Citizen Action Monitor

Ecology Ottawa’s “clamour of protest” pays off at Ontario Energy Board hearings on Energy East

OEB’s final report reflects public concern that pipeline’s environmental risks not worth economic benefits

No 1441 Posted by fw, September 05, 2015

“People knew that even the most modern oil pipelines sometimes cause spills—and Energy East would include large sections of repurposed OLD pipeline. They also knew that even without spills, harvesting and pumping millions of barrels of tar sands oil per day would only compound the problem of climate change. Many of you wrote emails, made phone calls, signed petitions or attended rallies. The clamour of protest was so compelling that before six months had gone by the Province of Ontario felt compelled to act. In an unprecedented move, in November of 2013 the Ontario Energy Board was tasked with gathering information on the pipeline, and on people’s concerns about the pipeline. Ontario intended to provide a rigorous submission to the National Energy Board on its position on the project.”Ecology Ottawa

Following up on an October 21, 2014 post, Ecology Ottawa, an environmental activist group, gears up to fight TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, Ecology Ottawa, a not-for-profit, grassroots and volunteer-driven environmental advocacy group, has once again demonstrated its value, this time not just to the people of Ottawa but to all Ontarians. Having expressed their concerns about the pipeline through emails, phone calls, petitions, and rallies, they were invited to attend Ontario Energy Board meetings where they expressed their concerns again, and again.

Below is a well-deserved pat on the back to their members for a job well done. To read the original piece click on the following linked title. Alternatively, below is a repost, followed by the Executive Summary of the OEB’s report, Giving a Voice to Ontarians on Energy East: Report to the Minister.

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Breakthrough on the proposed Energy East pipeline by Iprazmowski, Ecology Ottawa, September 4, 2015

The August 13, 2015 report by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to the Ontario government is clear: the tar sands pipeline’s economic benefits are not balanced with the environmental risks to Ontario. Public input made it clear that the risky project does not have the support of communities along the pipeline route in Ontario.

The report also highlighted concerns of Métis and First Nations that TransCanada’s duty to consult has not been sufficiently fulfilled. This is alarming as yet another pipeline project risks ignoring Aboriginal rights.

For a copy of the OEB report on the proposed Energy East pipeline, click here.

It was just over two years ago when Ecology Ottawa supporters and others across the province began voicing their concern over the Energy East pipeline. Plans to pump Alberta bitumen across most of Canada, all of Ontario and within Ottawa city limits spurred huge numbers of people to make their concerns heard.

People knew that even the most modern oil pipelines sometimes cause spills—and Energy East would include large sections of repurposed OLD pipeline. They also knew that even without spills, harvesting and pumping millions of barrels of tar sands oil per day would only compound the problem of climate change.

Many of you wrote emails, made phone calls, signed petitions or attended rallies. The clamour of protest was so compelling that before six months had gone by the Province of Ontario felt compelled to act. In an unprecedented move, in November of 2013 the Ontario Energy Board was tasked with gathering information on the pipeline, and on people’s concerns about the pipeline. Ontario intended to provide a rigorous submission to the National Energy Board on its position on the project.

Nothing succeeds like success, they say, and having expressed our concern we were once more invited to attend Ontario Energy Board meetings where we could express it again, and again. Hundreds of you attended the official sessions held across the province and submitted your opinions in writing. Last month, the Ontario Energy Board revealed its conclusion: the risks of the project outweigh the benefits.

To be sure, the final decision to recommend approval or rejection of the Energy East pipeline project lies with the National Energy Board, not the Ontario Energy Board. But it is no small feat to have brought the risks of this project to the official attention of the largest province in Canada and to have them agree. These grave reservations will likely form the basis of Ontario’s official position when intervening in the National Energy Board hearings.

So pat yourself on the back. You’ve helped make something significant happen.

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Giving a Voice to Ontarians on Energy East: Report to the Minister, Ontario Energy Board, August 13, 2015

Executive Summary

What the OEB did

During the consultation and review, the OEB team travelled to seven towns and cities in northern and eastern Ontario, and had a similar number of meetings with First Nation and Métis communities. The OEB’s consultation and review focused on the four potential impacts specified in the Minister’s letter. (http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/oeb/_Documents/Documents/ltr_Min_Chiarelli_to_OEB_Chair_EnergyEast_20131113.pdf

  • the impacts on Ontario natural gas consumers, in particular those in eastern and northern Ontario, in terms of rates, reliability and access to supply;
  • the impacts on the natural environment and pipeline safety in Ontario;
  • the impacts on local and Aboriginal communities in Ontario; and
  • the short- and long-term economic impacts of the Project in Ontario.

After hearing from the public, the OEB added a fifth impact to be studied in the review: the potential impact of Energy East on climate change.

These potential impacts were not the only elements steering the consultation and review. We were also guided by the six principles for assessing pipelines that were set out in the letter from the Minister. These principles include the requirement that pipelines have “the highest available technical standards for public safety and environmental protection”; that they have “world-leading contingency planning and emergency response programs”; and that “proponents and governments must fulfil their duty to consult obligations with Aboriginal communities.”

What participants said

Participants at the community meetings routinely expressed concerns about pipeline safety and the effects an oil spill would have on their local rivers, lakes and sources of drinking water. One First Nation elder described water as the “lifeblood of Mother Earth” and framed the issue this way: “Would you put something in your mother’s blood that would poison her? Your mother wouldn’t be able to hold you then.” Most participants felt that the provisions ensuring the safety of the Energy East Pipeline need to be strengthened.

Even with TransCanada’s proposed Eastern Mainline Pipeline (a new pipeline that TransCanada is proposing to transport natural gas from Maple to Cornwall, Ontario), a number of participants were concerned that Energy East would still create a shortage of natural gas in eastern Ontario. This shortfall would increase the price of their natural gas and reduce the anticipated economic benefits from Energy East. First Nation and Métis communities, concerned about their treaty and Aboriginal rights, felt they were being asked to bear all the risks of a pipeline crossing their treaty territories, without receiving any of the benefits.

These concerns though were not unanimous. Some felt that transporting crude oil through a pipeline was safer than transporting it by rail and that the Energy East Pipeline would deliver economic benefits for Ontario, as well as the rest of the country. Others said that governments should focus on the longer term issue of climate change and the need to transition to a carbon-free economy.

A significant theme in the consultation was the communities’ desire to remain engaged with TransCanada after the OEB’s consultation and the hearings at the National Energy Board. Specifically, communities wished to be involved in the ongoing monitoring of the pipeline.

The OEB’s advice

Our advice is based on TransCanada’s application filed with the National Energy Board on October 30, 2014 and additional technical material filed on January 30, 2015.

Looking at what has been filed as of January 2015, the OEB is concerned with some aspects of Energy East. The following is a brief summary of our advice to the Ontario government. A complete summary of all of our advice on Energy East can be found in section 7 of this report.

Impacts on Ontario natural gas consumers — Natural gas is a critical fuel for millions of Ontario consumers, heating their homes, operating their businesses and helping to generate their electricity. Energy East will remove pipeline capacity for natural gas by converting one of TransCanada’s 42-inch pipelines to carry crude oil. We are concerned that, even with the new natural gas pipeline that TransCanada is proposing to build in eastern Ontario, Energy East will reduce the supply and increase the price of natural gas for consumers in that region. Ontario needs to be assured that the pipeline capacity and the supply of natural gas in eastern Ontario will meet Ontario’s medium- and long-term needs and that Ontario natural gas consumers will not subsidize the costs of Energy East.

