How to Answer The NEB Intervenor And Commenter Surveys

Are you an Intervenor or Commenter for the NEB Energy East hearings? Worried about the Survey the NEB sent? Here’s a copy of it so you can see what to expect. It’s very straightforward! The Intervenor Survey is followed by screenshots of the Commenter survey.

We’ve included some suggested responses here. The important thing is to make sure to say that you prefer to participate in person, and choose “Asking the company (and/or other Intervenors) questions on their evidence orally (i.e. some form of cross­examination )” so that the NEB knows they have to hold actual hearings! ”

(If you need help, just ask us)

 

Energy East Intervenor Survey
Methods for Participation
* 1. Do you prefer to share your views or concerns about the project in writing or orally?
In writing
In person
Combination of both [CHOOSE THIS ONE]
Unsure

* 2. What type of participation would be the most valuable for you? Rank the options below from 1 to 4 with 1 being the most valuable and 4 being the least valuable.
a. Asking the company (and/or other Intervenors) questions on
their evidence in writing
b. Asking the company (and/or other Intervenors) questions on
their evidence orally (i.e. some form of crossexamination) [1]
c. Speaking directly to the Panel of Board Members to provide a
summary of my views or position (may be subject to time
limitations) [2]
d. Participating in a technical conference where key topics can be  discussed in greater detail in a more informal setting [1]

* 3. Would you be willing to participate in a session remotely (i.e. via teleconference)?
Yes
No [This one. We want to make sure they hold lots of in-person hearings.]

* 4. What type of process support do you find most helpful? Please rank the following options from 1 to 5 with 1 being the most helpful and 5 being the least helpful:
a. Access to an NEB process advisor via phone
b. Access to an NEB process advisor via email
c. Online information sessions or webinars
d. Selfserve
information on NEB website
e. Other

Locations for Participation
The Board has certain requirements for hearing venues. Such considerations include but are not limited to:
● Availability of appropriate venues
● Safety concerns in the event of an emergency
● Accessibility for participants
● Requirements for highspeed
internet and phone service for public broadcast of
Board proceedings
Note that the Board will set out a variety of hearing steps in the Hearing Order. The locations listed below may not be inclusive of all locations the Board will visit during the entirety of the hearing process.

* 5. If you were to participate in an oral portion of the hearing, in which city or town would you be most likely to attend? Please choose up to three of the cities or town listed below in order of preference with #1 being the most preferred.
a. Saint John, New Brunswick
b. Fredericton, New Brunswick
c. Edmundston, New Brunswick
d. La Pocatière, Quebec
e. Quebec City, Quebec
f. Montreal, Quebec
g. Ottawa, Ontario / Gatineau, Quebec
h. Kingston, Ontario
i. Toronto, Ontario
j. Timmins, Ontario
k. North Bay, Ontario
l. Thunder Bay, Ontario
m. Kenora, Ontario
n. Winnipeg, Manitoba
q. I prefer to participate remotely through the use of technology
(i.e. teleconference)

Timing for Participation

* 6. Which of the following would be your preferred time to participate in an oral portion of the hearing? Please rate these options from 1 to 3 with 1 being your most preferred and 3 being the least preferred.

a. Weekday (Monday – Friday) mornings (9:00 am – 12:00 pm)
b. Weekday (Monday – Friday) afternoons (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm)
c. Weekday (Monday – Thursday) evenings (6:30 pm – 9:00 pm)

Topics for Discussion
* 7. What are your top three areas of interest as they relate to the Project?
a. The need for the Project. [This is an important one]
b. The economic feasibility of the Project.
c. The commercial, economic, supply and market impacts of the Project.
d. The appropriateness of the tolling methodology, and the method of toll and tariff regulation, including whether Energy East should be regulated as a Group 1 or Group 2 company.
e. The commercial, economic, supply and market impacts of the Asset Transfer, including the need, economic feasibility and commercial impacts of the Eastern Mainline Project. This includes the appropriateness of the proposed capacity of the Eastern Mainline of 708 TJ/d.
f. The Transfer of Assets (tests to be used to assess the sale and purchase of the
assets, the assets to be transferred and any terms to be included, the value which should be assigned to the facilities for the purposes of removal from the rate base of the TransCanada PipeLines Limited’s natural gas mainline; and inclusion in Energy East’s toll calculation).
g. The potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of the Project, including the environmental effects of accidents or malfunctions that may occur in connection with the project, and any cumulative effects that are likely to result from the Project, as considered under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. [We all have something to say about this. Note: does not include climate]
h. The potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of increased marine
shipping.
i. The appropriateness of the general route and land requirements for the Project.
j. The engineering design and integrity of the Project.
k. Potential impacts of the Project on Aboriginal interests.
l. Potential impacts of the Project on directly affected landowners and their land use. [Many of you have this concern.]
m. Safety and security associated with the construction and operation of the Project, including emergency response planning and thirdparty
damage prevention.
n. Contingency planning for spills, accidents, or malfunctions during construction and operations of the Project. [Who will pay?]
o. Financial implications of contingency planning for spills, accidents, or malfunctions during construction and operations of the Project.
p. The ability to finance the proposed project.
q. The terms and conditions to be included in any recommendation or approval the Board may issue.

