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‘Placeholder’ Shows Missing Pieces in Energy East Pipeline Plan

National Energy Board/Twitter
National Energy Board/Twitter

TransCanada Corporation still doesn’t know how to safely move diluted bitumen through two environmentally sensitive locations along the route of its proposed Energy East pipeline, two years after the problem was first flagged in a consultant report that has since been removed from the National Energy Board website.

When TransCanada resubmitted its 38,885-page application to the NEB, independent researcher Christian Foisy noticed a “placeholder” for research on a sensitive location near his home west of Montreal. The gap in the application means the company still hasn’t figured out how to run the pipeline through that particular section of the Ottawa River, the National Observer reports. “The company says it also needs to do more seismic testing—using air cannons—to determine the best way to build a concrete tunnel for the pipeline about 100 metres below the floor of the Saint Lawrence River, west of Quebec City.”

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The company “has known for about two years that its initial plan to install Energy East through the Ottawa River was flawed,” writes Observer reporter Mike De Souza, based on the consulting report that has since disappeared from the public record.

“While the oil industry, investment bankers, and federal government officials have said that Canadian companies can safely build new pipeline infrastructure to fuel economic growth and provide revenues to support a transition to a cleaner economy, environmentalists and other critics say the missing pieces of TransCanada’s application should raise alarms about the risks of betting on pipelines,” De Souza adds.

TransCanada spokesperson Tim Duboyce told the Observer it was “absolutely normal” for the company’s application to have elements that shift around over time. “We are confident that we can do it,” he said. “If we couldn’t find an appropriate solution with a sound engineering and sound design, then we wouldn’t do it.”

De Souza notes that TransCanada “made similar comments in 2014 about plans to build an oil terminal in eastern Quebec near a breeding site for beluga whales, a species at risk. It later cancelled plans for the terminal in the wake of a legal challenge spearheaded by the Quebec Environmental Law Centre that was based on the threat to beluga whales, a species protected under federal legislation.”