One thing that opponents to pipelines find hard to acknowledge, at least publicly, is that a company like TransCanada takes its commitment to protect the environment very seriously. In their all-or-nothing view, a pipeline operator is in business to make money and does not care about the environment. We disagree.
We have been in business for more than 60 years. In those years, we have built a strong reputation for being a responsible company in the energy infrastructure industry – one that strives to minimize its environmental footprint while fulfilling its obligations to meet growing demand for reliable and affordable energy.
In 2013, TransCanada was named for the 12th consecutive year to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, and one of the Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada by Corporate Knights magazine. There is a reason for this. Long before corporate social responsibility became a buzzword, TransCanada put safety and environmental management front and center when building and operating our infrastructure.
On every project we undertake, our strategy goes beyond simply complying with all applicable environmental law and regulations; we take actions each and every day that demonstrate our commitment to environmental stewardship. The Energy East Pipeline Project will be no exception.
“We have organized close to 100 open houses along the proposed Energy East route, and we have noticed that questions in communities where we are already present are very different from those asked in places where we have little or no infrastructure yet,” says Alain Parise, who oversees Land, Community Relations and Aboriginal Relations on the Energy East Project.
“In the communities where we already operate, questions are not so much on safety or the protection of the environment because people know us. We have been around for 50 years and they know how we work, they know the care and attention we put into our infrastructure.” Parise says. “Elsewhere, we keep talking to people and explain the steps we plan to take to protect the environment.”
TransCanada will for instance implement specific measures to protect the beluga whale population in the Saint Lawrence River outside of *Gros-Cacouna, where we are studying the possibility of building a *marine terminal that would be part of the Energy East project.
We know beluga whales are a threatened species and we are committed to implement a list of measures to ensure that the geotechnical surveys we need to carry out – to help us plan an infrastructure that is safe and adapted to the local environment – do not create significant disturbance for the mammal population.
These measures were developed by our environmental specialists in collaboration with government experts. The specialists we rely on are independent experts entirely focused on studying and protecting endangered species. The mitigation measures they have helped us develop in Cacouna include the observation of a 540-meter protection zone around the equipment used for our surveys. We will set up a visual monitoring – by experienced observers— in order to interrupt our work should a beluga enter the protection zone. We would resume our surveys only once observers confirm that the beluga has left the area for at least 30 minutes.
We will also use hydrophones to measure underwater noise levels in order to confirm that the protection zone is adequate and that the noise level is no higher than 120 decibels at the limit of the exclusion zone. It is equivalent to the noise produced by a diesel engine.
We work hard to protect wildlife and biodiversity wherever we operate. For instance, on a recent project in Idaho to stabilize a natural gas pipeline under the Pend Oreille River, TransCanada developed innovative methods to avoid disrupting the normal upstream migratory pattern of the threatened bull trout. As part of mitigation measures, the project team also contributed to a fish hatchery that raises kokanee, a fish preferred by the bull trout species.
TransCanada also came up with conservation plans to protect and restore the habitat of the American burying beetle along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in South Dakota and Nebraska.
Thorough Environmental Assessment
Our attention to details is genuine, as is our dedication to protecting the environment. We constantly seek to improve the way we work through environment field studies and consultations with local experts. This care and attention will show in the application that we will submit to the National Energy Board. Our filing will include hundreds of pages of thorough environmental assessment.
From safety and land reclamation to the protection of the environment, we’re committed to doing things right, not simply because we have to but because we take responsibility for what we do and seek to remedy any impact our activities may have on the environment in the communities. This is how a responsible company operates. This is also how a good neighbor behaves.