The mayor of a small city in northern New Brunswick is using his civic blog to chronicle his and his residents' opposition to the proposed TransCanada pipeline that could, if approved, see Alberta crude oil flowing through his community.
Under the title, "Not in my backyard," Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard wrote: "For the past several months, the TransCanada pipeline … has been making headlines. It has also been creating headaches for many residents of Edmundston, myself included." Mr. Simard is threatening to block the proposed $12-billion Energy East project if his concerns are not met: "Don't doubt for a second that the Edmundston City Council will allow the construction of a pipeline where it could endanger our water supplies and/or our citizen's peace of mind."
In Ontario, meanwhile, TransCanada is facing tough questions from Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, who wants assurances the Energy East pipeline project will provide economic benefits to his province. In both provinces, environmental groups are stirring up opposition.
The push-back is beginning just a month after TransCanada announced – with great enthusiasm from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and New Brunswick Premier David Alward – it would seek approval for the project, which is still in its very early stages. If approved, TransCanada will convert 3,000 kilometres of an already existing pipeline to bring Alberta crude east. The existing line stops just outside Cornwall, Ont., and new pipe would be added to take the oil to refineries in Montreal, Lévis, Que., and Saint John. If the project is completed, about 1.1 million barrels a day would be flowing.
TransCanada is hoping to file its final route proposal to the National Energy Board by the end of the year. Hearings and consultations will be held and the NEB will make the final decision.
For TransCanada, the opposition is not unexpected and the company is doing what it can to woo residents. "We've been transparent about this," said TransCanada spokesman Phil Cannon, noting the company has held open houses in several New Brunswick and Ontario communities to address concerns. Next week, company officials will be in Quebec.
"The further out east that we move the lesser I think people are knowledgeable about the pipeline industry," Mr. Cannon said about the inquiries by citizens at the open houses. "We have all sorts of questions on build, safety, on the environment."
The company's board of directors is meeting in Fredericton and Mr. Alward spoke to them Monday night, emphasizing "the importance of engagement" with New Brunswickers, including landowners, municipalities and First Nations.
The project, however, is an important economic piece for his struggling province. Mr. Alward told the board that "it could change our economy and create significant employment for generations."
TransCanada released an economic study Tuesday that showed the project will create about 1,100 construction jobs a year in New Brunswick during the building phase.
Mr. Simard, whose city is just at the Quebec border, said he doesn't see any long-term economic spinoff for his community, except perhaps for some construction jobs. "This won't kick-start our economy, obviously," the mayor said.
And he's worried about the city's water supply, as the route he has seen so far intersects a residential area and comes close to a network of wells. One accident could be catastrophic – 96 per cent of citizens get their water from this one spot, he says.
Mr. Simard also wrote about his concerns with the way residents were being treated by TransCanada agents, who are looking at their land for the possible route. He said he is hearing about TransCanada agents applying "indirect pressure" on the landowners to give up their property.
TransCanada's Mr. Cannon says these complaints are taken seriously and are being investigated.