8. For the three issues that you chose, are there specific subtopics that interest
you in particular (e.g. impacts on soil or agricultural lands, river crossings,
pipeline integrity, etc.)?

This is  only 150 characters for each of the three choices. You can skip this step or (if you like!) just reiterate a main theme. “Water is precious and the risk is too great” or “It’s time to transition away from fossil fuels, not build more oil infrastructure.”

Energy East Commenter Survey

The last response space allows 400 characters and has room for a longer response if you like:

“The pipeline travels within a spill reach of the Winnipeg aqueduct for most of the length of the aqueduct. The aqueduct is cracked and porous and could be contaminated from nearby pipeline spills.
A spill could also contaminate city waterways including the Red, Seine and La Salle Rivers. (The Kalamazoo River is still closed in many sections, four years after the spill.)  It’s time to transition away from fossil fuels, not build more oil infrastructure.”

We hope this is helpful to you. Please get in touch with us at mary@noenergyeastmb.org if you have questions!

MEJC Denied Intervenor Status in NEB Energy East Hearings – What Else Can We Do? Plenty.

The National Energy Board is the primary official way for citizens and organizations to participate in decision making  about pipelines and other resource extraction projects. MEJC applied to participate as an Intervenor, the most effective designation for participants. We were not accepted as Intervenors and were instead downgraded to Commenter status. The denial of Intervenor status means that we do not have a strong voice in the NEB process, cannot effectively contribute our knowledge, and cannot voice our concerns within that process.

An Intervenor can:

  • ask for more information (Information Request – IR) on any related topic;
  • file written evidence;
  • ask questions during the hearing;
  • provide final arguments;

As a Commenter, MEJC is very limited. A Commenter can:

  •  provide written views on the proposed project in a Letter of Comment;
  • include information supporting the views such as maps or photographs;
  • comment on proposed terms or conditions that the Board should recommend be added if the project is approved;
  • observe and monitor the hearing through the Board’s public registry and hearing broadcasts; 

“A Commenter is not considered a Party (Intervenor or Company) to the hearing, cannot ask information requests or cross-examine other Parties, and cannot provide final argument.”

While Intervenors can apply for Participant Funding from the NEB so that they are better able to do a thorough job of presenting concerns, Commenters are not eligible for Participant Funding.

A venue for pipeline project review that excludes an organization created specifically to address the problems of the Energy East pipeline is an inadequate and undemocratic venue that does not serve Canadians well.

However, official processes are only one means of influencing outcomes. The ongoing exclusion of citizens from decision making for our future must be changed, and public engagement is a powerful tool in making change. MEJC will continue to work towards creating a system that fully includes all Canadians in making better choices for a clean, sustainable future.

Are you inspired to help reach out, educate, and share your concerns? Please get in touch with us at info@mbenergyjustice.org and we’ll show you how you can fully participate here in Manitoba!

New Manitoba Government Must Urgently Address Climate Change and Pipelines

WINNIPEG – With today’s budget from the new Manitoba Government, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Progressive Conservatives are going to dither rather than take decisive action to address climate change. The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC) expressed concern that mitigating and adapting to climate change was not a central theme of the throne speech despite Canada’s recent commitments to urgently address climate change at COP21 in Paris this past December; and the terrifying outbreak of forest fires across the boreal forest in western Canada this spring.

“The new government can’t chart a safe economic course without decisively addressing climate change,” said Alex Paterson, Campaigner with Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. “At this critical juncture we need carbon budgets right beside financial budgets. This budget lacks the key analytic mechanisms and financial investments necessary to urgently prepare Manitoba for the increasing dangers and costs of climate change.”

According to research produced at Stanford University, the social cost of carbon could be over $200 per imperial ton. Economists predict this cost to continue to rise as global warming increases.

In spite of the new budget, Manitoba policy still favours fossil fuels. For example, Manitoba does not allow Aki Energy to compete with natural gas service.

“We would have liked to see all subsidies and tax holidays for fossil fuels replaced with increased incentives for climate change solutions,” said Joseph Wasylycia-Leis, board member of MEJC. “We need to create a context for solar, geothermal, and wind power to thrive while we eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050. For instance, money dedicated to multiplying and expanding social enterprises that provide climate change solutions, like Aki Energy, would have been a great step.”

The budget provided little indication on the future direction of provincial energy policy and Manitoba Hydro.

“It seems like the PCs will be continuing the failed policies from the previous government which had Manitoba Hydro dependent on fossil fuels and pipeline development,” said Paterson. “We were hoping for an ambitious strategy to build the infrastructure required for electric car use. We are still missing the charging stations and the incentives necessary to grow electric vehicle use. Electric vehicles would be a sustainable and stable market for Manitoba-made electricity.”

