TransCanada's decision on Cacouna port could mean intensified fight in New Brunswick

Red Head
The front-line community of Red Head on the Bay of Fundy.


A new battle could be brewing against the Energy East pipeline in New Brunswick.

The Financial Post reports, "Businesses in New Brunswick are cheering the prospect their province could be the only export point for crude oil transported through the proposed Energy East pipeline amid reports that TransCanada Corp. has cancelled plans for its Cacouna marine terminal in Quebec."

There are still a number questions that the companies and authorities involved have not answered:

  • "TransCanada would not confirm it had abandoned plans for the terminal and would not say whether it might build another terminal elsewhere in Quebec. Company spokesperson Tim Duboyce said the company would provide an update on Cacouna this week."
     
  • "Roughly 25 million tonnes of petroleum products – the equivalent of 179 million barrels of oil – pass through Saint John every year. Jim Quinn, the port authority’s president and CEO, wouldn’t put a number on how Energy East would add to those shipments, but he said the boost would be significant."
     
  • "TransCanada and Saint John-based Irving Oil are joint-venture partners on the Canaport Energy East Terminal, which will be built as part of the pipeline project. TransCanada would not say whether it would increase the planned size of the Canaport terminal if it cancelled its plans at Cacouna. Irving Oil did not respond to a request for comment."

As referenced in that last point, we do know the plan is to build a major tar sands export terminal on the Bay of Fundy.

In August 2013, Global News reported, "Irving Oil says it plans to build a $300-million marine terminal in Saint John, N.B., following an announcement from TransCanada Corp. that it has decided to proceed with its Energy East Pipeline project. The private New Brunswick company issued a statement saying the Canaport Energy East Marine Terminal at its refinery in Saint John would handle crude oil flowing from western Canada and export it to world markets."

What could this mean?

The Financial Post has reported about 100 crude carriers a year currently bring oil to the Irving deep water port in Saint John, New Brunswick. And the Globe and Mail has noted, "[St. Andrew-based Matt] Abbott, who works with the NBCC Action, the advocacy arm of the New Brunswick Conservation Council, [says] the tanker traffic is already disrupting whales and other marine mammals, and a double or tripling of traffic [with the Energy East pipeline] will only make matters worse. He also worries about tanker accidents and pipeline spills into spawning rivers that feed the bay."

The Bay of Fundy is a summer home for the North Atlantic right whale, who are among the most endangered whales in the world. The bay also provides an important "nursery" where the calves are raised. The top threats faced by right whales include ship strikes, low-frequency ship noise (that can cause them chronic physiological stress) and climate change which can diminish the availability of food in the oceans for them. About a dozen years ago Irving Oil rerouted their shipping lanes to reduce the risk of collision, but increased shipping and associated factors clearly pose risks.

And we know that there is growing opposition to Energy East in the Red Head community of Saint John, the front-line community where the pipeline would meet the ocean.

The Red Head Anthony's Cove Preservation Association explains, "Our association is dedicated to preserving the nature and quality of life for all current and future residents of Red Head, and to protecting our air, land, and the Bay of Fundy in solidarity with all other groups who oppose the Energy East pipeline."

In response, they are organizing a march to "the end of the line" on May 30 starting at 1 pm. They state, "We hope this walk will be huge and show that we oppose the Energy East pipeline. We want 'Big Oil' to realize that there are better options for Canada than tar sands and destroying our oceans, our forests, our air, and our quality of life. We already have pipelines and do not want any more. This is an open invitation to all groups who are interested in seeing and saving the beautiful area that is 'the end of the line' for Energy East."

The Council of Canadians is supporting this mobilization.

Fredericton-based Council of Canadians Energy East New Brunswick campaigner Mark D'Arcy highlights, "Red Head, New Brunswick is ground zero for the proposed Energy East pipeline. This community lies just east of Saint John and boasts a series of beautiful, scallop-shaped coves along the Bay of Fundy. This pristine backdrop is the final destination for the 4400-km export pipeline from Alberta tar sands, where it will be delivered to a proposed 18-tank storage facility ('tank farm'), and a marine terminal for oil supertankers." And Ottawa-based Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue has noted, "The spectre of a spill and volatile organic compounds making it into their air is a growing concern."

For more information about the May 30 march in Saint John, please click here.

Further reading
Council of Canadians stands with Red Head residents opposed to the Energy East pipeline (November 2014 blog)
Tour warns Bay of Fundy residents of Energy East pipeline tanker traffic threat (October 2014 blog)
As Council tour warns of oil spill dispersants, Harper set to loosen the rules on their use (October 2014 blog)
The Energy East pipeline and tanker traffic on the East Coast (December 2013 blog)

By Brent Patterson, Political Director, the Council of Canadians


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