Pipeline risks outweigh benefits, says Ontario Energy Board report

Energy East pipeline route, looking south from Jinkinson Road.

(ABOVE: Energy East pipeline route, looking south from Jinkinson Road. Via Google Maps.)

Last week, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released a report on the proposed Energy East pipeline that raises numerous concerns about the project’s safety.  The pipeline would carry 1.1-million litres barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to Quebec to New Brunswick.

One of the OEB’s concerns is the conversion of 1,900km of existing 42-inch natural gas pipeline to handle crude oil. Part of that pipeline runs just west of Stittsville.

It also noted at lack of information from the proponent on the impact a spill would have along major waterways including the Ottawa River and Rideau River.  Ottawa has a water intake that’s downstream of the pipeline.

The OEB also says converting the natural gas pipeline would drive up the price of natural gas in our area due to reduced supply.

Energy East Pipeline Map
Energy East Pipeline Map, showing its route west and south of Ottawa.


You can read the full report here, and here’s a press release that accompanied its release last week:

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) today released “Giving Ontarians a Voice on Energy East,” a report on its consultation and review of the proposed Energy East Pipeline.

At the request of the Minister of Energy, the OEB led an open and impartial review of the potential benefits and impacts of the proposed Energy East from an Ontario perspective. 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. The OEB’s advice set out in this report is intended to ensure a better balance between the risks and benefits for Ontarians.

“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.

Leclair noted that Ontario government policy requires that pipeline projects in Ontario have the highest available technical standards for public safety and environmental protection. They must also have demonstrable economic benefits for Ontarians. Ms. Leclair says, “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 life-cycle approach for operating Energy East,” says Leclair. “We also believe that treaty and Aboriginal rights must be respected.”

The report, including the full list of recommendations and a backgrounder on the consultation and review, are available from our Newsroom at www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Industry/Media+Room/News+Releases . Summaries from our meetings and the reports of our technical advisors are posted on the OEB’s Energy East website: www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/oebenergyeast .

The OEB is confident that its advice will help inform the Ontario government prior to its intervention at the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on Energy East. Approval of the pipeline project lies with the NEB and the federal government.

The Ontario Energy Board is an independent and impartial public regulatory agency. We make decisions that serve the public interest. Our goal is to promote a sustainable and efficient energy sector that provides consumers with reliable energy services at a reasonable cost.


8 thoughts on “Pipeline risks outweigh benefits, says Ontario Energy Board report”

  1. I was wondering when this topic was going to come up. It’s been awfully quiet and all hush hush while the companies have been busy silently planning and prepping the eastern pipeline. The OEB points out some obvious points that noone can ignore. But there are additional points to consider as well.

    It is a proven fact that no matter what “high standards” are “demanded”, pipelines always spill. There are no ifs ands or buts about that. There are various maps that were made that shows that pipelines leak all over the place. There is no such thing as magically doing it all better than anyone has ever done, and expect people to believe that miraculously, we’re not going to see spills. We’re going to see spills. But where? The pipeline goes through wetlands. I wonder if they will do a proper job cleaning it up fully when oil *will* leak in there. The pipeline crosses the Ottawa River, and downstream the city of Ottawa has their water intake on that river? That’s going to upset an awful lot of people.

    And what’s with this compromise of “converting” a 50+ year old natural gas pipeline (I’m not sure how old exactly this line is), that’s underground out of sight. Metal rusts. When gas seeps out there isn’t all that much of an environmental impact. Are the companies sharing the current leakage levels? Surely not 100% of the gas that goes in, comes out at the other end. It’s probably just chucked up to tolerances and whatnot.
    So “Highest standard” includes using a gas pipeline, and running oil through it at high pressure, without knowing that that pipeline isn’t compromised due to age and rust, except what they might be able to tell from running a camera and some sensors through it. Perhaps some small leakage that doesn’t really cause any problems, is part of the formula.
    This is going to be one helluva mess.

    Creating a risky pipeline is not the answer. The distance is huge and these things leak no matter what. The amount of oil that comes gushing out is absolutely absurd. It’s not like you turn off the tap, do a bit of scooping up of spilled oil, a bit of welding, and all is well again. The consequences are far greater than that. There are places where just about everywhere you go, there is oily goo all over the place. It carries downstream in places. We do not want to see Ontario become a mess like this. There are other better options.

    A much better alternative is to improve the railway lines. Right now we have a dual line, a CN and CP mainly. There was talk of creating another railway line for high(er) speed train travel from Toronto to Ottawa to Montreal. A project like that would open up more cargo flow along the existing routes, and we would get a better passenger train system like most other parts of the developed world enjoys. Our train system is rather antiquated. Look at Europe and Japan for instance. Sure, they have different demographics, but it has to be possible to implement at least that one corridor?

    Another better option is to build a refinery in Alberta. Why transport oil when we can create more local fuel supplies? But wait, refineries struggling with maintenance schedules allows them to keep the gas price up (and thus profit levels – which are at an all time record high) due to (artificially inflated) demand. Look at the sinking price of oil while the price of gas stubbornly stays high. See my point? And they’re expecting us to trust them? This is all about them and their profits. There is nothing in this for us. We’re just in the way.

  2. Initially I didn’t care. I only wanted a credible safety and environmental review before the pipeline goes in; but if natural gas prices are going to go up, that’s not good for locals. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea…

  3. I want that oil to stay in Canada. I don’t want it sold to other countries that will use it against us; ie third world countries, China, et al. We need to be independant of them.

  4. The article starts off with reporting that the Energy East pipeline will carry much less than what the OEB report states. An oil barrel amounts to approximatdly 159 litres. On a daily basis, it’s not 1.1 millions litres that it would carry but 175 millions litres per day or over 1 billion litres in a week.

  5. I’d like to correct two points:
    1. Erin is correct. Energy East will carry 1.1 million barrels (not litres) per day of crude oil or diluted bitumen (“dilbit”), which is bitumen diluted typically 70:30 with petrochemical solvents;
    2. Energy East does not cross the Ottawa River north of us. It does however cross the Rideau near Kemptville, and will be extended across the Ottawa River near the St Lawrence for the new section through Quebec. You can find a detailed map on the NEB site here:

    For the record, I’m strongly opposed to this conversion, but primarily on the issues of climate change and energy security. But that is a bigger discussion.

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