In Paris, the Canadian Government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, committed Canada to doing its part to achieve a 1.5 degrees or less temperature target. According to analysis of the International Panel on Climate Change report, the world only has 5.2 years left of global carbon emissions for a reasonable shot at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

“We don’t see the necessary sense of urgency from this new government,” said Paterson.  “Last week some red flags went up for us. The new Minister of Sustainable Development refused to identify human-created greenhouse gas emissions as the most important factor contributing to climate change, and we learned it could be longer than a year before we get carbon pricing. We only have 5 years, there was a plan in place, and it seems like this government is returning to square one on climate change.”

Join Our Delegation to McKenna’s WPG Climate Town Hall

winnipeg customizable for local eventsThis is the moment: The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is coming to Winnipeg to discuss what we, the people, want to see in a national climate strategy. This is a major, once-in-a-term opportunity to raise our voices together and show Ottawa, by turning up in huge numbers, just how serious Canadians are about leading the fight against climate change.

Please RSVP here.

Join us as we fill Minister of the Environment and Climate Change’s joint Town Hall with MP for Winnipeg South Terry Duguid on May 25th at 7:00PM. The Town Hall will take place at CanadInns Fort Garry (1824 Pembina Hwy )
Ambassador Room.

Please RSVP here.

We will be training the week before in the HIVE at the University of Winnipeg and at the West End Commons to prepare people to speak confidently on the issues at the town hall.. You can join us there for planning the action on May 24th at 6:30 PM at the HIVE.

This is our chance to let Minister McKenna know that we want bold and meaningful climate action and we want to be part of the conversation. Join us as we make that clear to the Minister.

Please RSVP here.

We Just Launched the People’s Climate Plan!

Yesterday, the Trudeau government joined 130 other countries on the world stage to  ratify the Paris Agreement — and in doing so, pledge to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

PCP_Launch_Meme_V2_(1).png

Then, immediately afterwards, the government launched a country-wide public consultation process on a national climate strategy. We know that powerful interests like the fossil fuel industry will be at the government’s doorstep, lobbying for the weakest climate action strategy possible. That’s why it will be up to us to be there, every step of the way, showing up and speaking up for bold climate action that works for people and the planet.

Are you ready to stand up for climate action that works for us? Click here to join the People’s Climate Plan.

We have a plan to organize locally in Winnipeg and across the country to demand an ambitious climate strategy. We are partnering with LeadNow,350.org, Council of Canadians and many other groups to build a plan that’s built around three fundamental principles:

  1. Keeping the majority of Canada’s fossil fuels in the ground

  2. Building a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050

  3. Committing to justice for Indigenous peoples, workers and climate impacted communities.

Any national climate strategy must reflect these ambitious values if we want Canada wants to respect the global commitments it is making on the world stage.

We’ll do it in three stages.

PCP-How.png

1. First, we’ll organize our local communities to demand that our Members of Parliament hold fair and inclusive climate consultations in their ridings.

2. Next, we’ll speak up together the government consultations in our local communities. In ridings where MPs refuse to hold consultations, we’ll hold our own.

3. Then, this Fall, we’ll mobilize en-masse right as the government unveils its national climate strategy, to send one last message on where the people stand.

We can make a just, and ambitious climate action a reality. It’s up to us.

Sign up to speak up for the People’s Climate Plan!

We have a huge capacity to impact this consultation here in Manitoba. Not only are there 7 Liberal MPs in Winnipeg, but one of them is Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr – who stands as one of the loudest pro-fossil fuel voices in the Liberal government.

The first step to joining the People’s Climate Plan in Winnipeg is to attend our orientation session on May 5th. Click here to attend the orientation.

We know that when we stand together, we make big things happen.

Why Should You Apply to be an Intervenor in the NEB Energy East Hearings?

For step-by-step instructions on how to apply, please click here.

HANDS ON application workshop Sunday April 17 1:30-4pm UW HIVE lounge.

Some background

On Wednesday March 16, MEJC co-sponsored an Energy East town hall with Council of Canadians. MEJC member Michael Matczuk was on the panel, along with Maude Barlow, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Daryl Redsky, Chickadee Richard, and Andrea Harden-Donahue.

Energy East Town Hall

Here’s what Michael had to say on the risk Energy East poses to Winnipeggers:

Thank you , Andrea. I’m honoured to be here tonight on behalf of the MEJC, and invite you all of to drop by our table afterwards. I’ll be there with other staff and volunteers, ready to answer questions about MEJC and our work. Right now, I’m going to quickly outline our concerns with Energy East.

Climate

We know that the moral job of the city and province is to protect the climate, get on with transition to a green economy,  and shout NO to more pipelines and tar sands development. We know that a pipeline that would amortize over 50 years is not a transition strategy! While we’re waiting for decision makers to thoroughly understand the climate message that we never cease communicating, we’ve focused on the risk to the aqueduct because regardless of where you stand on pipelines, you drink water.

What are the risks to the aqueduct?

