The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter


Drill for Heat not Oil

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on January 15, 2017 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (3)

The fossil fuel industry has left behind thousands of abandoned wells in Alberta. The wells have the potential to produce enormous amounts of geothermal energy that is clean, green, and sustainable. Using abandoned oil wells to reach some of Canada’s abundant geothermal energy means producers wouldn’t have to pay for expensive drilling: the wells are already there. They’re a nearly perfect transition tool, a made-to-order piece of the reject, reduce, reuse, recycle puzzle that clean energy advocates are assembling from the wreckage of fossil fuel use.

Chapter member and scientist Dennis LeNeveu explains the basics of geothermal energy and how it could work here in Canada.

Glossary of terms:

Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) is a man-made reservoir, created where there is hot rock but insufficient or little natural permeability or fluid saturation. In an EGS, fluid is injected into the subsurface under carefully controlled conditions, which cause pre-existing fractures to re-open, creating permeability.”

Capacity factor of a power plant is the ratio of its actual output over a period of time, to its potential output if it were possible for it to operate at full nameplate capacity continuously over the same period of time.


Dennis LeNeveu, a retired biophysicist who is deeply concerned about tar sands and pipeline expansion, is an active member of the Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter. This is the second in a series of blogs by Dennis addressing various issues that are too often overlooked in media coverage of pipelines.


D.M. LeNeveu - 16 December 2016

Imagine an affordable, inexhaustible electrical power source with an over 90% capacity factor, minimal environmental impact and a tiny surface footprint. This source is geological heat reservoirs, something Canada has in abundance. In 2011, Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) released a Geological Survey of Canada report that looked at geothermal potential in Canada. The report is clear: despite obstacles to developing many of the sources, deep geothermal power is available and would offer a significant benefit for Canada’s transition to clean energy.

  • “Canada's [deep] geothermal power exceeds one million times Canada's current electrical consumption, although only a fraction of this can likely be produced.”

  • “As few as 100 projects could meet a significant fraction of Canada’s base load energy needs.” 1

Deep geothermal power is not to be confused with shallow geothermal heat systems. Shallow systems use heat pumps to take advantage of constant shallow subsurface temperature. Deep geothermal power uses boreholes to extract heat from hot brine reservoirs found at a depth of from 700 to 4000 m in many areas of Canada. In a few locations, primarily in BC, shallow hot springs could be used. 2

Geothermal power is a developed technology that is used worldwide. 3 Most would think of Iceland, a country that uses abundant near-surface volcanic heat for power generation and heat. Other power plants include the over fifty-year-old 835 MW Geyser power plant in California that uses steam from 350 wells to turn turbines. Withdrawn water is recharged by injecting wastewater from regional wastewater treatment plants.4

Binary Cycle Power Plant (Figure 1)

More advanced “binary cycle systems” use a closed loop. Heat from hot brine in turn heats a second liquid (an organic fluid) to turn it to steam. The steam is used to drive turbines to produce power. Both the brine and the second liquid remain in their own closed loops and are reused. (Figure 1). 5

  • The hot brine is pumped to the surface and circulated through a heat exchanger to vaporize the organic fluid,

  • The organic fluid) is used to drive a power turbine,

  • The brine is reinjected to the reservoir,

  • The organic vapour is liquefied in cooling towers or in heat exchangers cooled with surface water,

  • The organic fluid returns to the brine heat exchanger to be re-vaporized and continue the cycle,

  • The boiling point of the organic fluid can be much lower than that of water, allowing for the use of reservoirs with temperatures less than 100 °C, 6

Alternatively, the organic fluid can be pumped through a borehole to the deep, hot reservoir. Heat can be withdrawn from the reservoir from a heat pipe that vaporizes the organic fluid at depth. The hot vapour is returned to the surface to turn turbines, liquefied in a heat exchanger, and pumped through the closed loop back to the heat pipe to continue the cycle. 7

Image: U.S. Department of Energy (Figure 2)

In the binary method, potential contaminants from the deep reservoirs (such as brine and heavy metals) are returned to the deep reservoir; with the heat pipe method, contaminants remain in place. There is a very small potential for environmental detriment from contaminants in the brine from a leak in the primary loop.

