While an Ontario Energy Board report on the proposed Energy East pipeline suggests it may not provide significant benefits to that province compared to its risks, the company behind the proposal remains emphatic that expansion of oil transmission through Ontario to the east coast is an important effort.
TransCanada noted that Energy East is expected to add $15 billion to the Ontario economy, create thousands of jobs in the province and contribute $50 million in property taxes yearly to local municipalities.
““Energy East represents the safest and least GHG-intensive way of moving Canadian oil to Canadian refineries,” said François Poirier, President of Energy East Pipeline.
The OEB released a study entitled "Giving Ontarians a Voice on Energy East,” in which the organization found that “After the most comprehensive consultation it has ever undertaken, the OEB has determined that there is an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the Project, and the expected benefits for Ontarians.”
Concerns were raised regarding potential issues with environmental damage, and the economic benefits were called into question by the independent regulator.
“The primary concerns of Ontarians are about pipeline safety, and the impact of Energy East on their lakes, rivers and drinking water in the event of a spill,” says Rosemarie Leclair, Chair and CEO of the OEB. “We cannot state that the project meets the highest available technical standards, as the proponent, TransCanada Pipelines Ltd, has not yet filed a complete application. Our review has also determined that the economic benefits for the province are likely to be modest.”
The report made a number of recommendations to lessen the environmental impact of the project, and recommends that TransCanada ensure communities near Energy East have an ongoing role in the operation and construction of the proposed pipeline. “Community engagement should be seen as another aspect of the lifecycle approach for operating Energy East,” says Leclair. “We also believe that treaty and Aboriginal rights must be respected.”
In a press release, TransCanada stated that the project is in the early stages of the design and regulatory process set out by the National Energy Board and will continue to be refined through technical studies and public consultation.
Economically, the company has already begun investing in Ontario and other locations and expects to continue throughout the project.
“A report released by the Conference Board of Canada late last year reveals that Energy East will add $15 billion to Ontario’s economy, create 4,200 jobs in Ontario during construction and contribute $50 million in property taxes each year to Ontario municipalities. Currently, the Energy East project has already spent more than $30 million with local suppliers and partners,” the company stated.
The pipeline would displace the 600,000 barrels of oil per day being imported into Eastern Canada, TransCanada states.
With regards to community engagement, the release states that TransCanada has hosted open houses attended by more than 3,000 local residents while also holding nearly 800 meetings with First Nations communities.
“In response to community and stakeholder feedback, TransCanada announced in April that it is accelerating the development and roll out of emergency response plans with local agencies along the Energy East pipeline route and has already held approximately 20 emergency response meetings with local officials to begin program planning,” according to TransCanada. “As a result, the Energy East project will submit prepared plans to the NEB much earlier than the regulatory process requires.