We’ve heard some great information tonight about the risk posed by the pipeline across the country. All of those risks apply here in Manitoba, and there is one additional, really big problem that is nearly unique.

This slide shows a map of the aqueduct where it runs within a spill reach of the pipeline all the way from Falcon Lake to the Brokenhead River.

Map of Energy East pipeline and Winnipeg Aqueduct

Where the pipeline is south of the aqueduct, the groundwater drains north; where it is north of the aqueduct, the groundwater drains south. A small, slow, undetectable leak near the aqueduct will invariably pass with the groundwater over the aqueduct.

Undetected leaks of up to 2.63 litres a day can go on for months, spreading carcinogenic benzene and other toxins throughout the boggy area around the aqueduct. Benzene is considered unsafe at anything over 5 parts per billion and could all too easily enter the aqueduct through cracks and holes in the 100-year-old concrete.

To better understand the situation, think of the problem of contamination of water supplies from underground storage tanks all over North America. Energy East would be a really, really long storage tank that threatens water supplies right across the province.

The aqueduct is in the best possible place for its purpose; the gas line proposed by TransCanada for conversion to dilbit could not be in a worse place. Insidious and invisible, a leak could poison a swathe of bog several kilometres wide, while the aqueduct continues to carry Shoal Lake water to Winnipeg right through the contaminated bog.

What kind of detection system could be installed to effectively monitor benzene levels in the bog around the aqueduct, and what could possibly be done to mitigate the damage after benzene is detected? When would the decision be made to shut down the aqueduct? Who will pay for the water supply to Winnipeg when the aqueduct and the reservoir are contaminated?

It is likely that a full blown environmental impact assessment has never been done regarding the spill reach, because natural gas doesn’t have the same contamination risk as unrefined oil or bitumen.

If a new oil line (rather than a conversion of an existing line) were to be proposed today, it would not be approved. We believe it would not even be proposed.

Here’s a quick overview of the legal situation — trying not to be too dry!

The City has a statutory obligation to provide water to its residents and is given “exclusive control” over the land that the aqueduct uses for that purpose.

The city has entered into three easement agreements with Transcanada that allow the conveyance of gas – not dilbit.

The agreements contain an indemnity and provide for compensation in the event that the water supply is disrupted.  The focus of the agreements is the crossing point of the pipelines and the aqueduct, NOT the length of the spill reach where the pipeline is “upstream”of the aqueduct.

For the Energy East project to proceed, the City has to agree to an amendment of the easement to allow liquid petroleum products and to have the easement agreement assigned to Energy East.

Both require the written agreement of the city.  The assignment cannot be arbitrarily withheld.  But saying no because there is a plan to convey oil rather than natural gas would not be considered arbitrary.

By agreeing, or by entering into a new agreement, the city would be consenting to the route that allows petroleum liquids to be conveyed through the spill reach that encompasses the aqueduct.

The city has also applied to intervene before the NEB.

We have taken the position that the city must thoroughly investigate the risks of conversion in order to be able to 1) effectively intervene in the NEB hearings; and 2) reach a suitable agreement with Energy East (if it agrees to do so).

We are worried that the city has neither the resources nor the political will to adequately protect the interests of residents of the city and accordingly have recommended that the Public Utilities Board hold hearings and if appropriate provide guidance to the City.

We’ve focused on the danger to Winnipeg water, but  water supplies for Sanford, Portage, Brandon Rivers, Sioux Valley and Kenton are also in danger. Winnipeg might be required to supply water to those affected communities.

What we’ve done and what we’re doing

We’ve met with several city councillors, MPs and MLAs and are continuing to pursue meetings with the others. We’ve presented to the City and Province political and staff committees.

Various community and labour organizations have invited us to present on Energy East, and we’ve held our own community level town halls in St Norbert, Wolseley, St Boniface and Linden Woods, with more planned.

We’re canvassing door to door, collecting hundreds of signed postcards directed to the province and to the city, and tabling at events across the city.

long the way, we’ve produced blogs, op eds, letters to politicians and the NEB, and two full length reports on the Energy East pipeline in Manitoba. Both reports are available on our website. noenergyeastmb.org

Our work emphasizes that while the aqueduct and other water supplies must be protected,  both the city and province must learn to put climate first in every decision made. Climate is not somebody else’s responsibility. It’s the responsibility of every level of government, and every citizen.

On the federal level, the liberal government seem to think that destroying the climate with the carbon-spewing Energy East pipeline is a fine way to transition to a green, sustainable economy. Here in Winnipeg, we have an excellent representative of that point of view: we have the Minister of pipelines and tar sands, more officially known as the minister of natural resources, Jim Carr.

It is Mr Carr’s responsibility to apply climate science to the natural resource sector. Instead he’s recently said that he shares “common goals and principles” with  proponents of energy east. It almost  seems like he wants to get oil to tidewater, so that oil companies can rake in last-ditch profits before the climate catches up and it’s too late.