Distribution of geothermalpotential in Canada based on end use. (Figure 3)

As shown in Figure 3, significant deep geothermal resources occur in B.C. Alberta, the Yukon, southwestern N.W.T, Saskatchewan, southwest Manitoba, the Gaspe peninsula, and New Brunswick.1  These resources are virtually ignored and remain undeveloped in Canada.


B.C., which has the highest grade potential geothermal power, already has abundant hydroelectric power. The recent investment in the site C dam leaves little opportunity for exploitation of geothermal power. Some studies have shown the equivalent power from geothermal could have been done more cheaply with far less environmental impact. 8

Impediments to large scale geothermal exploitation in Canada include: 9

  • Geothermal reservoirs in the Yukon and N.W.T. are remote from power infrastructures.

  • Geothermal reservoirs in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin coexist with substantial oil and gas deposits that have a higher energy density and a greater short term return on investment. Oil companies with the technology to drill deep are invested in and have the expertise for the fossil fuel extraction, not geothermal.

  • Geothermal reservoir development has significant up front costs and risk with a long payback period.

  • Hot brine could be lost through leakage into formations disabling the resource.

  • Similar to new promising oil and gas reservoirs, geothermal reservoirs can prove to be inadequate.

  • Government support comparable to the fossil fuel industry is usually unavailable, and regulatory and permitting impediments exist.

The current tiny geothermal investment in Canada includes a 15 MW plant to be constructed in 2017 at Laytong hot springs about 10 km south of Terrace B.C. A consortium of Kitselas First Nation and Borealis Geopower has purchased for $100,000 the subsurface rights to develop the geothermal power. 10, 11

In 2010 Saskatchewan a start up company, DEEP, received a $2 million funding commitment from NRCAN and the government of Saskatchewan to develop geothermal power from a vast three kilometre hot deep aquifer near Estevan. 12 The first well, to be drilled in 2017, is expected to produce 5 MW of power with further development expected. 13

This can be compared to the 1.4 billion in government funding swallowed up by 110 MW coal fired carbon capture boundary dam power plant in Saskatchewan. This plant is billed as clean coal even though the captured carbon dioxide is to be sold for enhanced oil recovery that will generate more carbon dioxide through the burning of the recovered oil. 14 The waste streams from the toxic amines used in the process and the recovered sulphur from the coal are conveniently ignored.

Similar chemicals used in removing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide from natural gas have already poisoned drinking water in Alberta and elsewhere. 15, 16 It is claimed that the sulphur recovered from the coal will be sold to generate a profit. 17 This is hard to imagine given the massive mountains of sulphur already stockpiled from the Athabasca bitumen sands and from sour oil and gas processing plants all over Western Canada. 18


Many oil and gas wells over the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, including the Bakken, inject huge amounts of hot produced wastewater into deep reservoirs. 19 These hot fluids could be potentially used to generate electricity in coproduction with the oil and gas. This is undeveloped technology that is viewed as having uncertain and comparatively small returns on investment so remains moribund.

Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

Similarly, some of the thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells that are now a significant liability could be used for geothermal power. The high cost of drilling could be avoided by developing these wells. 20, 21

To realize the full potential of deep geothermal power would require initiatives by both the public and government. If the full environmental costs of fossil fuels were born by the industry, and global emissions curtailed to combat climate change, market forces could drive an explosion of geothermal power.

Measures to enable this transition would include a price on carbon, polluter funded fossil fuel waste treatment and disposal, double walling of pipelines and hard caps on emissions. Waste treatment would include industry funded treatment and isolation from the environment of the huge volume of toxins in the bitumen waste impoundments in the Athabasca sands.

The injection of sulphur waste in the form of acid gas containing deadly toxic hydrogen sulphide gas into oil and gas fields that will eventually leak should be stopped. 22 Alternatives include dissolution of the acid gas in produced waste water and stabilization of the sulphur in the form of sulphur salts such as calcium sulphate. 23, 24

Governments often react and follow rather than lead. Public awareness and advocacy for this valuable and environmentally benign resource might help to get the ball rolling. The most feasible economically viable option for large scale uninterruptible low carbon power is geothermal power. Geothermal power can be introduced incrementally well by well each having a relatively low cost and low environmental impact compared to large scale hydro, nuclear power or carbon capture. 25

What are we waiting for Canada? Get on board and be a world leader in geothermal power. Make us proud to be Canadians once more rather than shameful purveyors of climate, clean air and fresh water destroying, oil, natural gas and bitumen.





























