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Top 5 concerns about the Energy East pipeline: Presentation to Winnipeg City Council

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Photo: Council of Canadians

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It was inspiring to see the Council of Canadians Winnipeg chapter and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition present to Winnipeg City Hall this week on the risks of the Energy East pipeline on Winnipeg's drinking water. The meeting was also featured in a CBC article. Here are five of the top concerns that I gathered from the presentation.

1. Risk of spills contaminating drinking water

The proposed pipeline crosses Winnipeg's aqueduct from which we receive our drinking water. If the proposed pipeline were to spill, it could contaminate our drinking water. The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition explains that Benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, could contaminate the water and shut down the aqueduct.

Dennis LeNeveu, biophysicist and Council of Canadians member, explains that it is not only the crossing of the aqueduct that poses risks to the water supply, but also along the line of the aqueduct, for the La Salle River, crossing the Assiniboine River and the Winnipeg River.

Douglas Tingey, member of the Council of Canadians and business lawyer, explained that "the pipeline could not be put in a worse place" and that "if would have been built as an oil pipeline, it would not have been routed there." The existing pipeline currently transports natural gas, and was designed to do so, but the new proposed project would transport bitumen, posing significant risks.

 Council of Canadians

2. Dilbit oil more difficult to clean up as in the case of the spill in the Kalamazoo River

Dennis LeNeveu explained that the proposed pipeline risks spilling as in the instance of the spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Dilbit, unlike crude oil, sinks much faster and adheres to everything, says a National Academy of Sciences study. It presents unique risks to first responders and takes far longer to clean up. Five years after the spill, there is still submerged oil in the Kalamazoo river. Alex Paterson of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition notes that 500 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

3. TransCanada has a bad pipeline safety record

Dennis LeNeveu explains that the pipeline is up to 40 years old in place and is full of cracks. TransCanada has a bad pipeline safety record as is explained in the Energy East: When the Pipeline spills report.

4. The pipeline crosses through Shoal Lake Territory

Alex Paterson expressed that the city must consult Shoal Lake First Nation, as the proposed pipeline crosses their traditional territory.

5. Export pipeline is all risk and little reward

Alex Paterson also explained that this is an export pipeline, whereby two-thirds of the oil would be going to export. For people it presents a great risk to us, with little reward, and is also in contradiction to our commitments to halt dangerous global climate change.

This was a presentation to the Standing Committee on water, waste, riverbank management and environment.

So what was the response from councillors?

  • Many of the councillors had questions for the presenters. Councilor Jenny Gerbasi said that she was terrified in response to the findings of the presenters. She asked if the group was looking potential alternative routes.
  • Alex from the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition explained that local groups would not have the resources and that is should be the responsibility of TransCanada to study an alternative route which could cost $100,000 to $200,000.

The presenters are asking for the city to:

1. Ask the public utilities board to hold public hearings on the project.

2. Fully study the risk to the entire aqueduct, not just the crossing with the pipeline.

3. Reject entirely or call for a re-route of the pipeline.

If you would like to learn more about TransCanada's Energy East pipeline and what you can do about it, please join us for a town hall meeting at the Fort Garry hotel on March 16 at 7 p.m. RSVP here.

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