Why Should You Apply to be an Intervenor in the NEB Energy East Hearings?

For step-by-step instructions on how to apply, please click here.

HANDS ON application workshop Sunday April 17 1:30-4pm UW HIVE lounge.

Some background

On Wednesday March 16, MEJC co-sponsored an Energy East town hall with Council of Canadians. MEJC member Michael Matczuk was on the panel, along with Maude Barlow, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Daryl Redsky, Chickadee Richard, and Andrea Harden-Donahue. Here’s what Michael had to say on the risk Energy East poses to Winnipeggers:

Thank you , Andrea. I’m honoured to be here tonight on behalf of the MEJC, and invite you all of to drop by our table afterwards. I’ll be there with other staff and volunteers, ready to answer questions about MEJC and our work. Right now, I’m going to quickly outline our concerns with Energy East.


We know that the moral job of the city and province is to protect the climate, get on with transition to a green economy,  and shout NO to more pipelines and tar sands development. We know that a pipeline that would amortize over 50 years is not a transition strategy! While we’re waiting for decision makers to thoroughly understand the climate message that we never cease communicating, we’ve focused on the risk to the aqueduct because regardless of where you stand on pipelines, you drink water.

What are the risks to the aqueduct?

We’ve heard some great information tonight about the risk posed by the pipeline across the country. All of those risks apply here in Manitoba, and there is one additional, really big problem that is nearly unique.

This slide shows a map of the aqueduct where it runs within a spill reach of the pipeline all the way from Falcon Lake to the Brokenhead River.

Where the pipeline is south of the aqueduct, the groundwater drains north; where it is north of the aqueduct, the groundwater drains south. A small, slow, undetectable leak near the aqueduct will invariably pass with the groundwater over the aqueduct.

Undetected leaks of up to 2.63 litres a day can go on for months, spreading carcinogenic benzene and other toxins throughout the boggy area around the aqueduct. Benzene is considered unsafe at anything over 5 parts per billion and could all too easily enter the aqueduct through cracks and holes in the 100-year-old concrete.

To better understand the situation, think of the problem of contamination of water supplies from underground storage tanks all over North America. Energy East would be a really, really long storage tank that threatens water supplies right across the province.

The aqueduct is in the best possible place for its purpose; the gas line proposed by TransCanada for conversion to dilbit could not be in a worse place. Insidious and invisible, a leak could poison a swathe of bog several kilometres wide, while the aqueduct continues to carry Shoal Lake water to Winnipeg right through the contaminated bog.

What kind of detection system could be installed to effectively monitor benzene levels in the bog around the aqueduct, and what could possibly be done to mitigate the damage after benzene is detected? When would the decision be made to shut down the aqueduct? Who will pay for the water supply to Winnipeg when the aqueduct and the reservoir are contaminated?

It is likely that a full blown environmental impact assessment has never been done regarding the spill reach, because natural gas doesn’t have the same contamination risk as unrefined oil or bitumen.

If a new oil line (rather than a conversion of an existing line) were to be proposed today, it would not be approved. We believe it would not even be proposed.

Here’s a quick overview of the legal situation — trying not to be too dry!

The City has a statutory obligation to provide water to its residents and is given “exclusive control” over the land that the aqueduct uses for that purpose.

The city has entered into three easement agreements with Transcanada that allow the conveyance of gas - not dilbit.

The agreements contain an indemnity and provide for compensation in the event that the water supply is disrupted.  The focus of the agreements is the crossing point of the pipelines and the aqueduct, NOT the length of the spill reach where the pipeline is “upstream”of the aqueduct.

For the Energy East project to proceed, the City has to agree to an amendment of the easement to allow liquid petroleum products and to have the easement agreement assigned to Energy East.

Both require the written agreement of the city.  The assignment cannot be arbitrarily withheld.  But saying no because there is a plan to convey oil rather than natural gas would not be considered arbitrary.

By agreeing, or by entering into a new agreement, the city would be consenting to the route that allows petroleum liquids to be conveyed through the spill reach that encompasses the aqueduct.

The city has also applied to intervene before the NEB.

We have taken the position that the city must thoroughly investigate the risks of conversion in order to be able to 1) effectively intervene in the NEB hearings; and 2) reach a suitable agreement with Energy East (if it agrees to do so).

We are worried that the city has neither the resources nor the political will to adequately protect the interests of residents of the city and accordingly have recommended that the Public Utilities Board hold hearings and if appropriate provide guidance to the City.

We’ve focused on the danger to Winnipeg water, but  water supplies for Sanford, Portage, Brandon Rivers, Sioux Valley and Kenton are also in danger. Winnipeg might be required to supply water to those affected communities.

What we’ve done and what we’re doing

We’ve met with several city councillors, MPs and MLAs and are continuing to pursue meetings with the others. We’ve presented to the City and Province political and staff committees.

Various community and labour organizations have invited us to present on Energy East, and we’ve held our own community level town halls in St Norbert, Wolseley, St Boniface and Linden Woods, with more planned.

We’re canvassing door to door, collecting hundreds of signed postcards directed to the province and to the city, and tabling at events across the city.

long the way, we’ve produced blogs, op eds, letters to politicians and the NEB, and two full length reports on the Energy East pipeline in Manitoba. Both reports are available on our website. noenergyeastmb.org

Our work emphasizes that while the aqueduct and other water supplies must be protected,  both the city and province must learn to put climate first in every decision made. Climate is not somebody else’s responsibility. It’s the responsibility of every level of government, and every citizen.

On the federal level, the liberal government seem to think that destroying the climate with the carbon-spewing Energy East pipeline is a fine way to transition to a green, sustainable economy. Here in Winnipeg, we have an excellent representative of that point of view: we have the Minister of pipelines and tar sands, more officially known as the minister of natural resources, Jim Carr.

It is Mr Carr’s responsibility to apply climate science to the natural resource sector. Instead he’s recently said that he shares “common goals and principles” with  proponents of energy east. It almost  seems like he wants to get oil to tidewater, so that oil companies can rake in last-ditch profits before the climate catches up and it’s too late.

MEJC recognizes the need to build public pressure and opposition to the Liberal party’s pro oil-industry agenda. The best place to do that is right here in Winnipeg where we can put that pressure to work on Jim Carr, and that’s the campaign we’re building now.

[UPDATED] We welcome new volunteers. We’ve put together several workshops so that you’ll feel well-informed and comfortable as you join in this wonderful work. One great  opportunity to participate is happening this Sunday April 17 at the lounge University of Winnipeg’s HIVE. We’re running a hands on help session so that you can easily apply to be an intervenor in the NEB Energy East hearing process. Don’t worry, we’ll help you every step of the way, and if you do end up being selected, we’ll be right there with you!

Looking forward to meeting you!

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