MEJC recognizes the need to build public pressure and opposition to the Liberal party’s pro oil-industry agenda. The best place to do that is right here in Winnipeg where we can put that pressure to work on Jim Carr, and that’s the campaign we’re building now.

[UPDATED] We welcome new volunteers. We’ve put together several workshops so that you’ll feel well-informed and comfortable as you join in this wonderful work. One great  opportunity to participate is happening this Sunday April 17 at the lounge University of Winnipeg’s HIVE. We’re running a hands on help session so that you can easily apply to be an intervenor in the NEB Energy East hearing process. Don’t worry, we’ll help you every step of the way, and if you do end up being selected, we’ll be right there with you!

Looking forward to meeting you!

NEB Energy East Applications to Participate Now Open Until April 20

It’s time to let your voice be heard at the NEB!

HANDS ON HELP Sunday April 17 1:30-4pm, at the lounge outside University of Winnipeg HIVE. 

The NEB has reopened applications to participate in the Energy East hearings.

MEJC is encouraging everyone to take this opportunity to make sure the risk to the Winnipeg aqueduct becomes as big a concern to the NEB as it already is to Winnipeggers. (For more information on this risk, please read our blog, Energy East and Winnipeg’s Water: the fuller context ) 

To be eligible, applicants must be directly affected by changes in the recently added amendments to TransCanada’s original application. We have prepared a statement for you to use, along with your own words. This statement accurately delineates the concerns and references the pertinent amendments, so please use it exactly as written, and add your own comments at the end of the statement. 

Please click here for more info about why everyone in Winnipeg should apply.

Please click here  to access the Application to Participate.

Prepared Statement

I am applying to be a participant in the Energy East Project hearings because I am directly affected by the risk of contamination to the Winnipeg aqueduct (my sole drinking water supply) from the Energy East pipeline. The hundred-year-old concrete aqueduct is known to be cracked and permeable, shares the same watersheds with the pipeline, and is within a spill reach of the pipeline for about 100 kilometre length between Shoal Lake and Ste. Anne. The drainage along this length is from the pipeline to the aqueduct. The list of issues that apply to this risk are numbers 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, and 16.

The risk to the Winnipeg aqueduct is not addressed in the original Energy East project submission or in amendments This risk has been detailed in a report, Potential Impacts of the Energy East Pipeline on the City of Winnipeg. (http://noenergyeastmb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/potential_impacts_energy_east_winnipeg_leneveu-final-may-25-2015.pdf)

Pertinent information in amendments includes the design and location of the new pumping station to be built near Falcon Lake, Manitoba (https://docs.neb-one.gc.ca/ll-eng/llisapi.dll/fetch/2000/90464/90552/2432218/2540913/2671689/2825675/Sec_02_Errata_-_A4T7T6.pdf?nodeid=2824916&vernum=-2 September, 2015). The Falcon Lake pumping station is in the same Boggy River watershed as the Winnipeg aqueduct. A leak from this facility would drain into the Boggy River, and could carry soluble carcinogenic contaminants such as benzene over and into the submerged aqueduct.

I am also concerned about information in amendments about the general integrity of the pipeline. Pressure surges, corrosion, weld failure, and underground valve seepage could cause large or small leaks that could contaminate the Winnipeg aqueduct. Leaks undetected by the in line pipeline pressure monitoring systems (as recently occurred in the Keystone 1 pipeline in South Dakota) are of particular danger to the aqueduct.

The leak in South Dakota occurred near a pumping station that is similar to what would be constructed near Falcon Lake.

 

MEJC Provincial Election Report Card

To view the full report card, please click this link: MEJC report card all v2

rptcardFRONT160407

In an effort to learn more about the provincial parties’ positions on climate, environment, and the Energy East pipeline, the MEJC sent a list of questions to each party. We asked for simple yes or no answers to our very clear, unequivocal questions. Most parties included some commentary along with their answers, while some avoided taking an accountable position by responding with qualifications and conditions. One party (Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives) refused to participate at all despite numerous requests by email, telephone, and in person. We have included here our final report card as well as each party’s complete response, together with a brief response from MEJC.

To view the full report card, please click this link: MEJC report card all v2

 

Energy East and Winnipeg’s water: the fuller context

On March 17, TransCanada, in the person of Gary Houston, responded to Maude Barlow’s March 14 Op Ed in the Winnipeg Free Press. Houston’s response didn’t address most of the actual issues raised by Barlow, and instead continued to spin talking points that might have sounded convincing if the Free Press readers didn’t already have the correct information.

Since then, various forms of Houston’s piece have made their appearance in other places, including an article on 3BL Media, a content marketing website “focused on niche topics including sustainability, health, energy, education, philanthropy, community and other social and environmental topics.”

MEJC is taking this opportunity to make sure that everyone can easily access to-the-point answers to TransCanada’s spin. We’ve included Barlow’s original Op Ed and Gary Houston’s mythical “myth-busting” response in full below.  We open with our own direct clarification of Houston’s fragile arguments.

