By Tom Porter
MPBN News Story
TORONTO – Environmental groups in Maine are speaking out against Canadian energy giant TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada today submitted formal applications to build the largest, most expensive pipeline in North America. Although it would not cross into U.S. territory, some in Maine say the Energy East Pipeline would come close enough to our borders to pose a potential threat to the environment.
Listen Listening…2:51 Tom Porter reports on TransCanada’s application to construct the Energy East Pipeline across Canada, part of which would come within 25 miles of the Maine border.
If approved, the Energy East pipeline would stretch nearly 3,000 miles, transporting oil sands from Alberta to refineries and terminals in Quebec and New Brunswick. About 1,000 miles of pipeline will be newly constructed. The rest is already in the ground and would need to be converted from natural gas to oil.
Speaking at a press conference in Toronto Thursday morning, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling outlined the reasoning behind the $12 billion project. “People want what we have and we can provide what they want,” he said.
And what TransCanada can provide with the new pipeline, he says, would be over a million barrels of domestic crude per day, transported east to Atlantic Canada, both for domestic use and for export. Girling says there’s a strong economic argument for doing this.
“Just to put it in context, to import 700,000 barrels costs our economy about $20 billion that we send someplace else around the world. If that $20 billion stays in our economy, every year for the next 40 years, that’s going to create a lot of economic wealth for out country,” Girling said.
The application submitted Thursday to the National Energy Board of Canada cites an economic study indicating the pipeline – which it says could be in service in late 2018 – could support 14,000 jobs during development and construction.
The company has spent 18 months gathering data for the application, which addresses environmental issues and concerns. Nevertheless, environmentalists on both sides of the border are worried.
Emmie Theberge, with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says the pipeline would not actually cross into the state, but, at one point, comes within 25 miles of the border, “and crossing at least five tributaries of the St. John (River) which are upstream from Maine communities like Madawaska and Van Buren.”
Meaning there’s potential for serious water and air pollution in Maine in the event of any rupture to the pipeline. When it come to tar sands, Therberge says there are serious concerns. “Tar sands is more risky,” she says, “and when tar sands does spill it’s harder to clean up.”
But Theberge says the NRCM is not only motivated by so-called “NIMBY-ism.” She says there’s a wider concern over climate change and the global impact of increased crude oil production in western Canada.
At Thursday’s press conference, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling admitted that TransCanada had seen five pipeline ruptures over the past year. But he pointed out that the company operates over 40,000 miles of pipeline and has one of the best safety records in the world, spending about $1 billion a year on maintenance.