Saint John council poses Energy East questions to TransCanada
Requested information delves into potential benefits of proposed pipeline, tank farm, marine terminal
Saint John is asking TransCanada Corp. for details on how much Energy East oil would be refined in the city and how much in annual property taxes the company expects to pay if the proposed pipeline is constructed.
The questions are among dozens delving into the potential economic benefits, and the environmental, social and public safety implications of the proposed Energy East pipeline, its tank farm and marine export terminal.
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It's a move that Neil Jacobsen, the city's commissioner of strategic services, describes as an "informal information request."
The document was approved by Saint John council on Monday and has been released publicly, well ahead of anticipated National Energy Board hearings.
The pipeline, with a capacity of 1.1 million barrels per day, would carry western crude oil to Saint John where an export marine terminal and large oil storage tank farm would be constructed.
Mayor Mel Norton says the questions are designed to ensure the city and TransCanada reach "real understandings" before the hearing process begins.
"These questions allow us to have that conversation, answer the many questions that we as council have, that our staff have, folks in the community have with a view to answering those questions," said Norton.
My desire and my belief is that at the end of this process we're going to have an opportunity to completely and unreservedly support the project.- Mel Norton, Saint John major
"And certainly my desire and my belief is that at the end of this process we're going to have an opportunity to completely and unreservedly support the project."
Among the questions is a request that appears specifically designed to soothe concerns about a decade-old property tax deal given to another energy company, Canaport LNG, that many in the city regard as unfair.
That deal, approved by the provincial legislature in 2005 at the request of the city council at that time, chopped the municipal property taxes on the terminal by more than 90 per cent. It fixed the rate at $500,000 per year until 2030.
Property tax question
"Please confirm that TransCanada and related partners on the Energy East project will commit to pay real property tax based on real and true assessment value and that the proponent will not seek preferential treatment in the form of tax concessions from a real property tax perspective."
Other questions ask the company to describe how local suppliers and workers will be included, how the Bay of Fundy and the city's surface water supply will be protected and how drinking water wells near the marine terminal will be safeguarded.
Some of the questions request more than information.
In one case, the city asks the company to consider upgrading some of Saint John's aging low-income housing stock rather than building a construction camp as temporary housing for pipeline and marine terminal workers.
Saint John council voted in November 2014 to give conditional support to the Energy East project.