It is only one page but the words left no doubt in the reader's mind. TransCanada's Energy East pipeline would be a real threat to the sole drinking water supply of the City of Edmundston and Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. And there was no backup. (see text at the end of this blog + French document)
This draft resolution of the City of Edmundston was leaked last week to the public, prompting the Mayor and Council to release the document at their last Council meeting on January 19th. Both French and English copies were made available. The document proposes that the Council ask TransCanada to fund the "identification of a new water supply" and "the construction of a water treatment facility for the community". This treatment system would be for the alternative supply of drinking water to residents in case there is a tar sands bitumen spill in the Iroquois River Watershed, the sole drinking water supply for both Edmundston and Madawaska Maliseet First Nation.
"The draft resolution leaked certainly opened up the eyes of the public that Council did not have their water protected," explained Michel Hédou of Edmundston. "In reality, the water is still in danger with the proposed pipeline route. I believe there will be a lot of people at the City's meeting [on the 11th]."
"There is growing concern in the pipeline in Edmundston," added Eric Levesque of Edmundston. "Just with media and Facebook, the population is getting behind [the movement] against the pipeline. It is no longer a question of pipeline, but a question of water."
The Mayor has responded by the public outcry by calling on a large public meeting on Thursday, February 11th, with microphones set up in the audience for a question and answer with simultaneous translation. The public meeting is scheduled for 7:00pm at the Convention Centre, 74 Canada Street, Edmundston.
Feb 11 - Session d'info municipale sur l'oléoduc - Municipal info session on the pipeline project
Maps and documents detail the scope of the danger
A picture is worth a 1000 words. 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?
(page 2 of 9) IROQUOIS RIVER - Energy East Pipeline crossing, Depth To Bedrock Mapping (TransCanada, filed Dec. 17, 2015)
Edmundston's history with TransCanada's Energy East project goes back to 2013
TransCanada's plans have been a constant worry for the area's residents and politicians since plans were introduced back in 2013. In September 2013, Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard wrote an editorial entitled "Not in my backyard". In December 2013, TransCanada promised to move the pipeline over four kilometres away from its original route. In November 2014, Council of Canadians's Maude Barlow held an Energy East forum in Edmundston, bringing with her speakers from Bold Nebraska and Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
TransCanada submitted a spill analysis report to the National Energy Board on March 2015. On page 14, it states that "The pipeline crosses the Iroquois River watershed northwest of the City of Edmundston. If a spill were to occur, crude oil has the potential to flow into Iroquois River or the East Branch of Iroquois River and, eventually, into the Saint John River." and "In total, there are 7.06 km of pipe where, in the unlikely event of a release, crude oil potentially could enter tributaries associated with the Iroquois River Protected Watershed."
It is noteworthy that TransCanada's all the calculations for the spill analysis were for Bakken shale oil, not diluted bitumen. The distinction is important. Diluted bitumen is more difficult to clean up, and when it spills in water it will offgas and form tarballs which eventually sink and stick to the bottom of the river or stream. Cleanup is very difficult and very expensive.
More leaks in the public trust and acceptance of TransCanada's Energy East
It has been an incredible week for building a wall of opposition against Energy East. First Edmundston, then Montreal Mayors representing almost 4 million Quebec residents came out against Energy East, and then the U.S. powerhouse Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) turned its attention to Energy East after the successful campaign to stop Keystone XL. NRDC believes that this pipeline should be called Keystone East, since most of the oil carried in the pipeline will not be processed here in Canada, but rather pumped into supertankers and shipped down the U.S. east coast to refineries in New Jersey, Louisiana, and Texas. It would appear that TransCanada is now counting on Energy East to replace some of their capacity lost with the cancellation of Keystone XL.
The reasons cited by Montreal Mayors should be of major concern to New Brunswick Mayors
Last week's announcement by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and 6 other regional Mayors brings the total to 340 municipalities in Quebec that have now officially opposed the risks presented by Energy East. After extensive expert and public consultation, Montreal Mayor Coderre explained the two mains reasons for their decision in a Montreal Gazette Editorial entitled "Why Montreal says no to the Energy East pipeline":
(1) "The planned route of Energy East crosses several major rivers, including the Ottawa River, the Rivière des Mille Îles, the Rivière des Prairies and the Rivière L’Assomption. In case of a leakage incident, the drinking water intakes of several Greater Montreal municipalities could be threatened. I wish to emphasize that the cost of a major spill in the Metropolitan Montreal region could reach $10 billion."
