The Council of Canadians has released another document on Energy East – with really nothing new in it. There are eight pages of beautiful pictures of Canadian landscape, about 20 pages contain information that can be found on Google, and three pages are footnotes. Energy issues are complex and it is unfortunate that groups who oppose the project resort to recycling old information that isn’t true or doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions. We think Canadians deserve more.
But when opponents do this, it lets us show Canadians the steps that TransCanada takes to ensure our energy infrastructure system operates safely. This will also be clearly outlined in our application to the National Energy Board, and reasonable Canadians will see how seriously we take our commitment to safety.
Let’s start with something that many opponents of fossil fuels and energy infrastructure don’t want to acknowledge: a company like TransCanada can care just as much about the environment as someone who lives in the communities projects like Energy East will go through. Unlike many of the professional activists who travel about opposing things, we are actually on the ground. Our staff lives and works in towns located along the tens of thousands of kilometers of pipelines we build and operate across North America. They walk these pipeline routes and monitor them regularly.
We have a real interest in making sure our energy infrastructure operates safely and that the air, land and water resources along our pipeline routes are protected. Everyone at TransCanada is committed to making sure we meet and exceed the expectations of the public – and that Energy East will operate safely for decades to come.
“Safety is our top priority and it’s the way we operate,” says Craig Schell, Senior Environmental Advisor for the Energy East project.” This is why TransCanada invested an average of $900 million per year over the past three years on proactive inspections and maintenance programs.
Pipeline Safety and Integrity
“Pipeline integrity is at the core of our thinking from engineering and construction to operations. Our team will take measures tailored to each sensitive area along the Energy East route. Protective design features will include heavy-walled reinforced steel pipe under water bodies, cathodic protection that prevents external corrosion, and ultrasonic testing of our pipe to check for even small imperfections before it goes into service. New pipe will lay deeply below the bottom of a water body, and we will embed strategically-placed shut-off valves on each side of major water-crossings,” Schell adds.
These are just a few of the safety features we will implement on Energy East. They make us confident that in the unlikely event of a leak, it would be quickly identified and swiftly responded to by our highly-trained Emergency Response teams on the ground. People want to ensure their drinking water is safe – and so do we.
Now, none of these elements seem to find their way into the document published by the Council of Canadians. The group, more versed into sweeping statements, says Energy East will transport only diluted bitumen (or “dilbit” – oil sands bitumen reduced in viscosity through the addition of a diluent so it can flow through a pipeline) when the truth is Energy East will transport various blends of crude oil – from light to heavier oils.
It is interesting the Council of Canadians laments the “significant lack of independent scientific data” on diluted bitumen. Several independent studies conducted by respected scientific research organizations, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Battelle Memorial Institute, Penspen Institute and Natural Resources Canada, have all concluded dilbit behaves the same way as conventional crude oil.
According to the Council of Canadians, TransCanada denies that dilbit sinks in water. This is another example of how this group of professional activists systematically takes a short cut on facts. What we have said is that dilbit behaves the same way as conventional oil, which floats on water, but that all oil has the potential to sink if it is allowed to sit for extended periods of time – making a swift response to an incident essential.
Scientific Innacuracies and Oversimplifications
The Council of Canadians then makes a scientifically inaccurate and oversimplified guess about the size of a spill based on an arbitrary response time. Their calculations are based on the assumption the pipeline would run at maximum capacity at any given time, which would not be the case, and that every single drop of oil contained in the 4,500-km-long pipeline would be released to the environment in one particular spot in 10 minutes. This is physically impossible.
The reality is that we will place hundreds of shut off valves at strategic locations along the pipeline route. For major water bodies, valves will be put on each side of the crossing. If a drop in pressure is detected by our highly-trained staff at our oil control centre, we can immediately isolate any section of the pipeline by remotely closing valves around the area of the suspected incident, effectively limiting the size of any leak. In addition to shutting down the pipeline, we will immediately dispatch emergency response personnel to the scene. The Council of Canadians’ math does not add up and is an unrealistic scenario that creates an atmosphere of fear through misleading and inaccurate information.
“There is a tremendous amount of work done by our engineers to determine exactly where every single valve should be located. There are so many factors that we take into account, from industry standards to the topography or what we call outflow analyses, to assess where exactly these valves are needed,” Schell says.
Our regulatory application will contain thousands of pages of detailed safety, environment and socio-economic studies identifying the impacts the project may have, and proposing remedies. This work is the result of one of the most extensive engagement initiatives ever carried out by a company in North America. We have met with thousands of members from First Nation and Métis communities, landowners and local communities. We have heard their feedback and used it to develop our project.
We are very proud of Energy East because it will create thousands of jobs across Canada and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue to help build new schools and hospitals, but also because we will use the best safety, environmental and engineering standards to build this great Canadian project.