Pipeline Problems: The Husky Oil Spill Investigation

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on November 29, 2016 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (1)


Dennis LeNeveu, a retired biophysicist who is deeply concerned about tar sands and pipeline expansion, is an active member of the Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter. This is the first in a series of blogs by Dennis addressing various issues that are too often overlooked in media coverage of pipelines.



D.M. LeNeveu - 28 November 2106


The Husky Oil accident report of November 17, 2016, attributed the oil spill on the North Saskatchewan River to ground movement following heavy rains. The National Observer reports that the pipeline was built on unstable ground.

The failure was likely due to gradual creep rather than a one time, rare, event as the report claims. It appears that faulty trench infill allowed water to flow down the pipeline trench. Water flowing in the pipeline trench likely contributed to instability, failure and spill movement to the river. Proper maintenance should have prevented water from channelling down the trench and detected the slope movement that led to failure1

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Economy plans to a release its own report on the spill of the provincially regulated Husky oil pipeline. 2

Failure in the thousands of pipelines in Saskatchewan is common.

● In 2011 there were 2,062 oil and gas pipelines and 68,000 flow lines in the province. ( Flow lines are narrow lines which are used to transport oil and gas from the wellhead to storage or other facility.) 3

● There have been 8,360 spills in Saskatchewan since 2006, of which Husky is responsible for 1,463.

● In Alberta, there have been 28,666 crude oil spills in the last 37 years. Cumulative effects from all these pipeline spills would be expected but have not been investigated. 4


Typically, the Saskatchewan provincial government allows the industry to investigate its own spills. The government conducted only 78 provincial investigations in 2015. 5 It is unknown if the provincial government employed independent geotechnical experts to investigate the spill site or if it is primarily relying on information supplied by Husky Oil.

A 2012 report from Saskatchewan's auditor found that while the Ministry of the Economy regulated the construction of new pipelines, it had "no documented processes to regulate existing pipelines." 6

Why was the North Saskatchewan spill not investigated by the NEB and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB)?


The NEB’s main purpose is “to promote safety and security, environmental protection and efficient infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest for pipelines that cross international borders or provincial and territorial boundaries.” 7 The TSB is an independent agency that advances transportation safety by investigating occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation. 8


The NEB Act defines a pipeline as:


“a line that is used or to be used for the transmission of oil, gas or any other commodity and that connects a province with any other province or provinces or extends beyond the limits of a province or the offshore area as defined in section 123, and includes all branches, extensions, tanks, reservoirs, storage facilities, pumps, racks, compressors, loading facilities, interstation systems of communication by telephone, telegraph or radio and real and personal property, or immovable and movable, and works connected to them.” 9


The failed Husky Oil line (and other pipelines in the Saskatchewan gathering system) deliver oil to Albertan terminals that supply export pipelines like the proposed Energy East pipeline. The Energy East pipeline will originate from a terminal in Hardisty, Alberta.


The 1.3 km replacement lateral line connecting the Husky Hardisty terminal to the Express Pipelines Hardisty terminal is completely with the province of Alberta. In 2010, Express Pipelines applied for NEB construction approval of the replacement lateral after the previous lateral was abandoned due to severe internal corrosion over the majority of the pipeline's length. 10


Why do not all pipelines that are wholly within provincial boundaries, and that connect to export pipelines (like the Husky lateral connecting to Express) require NEB approval, regulation, hearings, and EA according to the NEB Act?

The Husky heavy oil that spilled into the North Saskatchewan contains up to 5000 ppm deadly toxic and corrosive H2S. 11


Could it be that the original Express Pipeline lateral succumbed to internal corrosion due to the H2S content from the same heavy oil? Would not all export pipelines that carry sour crude oil containing H2S and other corrosive substances be subject to the same risk of internal corrosion and public exposure to deadly toxic fumes upon spillage? The Enbridge mainline and the proposed Energy East would carry these products.


