Ottawa River crossing puts snag in $15 billion TransCanada pipeline project
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
The Ottawa River that extends from Ottawa through the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region including the Town of Pincourt (above) before flowing into Lac St. Louis is the source of drinking water for 2.5 million people and is a sensitive point for citizen action groups opposing the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline project.
In the latest chapter of a protracted battle that has pitted grassroots groups of local property and homeowners against oil transportation corporations, Citoyens au Courant (CaC) are celebrating the June 9 news that the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) has drafted a resolution requiring a feasibility study in relation to the proposed TransCanada (TC) pipeline’s Energy East project traversing the Ottawa River.
“The CMM is, understandably, worried that at this point TC has no idea how to pass its pipeline under the Ottawa River and yet the NEB has said the project is complete enough to go ahead with public hearings and start the ticking clock towards approval,” said Katherine Massam of the CaC.
The resolution, which is still subject to approval, states in part, “(The CMM) resolved to request the National Energy Board (NEB)to require the submission of the feasibility study for TransCanada with respect to crossing the Ottawa River, including impacts on watersheds, for its Energy East Pipeline project before determining the completeness of its consolidated application.”
The 21-month NEB hearing on the proposed 4500 km pipeline project that was set to begin this month is now delayed contingent on the missing information.
“It’s an important issue,” said TC Communications Specialist Tim Duboyce. “Obviously, we can’t move forward without feasibility studies.” Duboyce said it’s normal that in a project of this scope, parts of the plan would be developed ahead of others and that the company has a proven track record in crossing its pipeline through a number of waterways in Canada through the use of horizontal directional drilling.
“What that means is drilling under bedrock starting well back from the riverbank so ecological habitats are not disturbed. Drilling can go up to 40 meters below the riverbed resulting in an extremely safe and stable pipeline but significant seismic and geotechnical testing is required first.”
According to the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC) website, Energy East filed an application in August 2015 to carry out seismic testing to acquire technical data in preparation for establishing its plan for the proposed pipeline to cross the river with the planned testing taking place at Pointe-Fortune.
While TC has indicated its intention to perform the testing, they can’t do so without permits from the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) and, to date, the permits have not been issued.
“The MRC is opposed to giving the permits to TransCanada in the absence of all the environmental impact studies,” said MRC-VS Communication Director Simon Richard. “We’ve adopted a resolution and we’re not granting anymore permits to TransCanada for Energy East as we haven’t received the documents we’re requested.”
In the project proposal’s current iteration, TC’s planned pipeline route under the Ottawa River is not included, only a blank ‘placeholder’ page exists with a specification that a detailed plan will be reportedly submitted at a future date.
“The placeholder was discovered only about a month ago,” said CaC Spokesman Christian Foisy “There was absolutely nothing, only an indication that a study was to come, but we don’t know when.”
“This is unacceptable,” said Richard. “If the MRC is going to be involved with the project, all the information must be public, and not something that’s presented after the fact.” Simon said the situation was similar to Enbridge Pipeline’s Line 9B reversal plan, now in operation. “Enbridge made their Emergency Measures Plan only after the NEB accepted their plan. That’s not the way we want to function.”
The MRC-VS adopted a resolution September 22, 2014, that states, in part, that, “…meetings that have taken place with TransCanada since May 29, 2013 have all been in vain and does not constitute a form of consultation.”
Duboyce said TC is, “…working feverishly to keep the lines of communication open to listen to questions and concerns that are raised by all stakeholders and to address those concerns as best as we can.” Duboyce said the company will keep working to ensure its due diligence in acquiring the permits to complete the necessary work. “Not having the permits to do that work means, essentially (the MRC) doesn’t want us to carry out our due diligence and I don’t think anybody would agree with that.”
The NEB hearings on TC’s Energy East pipeline were supposed to begin this month but Foisy said this latest development has the potential to put the project months behind schedule.
“During the BAPE (Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement) hearing (in March, 2016) Trans Canada said (the river crossing information) will come at the end of the year,” he said. “The NEB was indicating they were ready to start the hearing which didn’t make sense at all.”
The CaC members cite the Ottawa River as being not only the source of drinking water for 2.5 million people but an important part of the economy of several towns in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges regions.