The Fuller Context

Mr. Houston would, on TransCanada’s behalf, have Winnipeggers believe:

  • That TransCanada’s oil pipelines do not leak or rupture near rivers or lakes.

He fails to point out that the natural gas lines running through this corridor have ruptured and ignited at least 11 times in the past 33 years, on average once every 3 years, and leaked natural gas on numerous occasions inside Manitoba. In 1996, their pipeline exploded on the LaSalle River in St Norbert, and set fire to a house 170 metres away.

Site of TransCanada pipeline explosion in Manitoba

What if these ruptures had been in a diluted bitumen (dilbit) line, or in one of the parallel gas lines running close enough to the proposed Energy East line to cause a rupture in the dilbit line?  Would dilbit have leaked into a river or lake or into the spill reach of a municipal water supply?

  • That Energy East’s defect detection technologies will operate perfectly and will predict in advance all potential failures (especially failing welds and corrosion).  That the equipment does not operate with proven failure rates.  That TransCanada staff, controllers and contractors do not make mistakes in interpreting the equipment’s results and are never negligent.   

But we all know that this is not the way the world works. Although Houston claims that “it is a common misconception that small leaks go undetected,” he doesn’t address the reality that only one of the nine ruptures experienced on TransCanada’s mainline pipeline system, which includes the pipe it wants to convert from gas to oil for Energy East, was discovered by their leak-detection system.

The recent leak in the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota was not detected by the leak-detection system, and let spill 63,000 litres of crude (90 times higher than TransCanada’s initial estimate of the “small leak”) before finally being stopped.

Houston wants to make readers think that TransCanada’s leak detection system will find leaks and prevent damage, every time. But the other eight ruptures were discovered accidentally by people, hours after they began.

He does not mention that TransCanada’s operating history shows that its pipelines leak and rupture regularly and he cannot assure us that history will not repeat itself.

Mr. Houston only had one example of a leak that was detected by the much-touted detection system, and shut down “within minutes.” That’s because the detection system does NOT find small leaks quickly enough to prevent contamination of the aqueduct.

  • That the aqueduct and pipeline are too far apart for a leak to matter since the average distance between the aqueduct and the pipeline is 10 km

Mr. Houston fails to add that the “average” distance includes a significant stretch on either side of the crossing where the two rights of way are within a few kilometres of each other. Along this stretch, there is no extra care taken to prevent a pipeline leak, spill, or rupture from contaminating the aqueduct. There is no acknowledgment of the 100 kilometres where the aqueduct is further away from the pipeline, but still within a spill reach.

Winnipeg Aqueduct within a Spill Reach of the Energy East Pipeline

Winnipeg Aqueduct and the Spill Reach of the Energy East Pipeline

He fails to acknowledge that the aqueduct is a 100-year-old, unpressurized concrete structure that leaks.  Water leaks out of the aqueduct and into it.  Water leaching toxins from spilled dilbit will flow towards the aqueduct.

Carcinogenic benzene present in dilbit

He briefly refers to the crossing point, and claims that the extra reinforcement in that single spot will protect the entirety of the aqueduct from contamination.

In fact, Mr. Houston tries to distract from the very real risk to the aqueduct by ignoring it.  Instead he writes at great length on the non-issue of a risk to Shoal Lake itself, and attempts to use that to refute citizens’ concerns about the aqueduct.

So if the leak that Mr. Houston can’t conceive of within the aqueduct’s right of way occurs within several kilometres on either side of the crossing, water leaching toxins from leaked dilbit may well engulf the aqueduct in short order, entering the aqueduct and contaminating the City’s main reservoir before anyone knows it or before it can be stopped.  Will the City in that context be required to shut off the water supply immediately?  And let’s not imagine the consequences of dilbit accessing the aqueduct.  

MEJC is just as concerned about those places where the distance between the pipeline and the aqueduct is greater.  A major spill or an undetected leak could conceivably create a contaminated zone of considerable size (think Kalamazoo) that leaches toxins flowing towards the aqueduct until remedied.  Is the City able to deal with the consequences of long term risk of contaminants entering the aqueduct?

The Legal Position

The Charter of the City of Winnipeg imposes a legal obligation on the City to provide safe drinking water to its residents.  The Charter gives the City exclusive control of the right-of-way used by the aqueduct in order to perform that legal obligation.

TransCanada and the City are parties to an easement agreement that allows TransCanada to convey gas under the aqueduct.  It does not permit the conveyance of dilbit. Dilbit is not natural gas and is a much more dangerous substance.

If the City agrees to an amendment to the agreement and its assignment to the Energy East project company, then it is consenting to the existence of a dilbit pipeline within the aqueduct’s spill reach.  Does the City fully appreciate the risks?  Does the Province?

We are of the view that the City has a legal obligation to say no to both the amendment and the assignment if the protections in the easement agreement are not expanded to cover all of the foreseeable additional risks imposed on the City and created by the conversion from natural gas to dilbit.  

