New Brunswick

U.S. environmental group concerned about Energy East pipeline

Natural Resources Defence Council is concerned about increased tanker traffic, possible spills.

Natural Resources Defence Council is concerned about increased tanker traffic in the Bay of Fundy

TransCanada's amended application to the National Energy Board say the number of tankers in the Bay of Fundy would increase to 281 from 115. (The Canadian Press)

The Natural Resources Defence Council, a U.S.-based environmental group that opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, has now set it's sights on the proposed Energy East pipeline in a bid to halt tanker traffic in the region.

The group is warning the public in a new report about the possible environmental impacts the pipeline, which would end in Saint John, would have on the region.

"We're looking at nearly 300 supertankers a year moving diluted bitumen down the U.S. coast, along some of our critical fisheries, along our coastlines, to heavy crude refineries in the Gulf Coast," said Anthony Swift, the director of the council's Canada project.

"Right now regulators on neither side of the border are looking at this issue and evaluating the impacts of that traffic."

It has been noted that there hasn't been an oil spill from a tanker in the Bay of Fundy and that if there was, there are measures in place to reduce the environmental impact.

But that doesn't assuage Swift's fears about the pipeline and the related increase in tanker traffic that would come to the region as a result.

Anthony Swift, the director of the Natural Resources Defence Council's Canadian Project, said the Energy East pipeline will bring an increase of supertankers in the Bay of Fundy. (YouTube)
"The reality is tanker spills do happen. We seek to prevent them, but the larger the volume of oil we move the more potential of an incident," said Swift.

Swift said that a spill from a tanker carrying bitumen would not be the same as a spill of regular oil. It would have the opportunity to be far more catastrophic.

"One of the difficulties with diluted bitumen is it's a mixture of very light natural gas liquids and bitumen which is heavier than water," said Swift.

"Rather than containing the spill on the water's surface, much of that bitumen begins to sink below into the water column where it can't be contained."

Group opposed Keystone XL

This isn't the first time the group has criticised a pipeline originating in Canada.

They also stood against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported diluted bitumen from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Nebraska.

While the pipeline was supported by the previous Conservative government, it was rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Swift said the process of approving Energy East should take American environmental impacts into consideration.

"We are simply asking for the significant potential environmental impacts to the U.S. be considered in the evaluation of energy east. These should not be rubber stamped processes," he said.

When asked why an organization based in the United States should have any say in the energy projects of Canada, Swift points out that many Canadians oppose the pipeline as well, and that the two nations share a great deal of energy infrastructure.

"The impacts of the pipeline don't end at Saint John. Should that pipeline be built, the U.S. will see a tremendous increase in tanker traffic, a new type of spill risk up and down our coast," said Swift.

"What happens in Canada often impacts the U.S."

TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline would ship crude from Alberta to New Brunswick. (Canadian Press)

With files from Information Morning Fredericton