Edmundston mayor questions Energy East pipeline route

The mayor of Edmundston says the National Energy Board hearings on the Energy East pipeline have left him with several unanswered questions on why the route goes under a watershed near the city and what emergency measures would be in place in case of a spill.

Cyrille Simard wants to know why pipeline would go through Edmundston watershed and note around it

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard appeared at National Energy Board hearings about the Energy East pipeline on Monday in Fredericton. (CBC)

The mayor of Edmundston says the National Energy Board hearings on the Energy East pipeline have left him with several unanswered questions on why the route goes under a watershed near the city and what emergency measures would be in place in case of a spill.

The only way you can have zero risk is to go around the water.- Cyrille Simard, Edmundston mayor

​Cyrille Simard spoke as an intervener on behalf of the City of Edmundston at the NEB hearings in Fredericton Monday, along with representatives from the New Brunswick government, the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council, Miramichi Valley Business Association and mayors of Plaster Rocker and Upper Miramichi.

"The only way you can have zero risk is to go around the water," Simard told reporters outside the hearings about the proposed pipeline route.

"We'll have to move on and keep asking [questions]," Simard said.

The hearings on the Energy East pipeline, which would carry crude from the Alberta oilsands to the Iriving Oil refinery in Saint John, will visit 7 other communities along the proposed route.

Simard had about 20 minutes to address TransCanada officials at Monday's hearings.

He focused on asking why the route goes under the watershed near Edmundston, whereas that isn't the case in Quebec. He also wanted to know whether TransCanada had evaluated another route going around the watershed, and how TransCanada would respond to a spill.

TransCanada officials said the pipeline route is based on practical construction methods that would pose the fewer adverse effects.

The company also referenced its 57 pipeline valves in the province that officials said would isolate sections of the route in the case of a spill.

Edmundston's city council voted unanimously in April to ask the NEB to divert the project away from the watershed for the Iroquois River, which the city relies on as its main municipal water source.

Simard said he expects to get answers to his questions as the NEB process unfolds over the next several months.

Pipeline vs. rail

Alexis Fenner, the mayor of Plaster Rock, told the NEB panel in Fredericton it's clear that oil by pipeline is much safer than rail.
After Simard spoke, another New Brunswick mayor voiced a staunchly different view on the pipeline.

Alexis Fenner, the mayor of Plaster Rock, spoke about how two train derailments near the village factored into her decision to support the pipeline.

"With both accidents having the potential to have been a major disaster within the village limits, it's only common sense to look at safer methods of moving oil across this country," Fenner said.

Fenner also referred to her background in the oil and gas sector. She said she worked in the oilpatch in Saskatchewan and as a transport manager in the U.K.

The Plaster Rock mayor decided not to ask TransCanada any questions about the pipeline. She said any concerns from the village had already been answered through consultations with TransCanada and her own research. 

Fenner emphasized the need for jobs in the community.

"We've talked this subject to death, we've got to start building," said Fenner.

Provincial government questions

The New Brunswick government was the first intervener on the schedule in Fredericton.

Two government representatives asked TransCanada several questions, including details of  the company's contingency plan and whether there were any farming restrictions along the route.

TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline would ship crude from Alberta to New Brunswick. (Canadian Press)
TransCanada said it has a backup centre about 20 kilmetres away from its main control centre in Calgary and that it's developing an emergency contingency plan and will be sharing it with provincial officials.

TransCanada also said traditional farming along the route is no problem, but no permanent structures or water wells can be built or established along the route.

Premier Brian Gallant has voiced strong support for the Energy East pipeline.

Monday's proceedings follow the start of the NEB hearings in Saint John last week. 

The NEB will continue to hear from interveners in New Brunswick's capital tomorrow, which will be the last day of hearings in New Brunswick.

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