Alarm Sounded as TransCanada Set to Drill in Bay of Fundy

An open letter was released today by 20 groups in New Brunswick opposed to TransCanada’s plans to begin drilling in the Bay of Fundy. The signatories cite a six-page document obtained outlining TransCanada’s work plans for exploratory borehole drilling related to the Saint John, New Brunswick terminal of the proposed Energy East pipeline.

The open letter warns the drilling could begin as early as today: “This procedure is invasive and has the potential to hurt resident’s foundations, drinking water, along with the natural environment that we all value and protect. Why are boreholes being drilled before this project is approved without consultation with residents and others affected?”

Hotly debated pipeline

Concerns enumerated in the open letter include potential impacts on nearby homes and roads, and on shorebirds and marine life. A recent study by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick found that the increased tanker traffic associated with Energy East would increase stress levels for the Bay of Fundy’s endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The letter also alleges the company has not received free, prior and informed consent from local Indigenous communities, noting “this shore and seabed is on unceded Wolastoq territory.”

The signatories say they were only informed of the drilling plans by “a last-minute release of a letter from TransCanada on August 25.”

Energy East would be the largest tar sands pipeline in North America, carrying an estimated 1.1 million barrels per day from Alberta to the Atlantic coast. The proposed mega-project has been one of the most hotly debated issues in the federal election campaign.

The Conservatives support Energy East, while the NDP and Liberals have taken more ambivalent positions. All three major parties have been targeted by protesters opposed to the pipeline. The Bloc Quebecois have made opposition to Energy East a signature of their campaign efforts.

Growing opposition

In New Brunswick, visible opposition to Energy East has been growing in recent months, despite strong political support for the pipeline and marine export terminal from the provincial government led by Premier Brian Gallant.

“As a resident of New Brunswick my biggest concerns are about water as it goes through nearly 300 waterways in this province and then on to the Bay of Fundy,” local organizer Lynaya Astephen told Ricochet by email. “It’s not if but when a pipeline spill happens.”

In late May, over 500 people marched through the Saint John, N.B. community of Red Head to the Bay of Fundy to oppose the pipeline.

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Drill first, get approval later?