City Hall’s Job is to Make Sure the Final Energy East Plan is Good for Our City
As Mayor of the City of Saint John, I am driven to pursue new opportunities for growth for our region. Clearly, the Energy East project is one of those opportunities and I absolutely recognize the importance of this project to Saint John.
As Mayor of the City, I am also aware that our first responsibility, Council and staff, is to fully understand the project’s economic development opportunities, social impacts, environmental impacts, land use planning issues, impact upon existing physical infrastructure, and public safety considerations.
As a private citizen I could be an unapologetic flag bearer. As a Mayor I am responsible for my part in the City’s due diligence.
Significant Opportunity. Significant Impacts.
The Energy East project has a scope unlike any project we have seen before. It’s related investments have been previously identified by Common Council as an economic priority. If properly and safely planned, built and operated, the Energy East Pipeline can directly contribute to all three of Council’s current priorities;
- Economic Health,
- Community of Choice,
- Sustainable Infrastructure.
Going forward, our Council and staff need to complete the due diligence and be active, informed and engaged participants in the formal NEB hearing process. In order to fully assess the Energy East project’s direct impact on each of these 3 priorities, the City needs detailed information regarding the full spectrum of benefits and risks associated with the project.
The local environmental, social and economic ramifications of the proposed project, including public safety and emergency response issues, must be properly addressed before the City of Saint John, through Common Council, can fully and unconditionally support the Energy East project.
As a direct result of Energy East, the City of Saint John will be home to 13 kilometers of new oil pipeline with the capacity to handle in excess of 1 million barrels per day, a new 13.2 million barrel oil storage facility comprised of 22 individual 600,000 barrel storage tanks, and a new export marine terminal that will handle an increased crude carrier capacity within Saint John Harbour and the Bay of Fundy not seen in over 10 years.
These numbers show that we would almost certainly be the single most significantly impacted municipality along the entire 4,600 km route of the Energy East pipeline, both from a capital investment and a cumulative risk perspective.
Risks can often be mitigated with the right information and time to plan.
What is the City doing? What has been done already?
As the NEB Energy East hearing process moves forward, the City of Saint John will continue to focus on five areas of critical importance to the City of Saint John and its residents:
- economic development opportunities,
- social impacts,
- environmental impacts,
- land use planning issues, and
- public safety considerations.
In early 2016 the City of Saint John submitted a series of informal Information Requests (or IRs) to TransCanada, the lead Energy East Project Proponent. We have not yet received complete answers, to a number of our requests. We are now entering into the process where the project proponents can formally address these questions and I look forward to hearing their responses.
The IRs reflect all five areas of critical importance to the City, the NEB’s list of key issues in relation to the Energy East project, as well as the City of Saint John’s successful application to the NEB for formal Intervenor status. The original IRs are available on saintjohn.ca in both official languages, and further information regarding the NEB’s regulatory review process can be found here.
Saint John Common Council has also passed two previous resolutions that reflect the City’s strategic direction and focus leading into the formal NEB Energy East Hearing process.
On 24 November 2014, Saint John Common Council passed the following resolution:
WHEREAS Council of the City of Saint John consider the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline project to be of the utmost importance to the Saint John Area by providing the area with the possibilities of economic and community development;
WHEREAS Council of the City of Saint John feel that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Saint John to endorse said project;
WHEREAS Safety and the environment are of utmost importance to Council and the City of Saint John;
BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Saint John support the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline project;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Saint John work with TransCanada and the regulator to ensure that the pipeline is safely constructed in such a way as to protect the environment.
The intent of Council’s resolution was to illustrate the City’s support in principle for the Energy East project and it’s anticipated economic and community benefits. But it also clearly indicates that development cannot proceed without properly addressing associated environmental and public safety risks. The resolution also commits the City to work with both TransCanada and the regulator (NEB) to “ensure that the pipeline is safely constructed in such a way to protect the environment.”
On 18 April 2016 Saint John Common Council passed the following additional resolution and has been taking action since then;
Saint John Common Council directs the City Manager and NEB Working Group to:
1) Continue to actively engage TransCanada with respect to the City of Saint John’s Informal Information Requests (IRs), particularly with respect to economic development opportunities, social impacts, environmental impacts, land use planning issues and public safety considerations.
2) Issue a letter to TransCanada expressing appreciation for their cooperation to date with the City’s NEB Working Group and community representatives, while reinforcing the need for TransCanada to provide the City with:
a. Full responses to the City’s IRs, which are viewed as essential inputs for the City, through Common Council, to be able to make an informed decision with respect to the “conditions” by which our community can support the Energy East Project. The IRs recognize Council’s previous resolution to work with both TransCanada and the regulator (NEB) to “ensure that the pipeline is safely constructed in such a way to protect the environment.”
b. Detailed information regarding the full spectrum of benefits and risks associated with the proposed Energy East project. The local environmental, social and economic ramifications of the proposed project, including public safety and emergency response issues, must be properly addressed before the City of Saint John, through Common Council, can unconditionally support the Energy East project. As the host community for three key Energy East project components (pipeline, storage tank farm and marine terminal) it is absolutely critical that the NEB Working Group assemble sufficient information for Common Council and our citizens to make an informed assessment with respect to the project’s socio-economic benefits and environmental and public safety risks, including community risk mitigation measures over the life of the project.
3) Schedule TransCanada to provide a presentation to Common Council on 13 June 2016, concurrent with a planned overview and update with respect to the National Energy Board’s pending regulatory review process.
One of the most promising opportunities to #growsj
As Mayor of the City of Saint John, I absolutely recognize the importance of this project. Over the last year there has been a team of 8 senior staff dedicated (along with their other responsibilities) to the due diligence on this single project plus the assistance of external business groups and advisors.
On August 8, 2016 the National Energy Board will launch a two year process, right here in our city. We will continue to engage with the community, the NEB and the project proponents to ensure that the best interests of the City and our citizens are well represented.
The City of Saint John will need to accommodate such a massive “nation building”-scale infrastructure expansion. We have questions that need to be answered, a long list of impacts to consider, and plans to put in place.
Energy East is the single most promising opportunity to grow SJ and advance our city significantly over the next decade. We would be doing a disservice to our citizens without completing our due diligence and being active, informed and engaged participants in the formal NEB Hearing process.