• Carmen Marie Fabio

Local reaction to demise of Energy East pipeline project


PHOTO COURTESY KATHERINE MASSAM

Citizen action groups including Citoyens au Courant and Coule Pas Chez Nous have been vocal opponents of the now cancelled Energy East Pipeline project that would have passed through our region.

While the news that the TransCanada (TC) Energy East Pipeline project has been halted was welcomed by many in the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) region, Prefect Jean Lalonde issued a communiqué reminding residents that questions remain unanswered for the existing pipelines that traverse our towns.

“(We) still require answers from the federal government to ensure the protection of our territory and its citizens,” read the statement in part.

The Energy East project, proposed in 2013 when oil prices were significantly higher, would have transported about 1 million barrels of oil daily through 4500 kilometres of pipeline destined for refineries in Quebec and the Maritimes.

Unpopular project with citizens and elected officals

Besides protests from citizen-based grassroots groups of property and homeowners like Citoyens au Courant (CaC), Coule pas Chez Nous, and Équiterre, the project was dealt an additional blow in June 2016 when the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) drafted a resolution requiring a feasibility study. When Energy East filed its application in 2015 to carry out seismic testing to acquire technical data in preparation for establishing a plan to cross the Ottawa River at Pointe-Fortune, they couldn’t continue without permits from the MRC-VS which had adopted a resolution to not grant any further permits until a detailed river-crossing plan was submitted. The only reference to the planned crossing in the proposal was a blank ‘placeholder’ page leading to the MRC’s objections that it was not something to be submitted after the fact.

The move came following repeated attempts by the MRC-VS to secure specific emergency measures information from all the companies who have installed or operate pipelines in our region – reportedly more than any other in Quebec.

Safety information needed

“Yes, we’re very happy about the Energy East outcome,” said MRC-VS Communications Director Simon Richard. “It’s good news because the project was really badly put together.” However, as Richard pointed out, we still have oil pipelines from Enbridge, Trans Northern and the Gazoduc TQM and TransCanada natural gas lines. “For us, the debate is not finished. We need to know Enbridge’s emergency measures plan to ensure the security of our potable water supply.”

In a fortuitous circumstance, Richard said it was the failure of Energy East to provide critical planning information that highlighted the communication shortcomings of the other oil and gas carrier companies operating in the region which, in turn, forced the federal government to pressure them to conform to operational standards.

“The National Energy Board has to continue its modernization measures,” said Richard of the expert panel that convened in May and released their findings and recommendations.

Response from Peter Schiefke

In a written response to the MRC-VS’ concerns, Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke stated, “…finding solutions to these issues was, and will continue to be, a priority for me and for our Government. I also reassured (Lalonde) that I would pass along the feedback I have received to the appropriate offices so they are better informed as to the frustrations and concerns expressed by those in our community, with the end goal being to rectify the challenges that are still present.” Schiefke also said in June 2016, new regulations came into force requiring all owners of major pipelines to be prepared to pay $1 billion in financial assistance in the event of any emergencies. “These also allow the National Energy Board (NEB) to order reimbursement and to take over incident response if need be.”

Taxation issues

The MRC-VS also takes issue with inequities in pipeline taxation, noting pipelines devalue over their lifespan while real estate gains in value, leading to decreasing property revenues for the municipalities. After 40 years in the ground, a pipeline has little to no value resulting in a lower taxation rate.

“When a pipeline passes under the ground,” said Richard, “there are consequences.” Certain construction projects, including commercial operations, can no longer be carried out leading to a ‘net terrain loss.’