Why the City of Ottawa Can - and Should - Take Action on the Proposed Energy East Pipeline

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At Ecology Ottawa, we've already heard from numerous residents in the City of Ottawa who are concerned about the proposed Energy East pipeline that would bring at least 1.1 million barrels-per-day (over 130 million litres) through the boundaries of the city, even passing under the Rideau River.

Thousands of people have signed our petition urging elected officials to prevent this pipeline from being built through the city. Though the process is still in its early stages, we've received many questions - from city officials and the general public - as to whether the city can do or say anything about the pipeline.

Our understanding is that the city has the responsibility to look out for the health and safety interests of its residents, which would be put at risk by the construction of the largest oil pipeline in North America over key aquifers and past the city's drinking water supply.

A potential spill could be devastating to the city, to residents’ health, to the ecology of local ecosystems, and could even threaten many livelihoods. It is for these reasons that we're urging the City of Ottawa to conduct its own risk assessments of the pipeline, to talk to its residents about the proposed pipeline, and to intervene at both the Ontario Energy Board and the National Energy Board hearings.

This document shows that in doing so, the City of Ottawa would not be acting outside of its jurisdiction, but instead following a significant amount of precedent for communities who are concerned about oil pipelines passing through their borders. To publicly take a stance on matters that are outside of the immediate municipal jurisdiction would not even be an unprecedented action for the Mayor of Ottawa.

For example, Mayor Jim Watson has been quoted by several media outlets as not being in support of the Supervised Injection Sites in Ottawa, which supposedly falls under the provincial powers of healthcare. Further, the City of Ottawa has demonstrated the capability to be proactive at City Hall on provincial/federal regulations that will have an impact on the Ottawa region.

Another example comes from 2013, when the City of Ottawa planners decided to take matters into their own hands to assess the impacts of the proposed regulations on medicinal marijuana production facilities before the federal regulations were finalized. A report was put before the Planning Committee on February 27, 2013 that was titled “Proposed Federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations: City of Ottawa Input and Implications”.

The report was tabled to ensure that the introduction of federally regulated facilities does not adversely affect the citizens of Ottawa. The report was carried by the City Council where it directed staff to review all regulatory tools available in the potential establishment of medical marijuana production facilities.The Ottawa City Council, Mayor Jim Watson, and the city staff do have the tools to be proactive, but so far they have not chosen to do so as concerns the proposed Energy East pipeline. The City of Ottawa has fallen behind when compared to the extensive list of other cities across Canada that have taken a public stance on the Kinder Morgan, Line 9, and Energy East pipeline projects.

Kinder Morgan

In British Colombia, Gregor Robertson, the Mayor of Vancouver, put forward a motion that directed the city staff to apply for intervenor status at the National Energy Board hearing for the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The motion outlines the serious concerns that City has with the pipeline.

The town of Burnaby has formally requested the National Energy Board reject the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline due to a lack of sufficient information. Burnaby’s Mayor, Derek Corrigan, said “we are extremely concerned about multiple aspects of this proposal that we know will have very negative impacts on our city.”

Line 9

Denis Coderre, the Mayor of Montreal, has publicly stated his concerns over environmental safeguards, economic benefits, and financial resources if a disaster were to occur along the Line 9. Coderre stated “They're going under the Ottawa River, so there's an issue there. You have two million people who are taking their drinkable water from there so it's all about asking questions. I'm not signing a cheque, I'm not signing a contract until I have my own answers.”

Taking a more comprehensive approach with Line 9 were the cities of Toronto and Hamilton. In September 2012, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) directed staff to report back on the potential hazards of the Line 9 project to the TRCA watersheds and the Greater Toronto Area’s drinking water.

At the Toronto City Council Meeting on February 20th 2013, the City Solicitor reported that the primary areas of concern are the integrity of the pipeline, the safe handling of dilbit, and contingency measures in light of a spill. Further, the City Council adopted a motion at this meeting to authorize the City Solicitor to apply to the National Energy Board (NEB) for the City of Toronto to have intervenor status.

On April 3rd, 2014, Toronto City Council passed a motion calling on Ontario’s Ministry of Environment to order an environmental assessment of the pipeline. The council is also pressing Enbridge for more details on the project.

In Hamilton, Mayor Bob Bartina publicly raised concerns by sending the Minister of the Environment’s office the city's resolution that called for more detailed information and an environmental assessment of the project. The request for an environmental assessment was ultimately rejected. The City of Hamilton has now created a pipeline unit to respond to issues that have surfaced, including assessing the city's ability to respond if a spill were to occur. The Director of Planning and Growth, Guy Paparella, who was involved in the creation of the pipeline unit, has also expressed his frustration that the local voice is being lost in the process.

Energy East

Marcel Corriveau, the Mayor of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures in Quebec, has stated that the proposed pipeline route is “not suitable” for the municipality with it passing the St. Lawrence River so close to residences along the river. Mayor Corriveau and the city council planned to reject the proposed route and adopt a resolution to suggest a new route.

Danielle Roy Marinelli, Mayor of Ville de Levis in Quebec, is considering the position the city will take on the pipeline. The formation of a committee has been recommended, and Mayor Marinelli hopes it will allow them to take a position.

Gaetan Gamache, the Mayor of Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, has publicly expressed his impatience at being forced to wait for more information on the proposed marine terminal for the area.

Andre Caron, the Mayor of the municipality L’islet in Quebec has voiced concerns over the long term impacts of the pipeline. In September 2013, the city council agreed to ask the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (Quebec’s environmental regulatory board) to conduct a public study of the concerns of the pipeline.

Cyrille Simard, the Mayor of Edmunston in New Brunswick wrote a blog on the city of Edmunston’s website voicing his opinion that they would never accept a pipeline that would endanger their water supplies or future development. Mayor Simard is continuing to look into the risks of the project before talking a final position.

Al McDonald, the Mayor of North Bay is seeking intervener status at the National Energy Board hearings. The Ontario Energy Minister will be there to voice the concerns of the province, but Mayor McDonald believes that he will be able to best represent the community and convey their concerns.

The City of Winnipeg has expressed concerns regarding the threat of a leak to their water supply. The City, along with the Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, plans to prepare a brief outlining environmental concerns and present it to the National Energy Board.

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