NOMA Hears One Side of the Story (Again!)

First published in the Chronicle Journal May 7 2016
By Peter Lang
On April 28, uninvited and without the $450 delegate fee, I was allowed to observe TransCanada Pipeline’s presentation to NOMA’s annual general meeting. It must have been the 1,000 signatures on our petition to reject the proposed Energy East pipeline… And, as with TCP’s address to City Council last August, the corporation was spared any contrary public input.

In his address, TCP’s Stefan Baranski first implicated us in the global demand for oil by asking, “How many of you drove here today?” He then followed with projections to show that increasing demand — after which he declared — “We have the oil!”

We know that. It’s what we should do with it now that we begin to understand climate change, the science behind it, and in light of Canada’s commitments to the Paris Summit last December.

Baranski’s reference to climate change was that by shipping by pipe rather than rail, we would save the emissions from rail cars dragged across Canada. He implied that with pipelines, oil-by-rail would virtually disappear, and carbon emissions would decline. Obviously, with no mention of the carbon emissions from the 1.1 million barrels per day burned in the world if Energy East is approved — it was a deception.

Nor was there mention that Baaken oil, that oil which exploded in Lac Magantic, will most likely continue to be shipped by rail. Our politicians should know by now that oil-by-rail is a problem that won’t go away with Energy East, and which demands another focused approach to safety and regulation. But as long as NOMA buys TCP’s pitch, they postpone the real risks.

Ask yourself, how we could we dictate that oil is to be shipped by pipe rather than rail? Or that imported oil to the east coast is to be replaced by western Canadian oil? Unless Justin Trudeau is willing to set a new National Energy Policy, and create another Petrocan — we know it won’t happen. The oil economy is presently decided by the market, free trade agreements, and binding contracts.

Baranski concluded by citing TCP’s goal of “zero incidents”. Yet by circumstance he was compelled to refer to the latest TCP spill on their Keystone One pipeline in South Dakota, on April 3. But he assured us it was cleaned up in record time and that prior, in a 5 year history, there had been no other incidents. Actually there have been dozens of documented incidents on that line. How can we seriously believe TCP’s safety assurances when they fudge the truth so shamelessly?

Let’s recall the leaks and explosions which happened along the proposed EE pipeline at Vermillion Bay, Stewart Lake, Ignace, and Beardmore. At Beardmore, after the valves were shut, a fire burned for 8 hours due to residual gas between valves. The average current distance between valves is 30 km. Thus shutting the valves is one thing — and continued leaking of residual oil, another.

Also, Nipigon and Red Rock will recall the 1990 mudslide along the Nipigon River, when that old pipe was left hanging unsupported for 75 metres. If it had carried the weight of tarsands oil rather than natural gas, it surely would have ruptured, spilling directly into the Nipigon River at a rate of 763 barrels per minute. We know that tarsands oil sinks quickly in flowing water, and is virtually impossible to clean up.

This is just some of the “fact-based evidence” that City Council felt they didn’t have when they opted to defer the vote on whether or not to reject EE last August. But the evidence will remain outstanding if NOMA and City Council continue to hear only one side of the story.

Peter Lang CUSP (Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet)