Energy east pipe dreamin

TransCanada has formally submitted its 30,000-page application to the National Energy Board seeking approval for its Energy East pipeline.The company.


TransCanada has formally submitted its 30,000-page application to the National Energy Board seeking approval for its Energy East pipeline.

The company plans to retrofit an existing 3,000-kilometre natural gas pipeline built in the 1970s to transport crude oil, diluted bitumen and other products from Saskatchewan to Ontario. It would connect that line to a new 1,400-kilometre pipe to carry the crude to eastern refineries and export markets.

The Council of Canadians says the proposed conversion is a recipe for disaster.

At a press conference to announce the plans Thursday, October 30, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling talked to NOW about potential impacts and how the opposition of climate activists factors into the companys plans.

According to the Council of Canadians, TransCanada has had five pipeline ruptures in the past year. That seems to contradict almost everything you have said about maintaining the highest standards of pipeline safety.

We have one of the best records in North America, if not the world. We employ about $1 billion a year in maintenance work. Transporting hydrocarbons across the nation is an important and imperative part of ensuring our economy continues to run, but Im not going to skirt the issue. We do have incidents in our pipeline system our target is to get that to zero but like everything, there are risks. When those things happen, we make sure we have a first-rate emergency response in place.

Can you clarify how you intend to protect beluga populations from marine terminal construction and increased tanker traffic in the St. Lawrence?

Wherever we have material impact on environment, communities, wildlife, we need to adjust, and weve adjusted this pipeline several times over the last 18 months to do that. When it comes to belugas, theres a lot of information we dont understand yet. There are currently about 7,500 ships on an annual basis [in the St. Lawrence]. Wed increase that by about 2 to 3 per cent. If there is a material impact, we will adjust our plans. Thats our commitment whether its the beluga whales or any other impact along the pipeline route.

Please address climate change.

Its been our view, and I think its the common view around the world, that a single pipeline does not change the consumption of oil, nor does it change the production of oil. Its just a safe means to transport it from A to B. Production has increased 3 million barrels a day without the Keystone pipeline, and weve seen ground transportation [of oil] increase exponentially. That means more greenhouse gases. As a company, we have as much desire as anybody to make sure that the impact of our facilities on the environment is minimized, and we do that. Here in Ontario, we are in the process of installing nine solar farms. We own the largest wind farm in Canada. We understand the spectrum of energy and the impact of each energy source, but what we also know is that we need to start 30 million cars each morning in this country.

TransCanada has faced opposition to its Keystone XL pipeline [in the United States]. How do you think activist opposition and work stoppages will figure into Energy East?

Well, I hope that they dont. That is one of the things we are working very hard to prevent by spending a lot of time in the communities. We met with 158 aboriginal communities before we even made the application, and my hope is that by addressing community issues up front we will reduce that push-back. But there are those who are fundamentally opposed to what we do, no matter what, and well have to just sorta deal with those as they arise. Were equipped to do that. We are open to having conversations with all parties to try to find a way forward that makes sense for us and for them.

Its tar sands crude thatll come through the pipeline?

It will be a combination of conventional crude oil, upgraded crude oil and raw bitumen.

Isnt raw bitumen corrosive to an old pipeline?

No. There are several studies we can provide you. Bitumen is no more corrosive than crude oil. We are about to spend $12 billion to put a pipeline in the ground. If it were corrosive, that would be a pretty dumb thing for us to do.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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