• Belinda Pyle

Breaking down the pipeline debate


Steven Guilbeault (third from right) and Geneviève Puskas (third from left) of Equiterre join Katherine Massam of Citoyens au courant(second from left) and some of its volunteers at a recent conference where the spoke about the dangers of oil pipelines.

According to Steven Guilbeault, Founder and Senior Director of Équiterre environmental group, “It’s not a matter of if, but when, an oil pipeline will break.” This was the core issue at a conference held October 16 at Wyman United Church in Hudson. The event was organized by three local citizen groups STOP Oléoduc Outaouais, Les Citoyens au Courant (CaC), and Action Environnement Basses Laurentides which together are known as the Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures Québec (RVHQ).

A major pipeline break was not the only concern. According to Guilbeault, pipelines can leak and regulations governing safety are not always enforced. Geneviève Puskas, Climate Change and Energy Advisor for Équiterre said the Trans-Northern Pipeline, which has had regulation infractions for years, has spilled 158 to 560 barrels of oil in the last few years without punitive consequence.

While we cannot stop using pipelines to deliver oil, Guilbeault believes the answer to an inevitable pipeline oil spill is to reduce our dependency on oil so pipelines aren’t necessary. He suggested three ways to do that: create more public transit, use more electric vehicles and organize our cities better so a car is not needed.

Guilbeault concedes that a major reduction in our love of oil will not happen tomorrow. In the meantime, he suggested that rather than focusing on building new pipelines, governments and companies should reduce and reinforce the current pipeline structure. “These pipelines are all around us and in our back yards, but nobody knows.” The bottom-line, as explained by Puskas, is that, “current water treatment plants are not equipped to detect or remove fossil fuels (oil) from water.”

Bill 106 was passed last year to regulate the energy sector, but CaC spokesperson Katherine Massam was skeptical and explained that as details are released, she becomes even more concerned. Guilbeault was more direct and obviously not a fan of Bill 106 as he stated, “I don’t know why the government would open the bar to these guys (oil companies).”

Massam said she felt the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) is living up to its promise to work hard on proper pipeline development, but one of the evening’s attendees did not agree. Hudson’s Natalie Labreche felt that, “… if the government was doing its job, citizen groups like Équiterre wouldn’t have to exist.”

The one point agreed upon by all three presenters was that the National Energy Board (NEB) could do a much better job of monitoring and enforcing current energy regulations.

The evening closed with a round of applause for Guilbeault after decreeing, “We can be more powerful than these big companies when we all get together.”

This was the fourth in a series of 10 conferences in 10 weeks organized by the (RVHQ) about protecting our water. The next conference is October 30, 7 p.m., Centre National de Formation en Traitement de l’Eau, Centre Paul Gerin-Lajoie, 400 avenue St. Charles in Vaudreuil-Dorion. It will be given in French featuring Guy Coderre on the vulnerability of our drinking water in case of an oil spill.

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