“Stand up for our Future, for the Environment.”

The proposed Energy East pipeline garners fierce resistance in Thunder Bay

By Leah Ching

Photo Courtesy: rblood/Flickr

Photo Courtesy: rblood/Flickr

For those that don’t know, Energy East is seeking to construct the largest oil pipeline in North America running from Alberta and Saskatchewan, to the Canadian East coast. Running on the tagline “Good for the Economy & Safe for the Environment,” many citizens of Thunder Bay feel that this promise is far from reality.

Environmental risks associated with the plan prove to be a large cause of dissent within Thunder Bay. With diluted bitumen from tar sands being one of the dirtiest petroleum fuels, and having the highest rate of CO2 emission, the proposed pipeline appears to be an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. The type of pipeline proposed, according to whistle-blower Evan Vokes at Trans Canada, has a concerning history of leaks and explosions. The seemingly inevitable disaster of oil spilling into fresh water caused fierce opposition from concerned Thunder Bay citizens. Speaking to CBC, Mayor Keith Hobbs said, “Lake Superior, to me, is more important than any jobs. I want jobs in this city, but water comes first. Water is life.”

City Councillor Aldo Ruberto sat down with The Argus and shared similar concerns about the plan to convert an already existing 40-year old single-wall pipeline (which already runs through Northern Ontario) for usage. “Why take the risk to transport the oil across the country, to then ship internationally and refine on the other side of the world? Why not refine the oil in the province it originates in? … By supporting this venture, we’re telling the government not to focus on other alternatives like solar, wind and hydroelectricity.”

Last week, City Council debated on the issue while 130 protestors stood outside City Hall in opposition to Energy East’s plan. Elysia Petrone-Reitberger of Fossil Free Lakehead said to the Argus, “It was great to see people come together, to see several groups co-operate toward pushing Council, and we will continue to lobby in the future.” Ultimately, council delayed making a decision on whether or not they would oppose the project, but not before many councillors spoke strongly of the need to invest in a more sustainable future.

Paul Berger, one of the organizers of the protest also offered comments to The Argus, “Right now, it’s best for students to do a bit of reading and talk to people who know what the issue is so they understand why there is great resistance. Know that a pipeline will spill, and be disaster for climate change. Why is there this idea to build massive new fossil fuel structures when we should be moving away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source?”

Councillor Ruberto echoed these sentiments in his interview, saying, “Manitoba and Quebec both produce cheap green electricity, so why are we not investing in infrastructure to get that across Ontario? Oil is a resource that will come and go. We have to start investing in other areas and tell the government ‘we are concerned about the future.’”

Paul Berger offered The Argus a final piece of advice to pass on to students, “Be ready to mobilize when the vote does come back to Council. We need to think about where we get energy from all together, to stand up for our future, for the environment.”


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