Heavy rains and winds did not dampen the commitment of the approximately 80 people gathered to protect their communities and the Bay of Fundy from the proposed Energy East pipeline on June 17 in Red Head, New Brunswick. The rally and picnic, organized by the Red Head Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association, was the final “Hands Across The Water” event held in the province in June.
“This gathering is about the future of our communities and the future of our young people,” says Lynaya Astephen, spokesperson for Red Head Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association. “We want to live in a safe, healthy community and we want to prevent runaway climate change. A rapid transition to clean energy and efficiency will create more jobs and local prosperity than oil and gas.”
Red Head is the terminal point for the proposed Energy East tar sands bitumen pipeline. Up to 13.2 million barrels would be stored in the middle of this rural community at the shore of the Bay of Fundy, and over 280 supertanker exports would cross the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine on their way to U.S. refineries in New Jersey, Louisiana, and Texas.
The rally and picnic on the beach took place beside Anthony’s Cove Road, near the location for the proposed tank farm. TransCanada is proposing to level the hill and forest seen here in the background. A total of 22 storage tanks is proposed to be built here for the tank farm, each one approximately 18 m high and 62 m in diameter. This industrial landscape would dramatically alter the quiet, picturesque neighbourhood of homeowners and threaten their safety.
“I’m worried about the prospect of a spill or fire at the tank storage farm,” says Astephen. “The deputy fire chief in Burnaby, B.C., has issued a scathing report on the risks presented by a similar oil tank storage facility on the West Coast. The chief warned that a fire at the expanded tank farm could create a “nightmare scenario” resulting in a massive urban evacuation.”
In solidarity with the local lobster fishermen, there was a maritime lobster boil on the beach to remind everyone of the importance of the Bay of Fundy that supports thousands of fishery jobs. Both fishery and tourism jobs would be in jeopardy if there was a spill of tar sands bitumen in the Bay of Fundy, waters which have the highest and fastest tides in the world.
Well water from Red Head was served at the picnic to highlight their concerns for their water. Unlike conventional oil, tar sands bitumen in a water spill will form tar balls a sink to the bottom. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre stressed that the cost of a major spill in the Metropolitan Montreal region could reach $10 billion. And a 2013 consultant’s report for the BC Ministry of Environment estimated that a bitumen spill on the salt-water ocean would leave more than 50% of the volume of oil in the water, due to viscosity, sinking and submergence of the tar.
The critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale would also be in jeopardy if the Energy East project was approved. These and the other magnificent whales in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine would suffer the fate of increased noise/disturbances, ship strikes, and whale entanglement from fishery gear loss. A dramatic increase in supertanker traffic would result in more encounters with fishing gear that can cut the ropes. Fishing gear loss is a major mortality factor to whales in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine. The pieces of fishing gear silently move through the water and can travel for large distances.
The participants also stood in solidarity with Quebec organizations such as Coule pas chez nous! and communities that are also opposing the Energy East pipeline, as well as the rail transport of tar sands bitumen, including the proposed oil-by-rail marine export project ending in Belledune, New Brunswick.
Clanmother Alma Brooks read the Water Declaration on behalf of Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, Wolastoq Grand Council. The Energy East pipeline would cut across the entire length of their ancestral territory, a territory based on the watershed boundaries of the St. John River Basin.
“We call on Canadian Federal, Provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to change their laws and regulations to accommodate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” says Brooks. “These laws and regulations must take into account sovereign Indigenous title – absolute title – of the Wolastoqiyik, involving our inherent and inalienable rights, including among others their right to exercise free, prior, and informed consent and our right to participate in economic development that affects the water.”
“We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to protect the water to secure a future for our children and our grandchildren that is healthy,” says Brooks.
Mark D’Arcy is the Energy East Campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
This blog was originally posted on the Council of Canadian’s website where more pictures of the rally and picnic can be viewed.