Fears of oil spill fuel Quebec opposition to Energy East pipeline – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – August 4, 2016)


TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East project is encountering a major logjam at the Ottawa River, with Quebec officials refusing to issue permits to the company that would allow it to determine how to cross the waterway – citing Husky Energy Inc.’s spill in a Saskatchewan river last month as a troubling warning sign.

In filings with the National Energy Board, TransCanada said its usual method for river crossing was “not feasible” at its preferred Ottawa River crossing site, near the junction with the St. Lawrence River. It had promised to provide an alternative scenario this summer, but that work is delayed because county officials from Vaudreuil-Soulanges are denying the company the permits for geological testing of the riverbed.

TransCanada has not adequately communicated its plans, Raymond Malo, assistant director-general for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, said in an interview, and local government officials remain worried about the potential for a disastrous spill into the river, which would contaminate drinking water for millions of residents in the Montreal region.

“What happened in Saskatchewan is the proof [that spills] can happen,” Mr. Malo said. “We say, if it happens, how will you intervene, in winter with three feet of ice, in a snowstorm? It will take hours and hours to intervene. … We know our drinking water is at risk, and we know it could be a major crisis.”

Vaudreuil-Soulanges comprises a number of towns on the western edge of Montreal Metropolitan Community whose 82 mayors have publicly opposed the $15.7-billion pipeline project. The pipeline would carry western crude – including diluted bitumen from the oil sands – from Alberta to refineries and export terminals in Eastern Canada.

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