by Chantal Kipfer
On September 11, 2014, Ecology Ottawa held the Rideau-Rockcliffe Stop the Pipeline Info Session at the Richelieu Vanier Community Centre, one of many initiatives to mobilize citizens of the Ottawa region against the Energy East pipeline. Ben Powless, Ecology Ottawa staff member spearheading the group’s Tar Free 613 campaign, and Alex Guest, who partook in the Energy East Resistance Ride over the summer, led an informative and thoughtful presentation about the reality we would face if the pipeline is built.
Around thirty locals came out to the event to learn more about the pipeline, express their concerns and discuss the next steps in stopping TransCanada’s proposal. Many attendees were passionate; understanding the seriousness of the issue and the impact it will have on their community. One Vanier local, Carole Luz Trepanier, expressed her belief that resisting the Energy East pipeline is a crucial stepping-stone in an overall shift that needs to be taken in Ottawa and the rest of the country towards a greener and safer extraction of resources.
Indeed, the Energy East pipeline poses a large risk to the city, but also to many other communities and waterways. In 2013, TransCanada proposed to build the pipeline from the tar sands in Alberta to the east coast of Canada, a distance of over 4,500 kilometres. The company’s plans were not widely announced, despite the size of the pipeline that would equal three times that of the Northern Gateway pipeline and 50% larger than the Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada’s proposal includes plans to use 3,000 kilometres of up-to-forty-year-old existing pipelines, and to connect them by building 1,500 kilometres of new pipeline from Eastern Ontario through Quebec and New Brunswick. All together, the pipeline would result in 130 million litres of tar sands oil being transported across the country every day.
Extracting and transporting this corrosive oil creates great risk for Ottawa residents, as well as for all Canadians. The construction of the Energy East pipeline would expand the tar sands, a tremendous producer of greenhouse gas emissions, thus increasing Canada’s negative impact on climate change. Furthermore, the health of residents and First Nations living near the tar sands would grow increasingly at risk.
From a transportation perspective, pipelines are known to spill. There are on average two oil spills per day in Canada, creating toxic ecosystems across the country. This particular oil is a type of heavy crude, which makes the oil sink, not float, thus rendering oil spills more difficult to clean up.
In the Ottawa area, the Energy East Pipeline will cross two main waterways: the Mississippi River and the Rideau River, both of which feed into the Ottawa River, the source of our drinking water. Therefore, if the pipeline were to spill, the oil would create a polluted and dangerous ecosystem and city to live in.
In an attempt to stop TransCanada’s plans for the Energy East pipeline, Ecology Ottawa created the Tar Free 613 campaign, one of the organization’s five campaigns geared towards making Ottawa the nation’s greenest city. Committed to protecting Ottawa’s waterways and ecosystems from toxic oil, Tar Free 613 has been working to spread awareness about the Energy East pipeline and to create a movement that will pressure various levels of government to stand against TransCanada’s proposal.
The Rideau-Rockcliffe Stop the Pipeline Info Session is just one of numerous initiatives Tar Free 613 has organized against the pipeline. Other successes include the 20,000 households they have spoken to about the pipeline, the 5,000 signatures they have collected in a petition against TransCanada, and the 1,000 people that have come out to join Tar Free 613 at many events across the city. Already, the resistance against the Energy East pipeline has been noticed and Ottawa MPPs, Yasir Naqvi and John Fraser have formally opposed it.
As the municipal elections are approaching, now is the time to get candidates’ attention about the Energy East pipeline. There are many different ways to get involved and to spread awareness of the dangers the pipeline will pose to the community.
● Put up a lawn sign against the pipeline
● Express your concerns about the pipeline to your friends, family and elected officials
● Volunteer with Ecology Ottawa (contact the Tar Free 613 organizer at firstname.lastname@example.org)