From the beginning of the hearings of the National Energy Board on Monday morning, the promoters of East Energy project tried to make reassuring about the safety of pipeline transport and the ability of the Alberta company to respond rapidly accidents.
“We are committed to delivering this oil responsibly and reliably, and our goal is the complete absence of incidents,” said the vice president of Energy East project for Quebec and New Brunswick, John Van der Put, the first of three days of hearings in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Van der Put told the three-member committee that studies Energy East that the project is “the safest and easiest environmentally responsible perspective” to transport western crude to the East. He argued that the developer, TransCanada (TSX: TRP), had already made more than 700 changes to the original route after consultations over the last three years with the communities that would be affected by the passage of the pipeline.
“We believe that the draft Energy East would serve the interests of the country, the province of New Brunswick and the City of Saint John,” said Van der Put.
Joel Richardson of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada, is also here to tell the hearings on Monday, a growing number of skilled workers fled the gloom of this economic sector in the West to return to New Brunswick, where they just waiting to find a good job.
“We believe that the East Energy project would contribute to the creation of direct and indirect employment for thousands of unemployed in New Brunswick […] and generate tax revenues that would help us pay for the health care, education and social services, “said Vice President of the Association for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Emma Hebb, the Sierra Club is not of this opinion. “We do not believe that this project would be in the best interest of the people because it involves investments in fossil fuel infrastructure, while the scientific data in favor of the abandonment of these resources as soon as possible” , she pleaded.
Lack of transparency
Furthermore, Mr Van der Put supported from the outset Monday that spills TransCanada would be able to deploy staff on site in three hours, and equipment in six hours. He also assured that TransCanada is developing an emergency plan to clean each section of the 4500 km route, to ensure that in case of accident such rapid intervention objectives would be achieved everywhere.
The Sierra Club and Nature Canada organization however questioned TransCanada’s actual capacity to intervene quickly in case of accident.
Garry Prosser, a citizen whose house Saint-Jean would be right in front of a potential oil storage depot near the port terminal, came about sharing his frustration at the lack of transparency of the developer to the owners residents. According to Mr. Prosser, TransCanada never responded to his concerns about the project’s impacts to quality of life, enjoyment of his property, his health and safety, the value of his property and even his sense of community.
The director of Nature NB, Vanessa Roy-McDougall, argued in turn that over 200 species of birds – millions of people – migrate each year in an area that would be crossed by the pipeline, as well as in the Bay of Fundy, where supertankers would sail en route to other countries. Similarly, endangered species, like the whale in the North Atlantic, attending the Saint-Jean, said Ms. Roy-McDougall. According to Nature NB, a spill in the region would have a major impact on bird and marine species – or even a devastating effect on the world population of some species.
Van der Put countered that the probability of such a spill was low.
The Energy East pipeline, a proposed $ 15.7 billion, would transport 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day oil sands of Alberta to refineries and the port of Saint-Jean – thus crossing five provinces. The National Energy Board must hear 337 speakers in 10 cities in six provinces concerned, until December.
After Fredericton next week, hearings will be held from 29 August to 2 September in Montreal, then from 3 to 7 October in Quebec. The recommendations of the Office must be submitted by March 16, 2018 the federal cabinet, which will then decide in this controversial and highly political issue.