Oil terminal slated for Belledune sparks dispute along N.B.-Que. border

A plan to bring Alberta oil to Belledune by rail has drawn a hard line between communities along the New Brunswick-Quebec border over the jobs the project could create and rail safety concerns.

N.B. mayors welcome jobs Alberta crude would bring, Quebec municipalities worry about possible derailment

Chaleur Terminals purchased 250 acres of land from the Port of Belledune in 2014, and had planned to begin construction by 2016 (Bridget Yard/CBC)

A plan to bring Alberta oil to Belledune by rail has drawn a hard line between communities along the New Brunswick-Quebec border over the jobs the project could create and rail safety concerns.

Chaleur Terminals, whose parent company, Secure Energy Services, is based in Alberta, purchased 250 acres from the Port of Belledune last year.

It plans to transport Alberta crude oil to Belledune by rail, for export abroad.

When you look at the economy and the environmental issues, we need to treat them both with the respect they deserve.

"We did receive a permit to construct on April 9, 2015, but we are still evaluating the project and are awaiting commercial support," spokesperson Carolyn Moore-Robin stated in an email to CBC News.

"We anticipate that construction will not start until at the earliest, end of 2015 or 2016, with completion about 18 months after the shovels are in the ground."

Chaleur Terminals' plan would see 220 cars carrying oil to Belledune every day.

In addition to the construction of eight 150,000-barrel steel tank storage terminals, the company plans to build a three-kilometre pipeline to transport the oil to marine vessels on the water.

Promise of 40 full-time jobs

Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh remembers a time when rail traffic through the city was heavier and says there was never a derailment. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
The construction of the oil terminals and pipeline would employ approximately 200 people, and continued operations would bring 40 full-time jobs to the region, according to officials.

Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh says the economic boost is sorely needed.

"We've lost two or three thousand jobs here in the last four or five years," said MacIntosh.

"These are well-paying jos. You're talking about a payroll of $80- or $90 million. How do you replace it? We haven't," he said.

But in Quebec, opposition to the Chaleur Terminals project has been growing.

Last month, the environmental group Tache d'huile in Gaspé announced 22 municipalities are against the transportation of oil by rail through their communities due to concerns over a possible derailment, the environmental damage that could cause and the impact it would have on the fishing industry in Chaleur Bay.

Belledune Mayor Ron Bourque believes Quebec opposition will help to bring safety issues to the forefront. He has facilitated several meetings of the northern New Brunswick and Gaspé mayors. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
"We respect what they are trying to do and what they bring to the table" said Belledune Mayor Ron Bourque.

"It's groups of this nature that, when they have concerns and express them, it allows not only the company, but we, as a municipality, to know what is of concern and what the issues are. Those bring the issues to the forefront," he said.

"The economy of northern New Brunswick is in the development stage. When you look at the economy and the environmental issues, we need to treat them both with the respect they deserve."

Benefits outweigh risks

Chaleur Terminals officials refused to address safety concerns on the record with CBC News, and instead deferred all inquiries to CN Rail spokesperson Patrick Waldron.

"CN is committed to running a safe railway," Waldron said in an email.

"Our responsibility is to move all goods and commodities as safely and efficiently as possible in the broad public interest to fulfill our role as a backbone of the Canadian economy."

This rail track is currently used a few times a week by the nearby sawmill and other industrial operations, but if Chaleur Terminals' project gets off the ground, it could see 220 cars carrying oil each day. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Campbellton's mayor contends the promise of new jobs outweighs any risk of a derailment.

"Back in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, one time we had over 2,000 people working here at CN. We moved every chemical possible through our system here. We had long trains carrying different commodities and fortunately we did not have a derailment, or something as horrific as Lac Mégantic," said MacIntosh.

"I don't know how moving oil from Fort McMurray or Alberta to Belledune is going to affect the people in Gaspé."

The mayors of northern New Brunswick and the Gaspé coast have had several meetings in recent months to discuss safety concerns.

They have been briefed on safety standards and Belledune has begun preparing an emergency measures team, the mayor said.

Chaleur Terminals is still awaiting "commercial support" for the project. 


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