitchell said she also attended the meeting on Wednesday at which Council of Canadians national chairwoman Maude Barlow spoke. She came to TransCanada’s open house for the same reason, she said. Barlow stood with the protesters outside.   Mitchell did not fault Premier Brian Gallant for supporting Energy East while placing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to bring shale gas to the surface.   “We do support the premier’s approach on getting information, understanding energy developments and then plan a path forward,” she said.“We would not encourage people to protest before gathering the facts.”   The Saint John police escorted one man from the exhibition hall. He shouted protests as uniformed officers on each side led him to the door.   Most people turned their heads briefly while the majority of the protesters and the proponents treated each other respectfully.   TransCanada filed 30,000 pages with the NEB, and still has to complete a geotechnical report on the proposed marine terminal at Cacouna, Que., Duboyce said.   The proponents would convert a 3,000-kilometre natural gas pipeline from Alberta to Eastern Ontario to move oil, and lay a new 1,500-kilometre pipeline through Quebec and south to Saint John.   It would move 1.1 billion barrels of product per day to five end points: refineries in Montreal and Lévis, and a marine terminal at Cacouna in Quebec, and the refinery and a new shipping terminal in Saint John. Irving Oil and TransCanada would each have a half-interest and co-operate the marine terminal, Duboyce said.   The Council of Canadians mentioned the pipeline rupture of an En-bridge pipeline carrying bitumen into the Kalamazoo River, Mich., in 2010.   TransCanada has never had such an accident, Duboyce said.   “Once a pipeline is buried, it’s buried. It won’t change your life,” Duboyce said. “You can farm on top of a pipeline and people do. It does not negate the use of your land.   “It’s completely less disruptive than a new highway,” he said.   According to the maps at the open house, the pipeline would cross into New Brunswick north of Edmundston, cross the Tobique River, run north of Stanley and past McGivney, the head of Grand Lake between Minto and Chimpan, and Kennebecasis River east of Hampton and swing back to the eastern parts of Saint John, past Harris’ home.   TransCanada has already spoken to 5,500 landowners across the country, Duboyce said.   The NEB will take 15 months to process the application and make a recommendation to the federal government, Duboyce said. Construction would begin once the cabinet approves the project, he said. The company hopes to start moving bitumen through the pipeline by the end of 2018, he said.

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Gerald Pilon, left, describes the operation of a ‘PiG’ to Rick Sancton at an open house for information regarding the proposed transCanada pipeline on thursday evening. Photo: Michael Stringer/telegraPh-Journal

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