(2) "In a context where the Earth’s nations are talking about even more restrictive measures to limit GHG emissions, we cannot justify the construction of a pipeline that also delivers more risks than real profits."
Council of Canadians is very supportive of the Montreal Mayors' strong defence of their drinking water.
The risks in New Brunswick are no different. Energy East would transport oil including diluted bitumen originating in the tar sands and cross New Brunswick waterways 281 times, including major tributaries to the St. John River such as the Madawaska, Tobique, Canaan and Kennebecasis Rivers. And the end of the line for Energy East is proposed at a large tank farm and marine terminal at Red Head, New Brunswick, where most of the tar sands would be exported. Each supertanker that travels through the Bay of Fundy to foreign refineries would only promote more growth in the tar sands. If our Mayors are concerned about our energy security and our climate future, they should oppose Energy East.
"It may be that the Gallant government is for it but the people are against it," says Garry Guild from the Council of Canadians - Fredericton chapter. "Take Edmundston. Here is a New Brunswick municipality saying "No". This will let Quebec know that there are other communities supporting them. I think it is great to have a Francophone voice outside Quebec."
Voters will be looking for progressive candidates
With municipal elections on May 9th throughout the Province of New Brunswick, the public concern in Edmundston will likely set off a domino effect down the Saint John River of municipalities' concern about the drinking water impacts of Energy East. Candidates for Mayor and Councillors in these other communities should be proactive and publicly address all risks posed by the proposed route of the Energy East pipeline through their watersheds.
A recent poll conducted by Climate Action Network Canada found 60.7% of people in the Maritimes oppose Energy East while 27.7% support it. Nationally, 47% oppose and 40% support the pipeline.
When asked about what will come of the opposition by the Montreal mayors, Michel adds, "I believe it shows the mayors here in New Brunswick that they have to get together. Together they will have an impact and will be listened to by the public."
Take action to stop regulatory reviews for pipeline projects
And concerned residents should be asking for an overhaul of the broken regulatory process left by the previous Stephen Harper government. The Council of Canadians is demanding that the Trudeau government halt the NEB reviews, launch an immediate public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes, and implement a new process to ensure all proposed projects include consultation with First Nations governments, and that projects are assessed on the basis of their individual and cumulative impacts, their upstream and downstream climate pollution, among other actions.
APPENDIX: FULL TEXT OF DRAFT RESOLUTION, CITY OF EDMUNDSTON
"Draft of resolution
During the fall of 2014, TransCanada filed its Energy East project to the National Energy Board aimed at converting almost 3000 km of gas pipeline and building a new 1600 km long oil pipeline.
With the proposed installations, the company would be able to bring 1.1 million barrels of crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern Canadian refineries.
TransCanada's Energy East project is of particular concern to the Edmundston City Council since the proposed route for the oil pipeline goes through the Iroquois-Blanchette watershed, which is the City of Edmundston's and the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation's source of drinkable water. Past incidents linked to oil pipelines make it such that the City of Edmundston must exercise extreme caution on this issue.
Whereas the role of the municipal organization is to protect the interests of the population, in particular the common interest tied to the protection of our drinking water, and
Whereas despite all the precautions proposed by the company, zero risk cannot be guaranteed, and
Whereas the contamination of our drinkable water supply would have a disastrous impact on the health of our citizens and on our economy on a short, medium and long term basis, and
Whereas a study done in 2007 concluded that there is no other underground water supply available within city limits and the surrounding area, and
Whereas, an alternative solution to our current drinking water supply cannot be improvised and that a contamination would bring on important construction and operational costs on the long term, as well as other direct and indirect related costs,
Be it resolved that the City of Edmundston require that the TransCanada route proposal within our watershed include not only control and short term decontamination measures in case of a spill, but also the identification of a new water supply, the construction of a water treatment facility for the community as well as complete compensation for all operational costs related to this facility and any direct and indirect costs, of any nature incurred by the presence of this installation in our watershed, failing which the route will have to completely circumvent our watershed."