John Resko

John Resko of North Bay attended a recent hearing by the Ontario Energy Board about TransCanada's proposed Energy East Pipeline. (Erik White/CBC)

A couple hundred people crowded into a community hall in North Bay to voice their concerns over a planned oil pipeline.

The Energy East Pipeline is a proposed project by TransCanada and if approved, it would result in an existing natural gas pipe that crosses northern Ontario be converted to oil.

It would cross the watershed of Trout Lake, where the city of North Bay gets its drinking water.

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald (Erik White/CBC)

“An oil spill on Trout Lake is non-negotiable,” Mayor Al McDonald said.

Most of his counterparts in the region have said they think the Energy East pipeline is good for the economy and safer than shipping oil by truck or train, but McDonald said he is worried about the devastating impact one spill could have on his city.

Almost every citizen who spoke at the hearing echoed those sentiments, including Reverend Elizabeth Frazer.

“No amount of promised financial benefit can compensate for the possibility of a ruined water supply,” she said.

“Ruin our water and you ruin our city.”

However, not everyone was against the project.

Nicholas Warus

Nicholas Warus is with the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry. (Erik White/CBC)

A Sudbury based representative for the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, argued that Energy East is good for his members and the rest of the region.

“With Energy East, the creation of jobs and the safe transportation of oil is good common sense,” Nicholas Warus said.

More consultation scheduled

The energy board has also been meeting with First Nations leaders across the region during recent consultation hearings.

Former Anishnabek Grand Chief John Beaucase is helping with the energy board with those consultations.

“The aspect of consultation and accommodation is still a bit of a moving target but it would be very similar to a mining development or a forestry development or a hydro-electric development or anything else like that,” he said.

“There does need to prior and informed consent by the First Nations.”

Beaucage said some of the First Nations leaders he met with this week do expect their communities to be financially compensated by TransCanada.

The Ontario Energy Board will now advise the province on what it should tell the federal government about this plan to convert the existing line to oil

The board will fine tune that report with another round of public meetings later this spring.