It's about leadership. It's about duty. And it's about the upcoming municipal election.
Claudia Julien and Michel Hédou, both residents of Edmundston, New Brunswick, attended the City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 15th to ask about the steps that the Mayor and Councillors will be taking to protect the Iroquois-Blanchette watershed, the sole source of drinking water for the residents of Edmundston and the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation.
After the meeting, Claudia Julien, who is Métis, was cautiously optimistic. Claudia said she reminded Council of their duty to protect their drinking water, "I did commend them for working hard on this file and that my hopes were high for a resolution very soon. I reminded Council that stalling a resolution does put our city, it’s citizens, and our drinking water at risk with every day a declaration is not made. They told us that the resolution is drafted and they were working on the legal aspect so that there are no glitches. They moved the date for the next meeting to a week later, on the 26th instead of the 18th of April, and we think they might be planning a special meeting in between to vote and pass it before the end of their mandate."
The countdown begins. The municipal elections are held throughout New Brunswick on Monday, May 9th, 2016.
Michel also raised questions with Council about the new round of meetings with Energy East and he reminded Council about their promise of the resolution.
Questions have already been raised about the obligation of the Province of New Brunswick to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It turns out that the Province of New Brunswick has provided no help whatsoever to the City of Edmundston to assess the risk and impacts of Energy East to the Protected Watershed Areas of Iroquois River Watershed and Blanchette Brook Watershed. Claudia said, "The City has requested and asked several times for a response on the impacts to the Iroquois Watershed but there has been absolutely no response from the Province. The City has said it is up to the Province to do this but the City also knows it is their responsibility to make sure that happens."
The City of Edmundston has shown leadership on Energy East
To date, the City of Edmundston has shown tremendous leadership in investigating the risks with Energy East. At a special public meeting held by the City of Edmundston on February 11, 2016, Mayor Cyrille Simard and Environmental Coordinator Sébastien Duguay explained that the proposed Energy East pipeline crossed 10+ kilometres of the Protected Watershed Area that supplies the sole drinking water for both Edmundston and the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. They noted that the City of Edmundston had engineering surveys conducted back in 2007 that found there was no aquifer in the area that could serve as an alternative source of drinking water.
City of Edmundston's Environmental Coordinator, Sébastien Duguay, highlights the number of watercourses in their watershed that are proposed to be crossed by Energy East (Feb. 11, 2016)
Over 200 residents attended the Feb. 11th meeting, including Russ Letica of the Madawaska Malisseet First Nation. When given the opportunity to speak, Russ made it clear to the City of Edmundston what their duty was on this issue, "It is not acceptable to wake up tomorrow with no water in Madawaska First Nation and I don't think it is acceptable for you to wake up tomorrow with no water. It could take anywhere from two to six hours before they even know there is a problem. This pipeline is going 150 feet [40-60 metres] under this watershed. They have no idea how to clean it when it does happen. It crosses 200 bodies of water just in this province and they all connect. So it doesn't matter if it happens in Edmundston or Woodstock, everyone downstream is going to get it. Once again, it's almost improbable to think that we would even contemplate gambling with our drinking water."
The City of Edmundston has rejected the national campaign to support Energy East
Perhaps the most revealing exchange of the evening was when Claudia asked City Council about the push by Alberta Municipalities to ask their associations across Canada to get municipalities to write letters of support for Energy East. Word of this national campaign was reported in the media - 'Premier Rachel Notley rallies Alberta mayors in support of Energy East pipeline'
Claudia explained, "My question was, 'Does or has the city been asked to write a support letter by other municipalities?' The Mayor answered that they were approached, that there was some discussion about whether or not to support the pipeline, but that no support letter has been written. The Mayor did not mention who it was that made the request, the Municipalities Association or the Chamber of Commerce.
TransCanada's refusal to reroute the pipeline leaves the City of Edmundston no choice
The proposed Energy East pipeline crosses through 10km of the Iroquois-Blanchette Watershed in New Brunswick, a provincially-designated Protected Watershed Area. TransCanada has refused repeated requests by the City of Edmundston to reroute the proposed route of the Energy East pipeline around their watershed.
I wrote about this unacceptable situation in an earlier blog, 'TransCanada's pipeline plan for Edmundston N.B. has sprung a leak'. How is it possible for a tar sands pipeline to be routed through a Watershed Protected Area? How is it possible for a tar sands pipeline to be routed through the sole drinking water supply for a municipality and First Nation?
Residents like Claudia Julien and Michel Hédou will remain vigilant and wait for the City's resolution in April. Claudia reminded Council about their responsibility to the public, "The most important obligation of a politician is public safety. The city council and mayor have an obligation and a duty of care in the protection of the public and the citizens of their city. This includes providing and protecting my health, which includes my right to clean and safe drinking water. I must remind Council of the documented evidence and probability of an oil spill, and TransCanada has yet to come with a proper environmental impact assessment."
Claudia also spoke of the responsibility of the Province of New Brunswick, "The province also has the duty to protect and provide public safety for everyone. The current Energy East pipeline crossings include 2 protected watersheds for the city of Edmundston and the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. As such, the Watershed Protection Area and Designated Order under the Clean Water Act for NB when used as sources of water for the public water supply systems are designated as protected. That is what the law states.".
Stay tuned for April.
ACTION ITEM: We encourage citizens and groups to send an e-mail to the City Clerk of their own municipality and ask the following two questions: (1) We understand that the City of Edmundston was approached in early March 2016 to write a letter of support for Energy East. Was our own Council approached by any organization, such as a provincial association of municipalities or a Chamber of Commerce, to write a letter of support for Energy East?; and (2) Did our Council approve a letter of support for Energy East?
Map: TransCanada's proposed tar sands pipeline route through Edmundston's Iroquois River Watershed (City of Edmundston, Feb. 11, 2016)