Perhaps given Mr. Houston’s confidence in the safety of the converted line he would arrange to have TransCanada and the customers of Energy East, the shippers and purchasers of dilbit, join in and guarantee Energy East’s obligations under an amended easement agreement.  This sounds reasonable to us given that they are all asking the City to put at direct and probable risk the water supply of nearly 800,000 Winnipeggers.

We are pleased that TransCanada “welcomes a healthy discussion” about the future of pipelines in Canada.  It is unfortunate that the discussion cannot take place in the NEB hearings, since citizens and intervenors are not allowed to cross examine or ask questions verbally. We would prefer to have the right to appear before the NEB and cross examine the Energy East project applicant and their experts, but since that is not possible under the current rules of the NEB, we appreciate being able to continue the discussion in print.  

 

Myth-busting the Energy East Pipeline 

By: Maude Barlow and Michael Matczuk Posted: 03/14/2016 1:52 PM

TransCanada’s controversial Energy East pipeline has become a flashpoint in Canadian politics. It’s billed by the pipeline giant as nation-building, but is facing a growing wall of opposition, particularly in Quebec.

Three easily debunked myths supporting the project continue to appear in the almost daily national coverage.

 

Myth #1: The threat to waterways from Energy East can be managed

In an era of increasing water scarcity and pollution, Canada must unite around caring for water as a fiercely managed public trust based on the principles of justice and sustainability.

Only one of the nine ruptures experienced on TransCanada’s mainline pipeline system, which includes the pipe it wants to convert from gas to oil for Energy East, was discovered by their leak-detection system. The others were found by TransCanada staff, passersby and an Ontario Provincial Police officer.

This same leak detection system can’t detect spills under 1.5 per cent of the pipe’s capacity. A leak of 1.5 per cent from a 1.1 million barrels per day (BPD) pipeline like Energy East could release up to 2.62 million litres of crude oil per day.

In 48 hours, this could cause the worst oil spill in Canadian history.

The pipeline would ship diluted bitumen from the tar sands. In the most comprehensive review to date, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded diluted bitumen sinks far quicker than conventional oil, and that first responders and the oil industry are not prepared to handle major spills in water.

Energy East’s path could not be in a worse location for Winnipeg.

The pipeline runs alongside most of the length of the sole aqueduct supplying Winnipeg’s drinking water, as well as the Shoal Lake watershed, the traditional territory of Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake 39) and Shoal Lake 40. Contamination could occur from large spills within reach of the aqueduct and Shoal Lake, and more frequent, undetected spills in the boggy Winnipeg aqueduct area.

Manitoba and Winnipeg are legally obligated to protect the drinking water of Winnipeg. The serious threat Energy East presents to Winnipeg’s drinking water is unacceptable.

 

Myth #2: Energy East will supply Eastern refineries with Canadian oil

Energy East is first and foremost an export pipeline.

TransCanada’s recent filings to the National Energy Board (NEB) indicate the project would see a doubling of oil tanker traffic in the Bay of Fundy, up to 281 a year. This means at least 800,000 BPD is destined for international markets.

Why would refineries opt for other sources?

The Irving refinery in Saint John does not have a track record of displacing oil imports with domestic oil, although it could. As energy expert Gordon Laxer highlights, Newfoundland (a far closer source) produces enough oil to supply all Atlantic Canadian needs; instead, it is exported to the highest bidder, just as the oil transported on Energy East would be.

The two refineries in Quebec are being supplied by the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 and cheap imports from the United States. A spokesperson from one of the refineries quoted in the Financial Post said they have “no firm interest” in Energy East.

 

Myth #3: Getting oil to tidewater will help us pay for the transition to a green economy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently suggested Canada needs pipeline projects to maintain a strong economy, helping to fund the low-carbon transition.

This is like committing to weight loss with an all-poutine diet.

According to a report by the Pembina Institute, filling the pipeline could generate 30 to 32 million tonnes of climate pollution every year, more than the annual emissions of the entire province of Manitoba.

A scientific report published in the journal Nature found 85 per cent of tar sands’ bitumen needs to stay in the ground in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, let alone the more necessary and ambitious target of 1.5 degrees. This means no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the tar sands can be produced over the next 35 years. Filling Energy East threatens to exceed that carbon budget in about 19 years.

A pipeline with a 40-year lifespan that enables the production of tar sands’ oil, a high-carbon crude, in an era with more and more legislation targeting climate pollution, makes no economic sense.

We need to focus on investments in solutions, such as high-speed rail and better public transit, home-retrofits programs and renewable energy projects. Investments in these infrastructure areas consistently generate more jobs than those in the fossil fuel industry.

Maude Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Michael Matczuk is a member of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. Barlow and Matczuk will be speaking at a public event on Energy East on Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. at the Fort Garry Hotel.

 

Energy East and Winnipeg’s water: full context

By: Gary Houston 

TransCanada welcomes a healthy discussion about the future of pipelines in Canada, but the article Myth-busting Energy East pipeline (March 14) begs response. Key information was omitted regarding the safety of Winnipeg’s drinking water.