Impacts on the natural environment — The Energy East Pipeline would be near many Ontario waterways. The proposed pipeline crosses or runs beside the Nipigon, Ottawa, Mattawa, Madawaska, Rideau and St. Lawrence rivers. It would also pass by a number of lakes, including Lakes Temagami, Nipissing and Nipigon, Trout Lake and Lake of the Woods. In light of this proximity, the OEB believes that TransCanada needs to assess whether it is appropriate to take a route originally chosen for a natural gas pipeline and use it for the transportation of crude oil. Where the existing pipeline route is too close to environmentally sensitive areas, TransCanada should reroute the pipeline or justify why rerouting is not necessary. TransCanada should pay particular attention to protecting Nipigon Lake, Trout Lake, the Ottawa River, the Rideau River, the Oxford-Marsh Aquifer, the Nepean Aquifer, and other areas where there is elevated public concern. As for the route near the St. Lawrence River, TransCanada should study an alternative route near the Canadian Pacific (CP) rail line and reroute the pipeline to follow the CP right-of-way. In addition, TransCanada should work with local and First Nation and Métis communities to identify the “significant water crossings” that will require additional shut-off valves.

Impacts on climate change — The National Energy Board has decided to examine the greenhouse gases that are emitted by the construction and operation of Energy East. Ontarians, however, remain concerned about the Project’s effect on upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions. After people said any assessment of Energy East would not be complete unless it studied the potential impact on climate change, we added climate change to the impacts to be reviewed. The issue of climate change is bigger than any one pipeline project, and the discussion paper we commissioned is a valuable contribution that should be used as part of a broader discussion of the issue.

Impacts on pipeline safety — Pipeline safety, and the effects of a spill on local rivers and lakes, were the most important concerns for people living near the proposed route of Energy East. They insisted the pipeline have the highest standards for integrity and emergency response. We believe TransCanada should be using the latest generation of leak detection systems for Energy East, as the impact of an accident on an oil pipeline is far more profound than with a natural gas pipeline. TransCanada also needs to demonstrate that, in the event of a spill, the amount of crude oil that could be released will be as low as reasonably practicable. The most important threat to the integrity of Energy East is the four sections of the pipeline in northern Ontario that are coated with polyethylene tape. Ontario needs to be assured of the reliability of the in-line inspection tools that TransCanada will use to detect cracks on the four tape-coated sections. TransCanada should conduct a hydrostatic test before the pipeline is put into service carrying oil. As well, TransCanada must demonstrate its financial ability (and associated guarantees) to cover the response, clean up and remediation costs of a spill, knowing that these costs could easily surpass $1 billion.

Impacts on local communities — Participants at the OEB’s community meetings appreciated our consultation and review. The process raised both the awareness of the Project and the desire for ongoing engagement on the issues of pipeline safety including emergency response. The OEB believes community engagement needs to be long lasting and treated as an essential part of the life-cycle approach of operating Energy East. So, TransCanada should continue its community engagement effort and be accountable to First Nation, Métis and local communities for its monitoring and emergency response measures. First responders must be given information about the trajectory of spills at specific sites, along with the type of oil carried by the pipeline. TransCanada should perform emergency drills to demonstrate that it will be able to effectively respond and minimize the damage from spills. IMPACTS ON ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES Ontario’s First Nation and Métis communities generally believe neither TransCanada nor the National Energy Board have respected their treaty or Aboriginal rights. Ontario therefore needs to encourage the National Energy Board to insist that all Aboriginal and treaty rights are respected at the Energy East hearing, and that the Federal Crown fulfils its duty to consult.

Short- and long-term impacts — Pipelines generally produce minimal economic benefits for the communities they flow through. So while almost half of Energy East will run through Ontario, it is expected to produce only modest economic benefits for the province. This will result in an imbalance between the risks of the Project and the expected benefits for Ontarians. Under these circumstances it is even more important that Ontario natural gas consumers face no harm due to Energy East. A complete summary of all of the OEB’s advice on Energy East can be found in section 7 of this report.

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