North Bay residents up in arms over TransCanada plan to switch crude oil for gas in local pipeline – by Raveen Aulakh (Toronto Star – September 28, 2014)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

TransCanada Corp. plans to repurpose a pipeline running through North Bay, Ont., from carrying natural gas to crude oil. Locals worry about potential environmental damage.

NORTH BAY, ONT.—From his many-windowed fifth-floor office at city hall, Mayor Al McDonald points to the Laurentian escarpment to the north, then to the shimmering blue waters of Trout Lake to the east. Vast Lake Nipissing is visible to the west, though you have to crane your neck to see it. Below are the Victorian buildings and tree-lined streets of the downtown.

McDonald clearly loves showing off the view. But it also pitches him into anxiety. “If something happens to Energy East here, if there is a spill, we’ll be ruined,” he says. “Who would want to come here then?”

Somewhere near the escarpment and Trout Lake, there is a natural gas pipeline. It has been there for four decades, but has become a source of concern in this northeastern Ontario city.

TransCanada Corp., the Alberta-based oil giant, wants to repurpose the pipeline, now carrying natural gas, to transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to New Brunswick. Dubbed Energy East, the project is TransCanada’s $12-billion oil dream.

If the company got the go-ahead, it would be the largest and longest oil pipeline in North America. And if North Bay had its way, that would never happen.

Most of the city of 55,000 is united in its opposition to Energy East: the mayor, professors at local Nipissing University, farmers, landowners and, of course, environmentalists are worried about crude running so close to Trout Lake, the city’s only source of drinking water, and about the impact of a potential spill on the environment.

They also fret over the age of the pipeline. And there is the inevitable question: what’s in it for North Bay?

It isn’t a case of left vs. right, or landowners fretting about plummeting property prices. It isn’t NIMBYism either.

And TransCanada, locals insist, has made things worse by brushing off their concerns. But first, about Keystone XL, briefly.

Also proposed by TransCanada, Keystone will run between Hardisty, Alta., and the refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast if it’s approved by the U.S. State Department. The steel pipeline, 91 centimetres in diameter, would carry 750,000 barrels of diluted bitumen every day.

Keystone has been the most debated pipeline on both sides of the border. Now, about Energy East.

TransCanada wants to repurpose the 40-year-old, 121-centimetre-wide natural gas pipeline, which runs from Saskatchewan to Ontario and connect it with an as yet unbuilt pipeline to run through Quebec to export terminals and refineries in New Brunswick.

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