To begin, Shoal Lake, the source of the city’s drinking water, is not on the Energy East route. It is in fact approximately 12 kilometres from the route overland. On water, depending on the flow path, crude oil would have to travel between 25.6 and 44.6 kilometres, through still lakes and slow-moving rivers that act as natural barriers, to contain an unlikely release before it could reach anywhere near Shoal Lake or the aqueduct intake, which itself is protected by an earthen dyke.

In the unlikely case of a leak, responders would be on-site to prevent the migration of oil through lakes and rivers. Additionally, historic spill-frequency rates in Canada and the U.S. show pipeline spills in both countries are rare, lessening in frequency and very small — with the majority just four barrels or less in size. In fact, the chance of a spill of any size entering a lake or tributary that has a flow path to Shoal Lake has an occurrence probability of one in several hundred to one in several thousand years.

Further, TransCanada has a comprehensive system of prevention and overlapping leak detection strategies that build in redundancies to ensure an unlikely leak won’t go undetected. Our high-tech oil control centre operates around the clock with highly trained technicians using detection systems to monitor for leaks in real-time.

The real-time systems transmit information every five seconds and are supplemented by on-ground and aerial inspections.

It is a common misconception that small leaks would go undetected. That is not the case. In addition to automatic alarms that notify the control centre of a potential problem, TransCanada’s pipeline controllers monitor the pipeline 24/7, watching for trends in pipeline pressures and flows that may indicate a leak.

This method has proven very effective. For example, in 2011, TransCanada’s pipeline controllers identified an above-ground leak from a small fitting that was equivalent to one-tenth of one per cent of the design flow rate within minutes at a pump station on the Keystone pipeline system in Kansas. The line was shut down within minutes, with the oil fully contained on TransCanada’s property. In fact, TransCanada has never had a single drop of oil leak into a lake or a river.

Further layers of protection include facility maintenance and inspection activities, pipeline in-line inspection activities, aerial and ground patrols as well as third-party reporting. Very small leaks can be corrected before even one barrel of oil is released. Since beginning operations in 2010, the Keystone system has safely delivered more than 1.2 billion barrels of oil.

TransCanada stores equipment, including safety gear, boats, containment and recovery equipment such as booms, skimmers and portable tanks, along the length of the system and is ready to be deployed on a moment’s notice. We are also regulated to have unfettered funds of $1 billion available to respond to any incidents.

Finally, several factors make a spill affecting the aqueduct highly improbable. Energy East crosses under the aqueduct at a single point and is, on average, about 10 kilometres away from it. The line, a heavy-walled pipe in excess of normal design requirements for oil pipelines, is buried two metres below the aqueduct.

It would be virtually impossible for a significant leak to even occur at that exact single location, let alone to then migrate up through the soil to penetrate the concrete and damage the aqueduct.

We hope this information helps Winnipeggers understand the importance we place on protecting environmental resources while ensuring we safely provide the energy Canadians need to fuel their everyday needs.

Gary Houston is TransCanada’s vice-president for Energy East, responsible for the Prairies and Ontario.

 

Tell Premier Selinger to Reject Energy East!

spill-reach-eep-aqueduct
The Energy East pipeline poses a threat to Manitoba’s drinking water, but the Government of Manitoba is being silent in their duty to protect Manitobans from the risk. Please write to the premier and tell him you are opposed to TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.

Sign the Petition here.

The Energy East pipeline would threaten the entire length of the Winnipeg Aqueduct and two important aquifers. The aqueduct is the sole source of drinking water for Winnipeg, carrying water from Shoal Lake to the Deacon Reservoir to maintain a thirty day supply of water for Winnipeg. The Assiniboine Delta aquifer supplies water for livestock operations, farm and town wells, and agriculture; the Sandilands Aquifer is an ecological gem and the source of ground water for five major watersheds in the province.

Energy East would guarantee tar sands expansion and rule out any hope of reaching Canada’s carbon reduction obligations. At present at least 75% of Canada’s fossil fuel reserves, and 80-85% of tar sands bitumen, must stay in the ground. There is no need for pipelines, except to allow oil barons to pad their pockets while taxpayers foot the bill for wildfires, droughts, and floods exacerbated by climate change.

The Manitoba Government appears to wants to use revenue from Energy East to expand Manitoba Hydro with an East-West electricity transmission line to Alberta – so that Manitoba Hydro can make more money. Energy East and Line 9 would foot the short term bill for Hydro expansion. Selinger is trading the future of our climate for Manitoba Hydro’s business plan, and to serve the interests of the top oil barons on the continent: the Koch’s, the Irvings, and the Richardsons.

Premier Selinger has the ability and power to stop Energy East and to block oil-for-export from traveling through Manitoba. What he lacks is political courage founded on a strong mandate from Manitobans. We must speak with a loud and unified voice to tell Premier Selinger to say No to Energy East.

Sign the Petition here.