Was the late deployment of booms in the North Saskatchewan oil spill due in part to the toxic H2S content? 12 During the Husky oil spill, there is no indication that toxic fume concentrations such as H2S and benzene were measured near river bank occupation and necessity of evacuation determined. Why not?


River bank instability, a common problem in rivers across the country, has been the cause of numerous pipeline accidents. The 2016 North Saskatchewan spill, the 2015 Yellowstone River spill, 13 the 2012 the Red Deer River spill in Alberta, 14 and the 1996 natural gas explosion on the La Salle River in Manitoba were all caused by river bank instability or river scour. 15


In the Energy East application, monitoring and assessment of bank stability has been documented but no extensive bank stability measures or maintenance have been definitely planned or executed. 16 For instance, riprap laid on the La Salle and Red Rivers in past years is no longer evident.


It is difficult to believe that across the 4600 km length of the Energy East pipeline with hundreds of river crossings that major bank reconstruction and stability measures would not be required or already in place, maintained and independently inspected.


Would not the Husky oil spill experience demonstrate utter failure on the part of the pipeline industry and the regulators to maintain environmental protection and to safeguard drinking water supplies? After completion of the quickly forgotten Husky appeasement report will anything change?


I will discuss the sulphur and H2S problem in sour crude oil carried in pipelines, river bank stability and other aspects of pipeline safety in more detail in future blogs.


Stay tuned.



















Photo by: Paul S. Graham


Environmental Assessment Review Panel in Winnipeg

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on November 17, 2016 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has established an Expert Panel to review federal environmental assessment processes under the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The Environmental Assessment review panel is traveling to centres across Canada to listen to members of the public present their concerns and information.

Each event includes an afternoon of short citizen presentations to the panel and an evening of less formal engagement. The Winnipeg sessions took place on Wednesday, November 15, and members of the Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter (Doug Tingey and Dennis LeNeveu) participated in both the panel presentations and the evening dialogue.


Many of the presenters chose to include a written submission of their comments to the panel. Dennis LeNeveu’s complete presentation (see below) is available on the panel website along with submissions from a wide variety of citizens, government departments, and NGO’s from across the country.


Of special interest, Council of Canadians Water Campaigner Emma Lui and former ELA advocate Diane Orihel submitted their presentation "Environmental Assessment and Water Protection" to the Edmonton session of the panel.

We’ve included here a quick overview of the main points of Dennis’ message, in which he raises questions about the current environmental protection process in Canada and provides recommendations for improvement.

  • The proponent (TransCanada, in the case of Energy East) supplies the information for the EIS that focuses on new pipeline construction.
  • There is constant repetition of the false claim that oil spills are local, short term, low magnitude, reversible and easily remediated.
  • Suitability of Natural Gas pipeline and current route for oil (much of which will be sour and contain deadly toxic and corrosive H2S) is not considered.
  • Those accepted as “directly affected” Intervenors in the National Energy Board (NEB) review process often do not have the knowledge to analyze the complex processes involved, but are underfunded, and unable to access expert help.
  • The scope of assessment is too restricted, and excludes many carbon emitting and toxic processes connected with the project.
  • Toxic legacies (tailing impoundments and processing plants, abandoned oil and gas wells, mine tailings) are allowed to increase and accumulate with no remediation.
  • Sulphur stockpiles and wells are left to leak H2S, SO2, and acid, poisoning both air and water.
  • Captured regulator allows gas contamination of private landowners’ well water, leaving individuals with no recourse but to further deplete their personal assets fighting in the courts in pursuit of justice.
  • Researchers across the United States and Canada are repeatedly finding high levels of neonics and other residues from farm chemicals and pesticides, levels that exceed vital standards set to protect aquatic life.
  • Decisions are not made according to a national carbon budget consistent with global commitments to address climate change.


The  Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter will continue to advocate for excellent environmental regulations and open, transparent, public processes for establishing those regulations. We are currently preparing a letter of comment to submit to the NEB modernization review. This separate will "examine issues that are specific to the NEB"  and will focus on regulatory processes of the NEB. Please check back here for updates.

Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair


Presentation to the Expert Panel:
Review of CEAA Winnipeg, 16 November 2016 by D.M. LeNeveu

My experience includes participation in the 1996 national EA of the Canadian Concept for Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal under the Seaborn panel. The Environmental Impact Statement ( EIS) was prepared by Atomic Energy of Canada at arms length from the proponent, Ontario Hydro. The multi year independent supporting research underwent rigorous peer review including an international technical review panel. I am now an Intervenor for the Energy East pipeline project whose EA conducted by the NEB pales in comparison. I will raise questions about the current environmental protection process in Canada and provide recommendations for improvement.

In the Energy East project, the proponent supplies the information for the EIS that focuses on new pipeline construction. A mantra that oil spills are local, short term, low magnitude, reversible and easily remediated is repeated as has been done in previous pipeline assessments. Evidence to the contrary, such as from the National Academy of Sciences study on dilbit, and from the Kalamazoo River oil spill is omitted.1


The route for conversion, determined in 1958 for gas, is not considered for suitability to oil much of which will be sour and contain deadly toxic and corrosive H2S. The risk to the over forty year old converted oil line from explosion of the adjacent natural gas lines is not considered. A double walled pipeline with leak detection at designated collection points, as is required for underground refined petroleum piping is not considered.


Intervention in the Energy East Project rests mainly on those directly affected who do not normally have the knowledge to analyze the complex processes involved. Funding, coordination and expertise is inadequate to conduct proper studies. Scope and interpretation of the evidence presented is at the mercy of an NEB panel that has already been forced to resign for apprehension of bias. The entire process could be disregarded in final government approval.

Only the upstream process of marine shipping is assessed. Why are gathering pipelines necessary to deliver oil to the mainlines not assessed such as the Husky sour oil line containing up to 5000 ppm deadly toxic H2S gas? 2 The Husky oil spill contaminated about 500 kilometres of the North Saskatchewan River and incapacitated major drinking water supplies.

Why are other processes connected with the project such as extraction of oil and bitumen by fracking, strip mining, and thermal processes not assessed? Why is produced water injection, flaring of sour solution gas, field spreading of drill mud and disposal of waste from crude oil and bitumen extraction not assessed? Why are emissions from processors, upgraders, and refineries that have been implicated in heavy metal contamination, respiratory illness, cancer and foetal feminization not assessed? 3,4,5


Why did industry monitoring of the massive bitumen tailing impoundments in the Athabasca sands report that environmental releases were no more that naturally occurring? Independent studies by Schindler and others 6 have clearly shown toxic releases far above background can be traced directly to tailing impoundments and processing plants. Studies by Stephane McLachlan 7 from the University of Manitoba have shown these toxins are accumulating in the food chain.

Why are the toxic impoundments allowed to increase when no effective remediation has been demonstrated? The impoundments will likely be left as a massive toxic legacy to the taxpayers of Canada. Other toxic legacies allowed to accumulate include thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells and mine tailings such as from the abandoned Giant Mine in the Yukon.


Sulphur extracted from sour gas, sour oil and bitumen all over western Canada is accumulating in massive stockpiles or injected in the form of H2S gas often into old oil and gas wells with no EA.8, 9 Why should these stockpiles and wells be left to leak H2S, SO2, and acid, poisoning both air and water?

In 2008, an Alberta Environment survey found 17% of the water wells in the area of shallow coal bed methane extraction were contaminated with gas.10 Why was the gas deemed as naturally occurring, despite isotopic signatures consistent with coal bed methane and the presence of nitrogen gas compressed to fracture coal seams? One landowner, Jessica Ernst, whose well was gas free prior to coal bed methane is suing the gas operators and the Alberta regulator for well water contamination.11 Why should her personal assets be depleted by court costs through interminable hearings? No individual can stand against this conspiracy by industry, captured government regulators and courts to protect and encourage the oil and gas industry.

Why, according to the World Health Organization, is carcinogenic benzene from petroleum detected in 50–60% of potable water samples taken at 30 treatment facilities across Canada? 12

Why are farm chemicals and pesticides that are carcinogenic and hormone and endocrine disruptors allowed? Researchers across the United States and Canada are repeatedly finding high levels of neonics and other residues that exceed vital standards set to protect aquatic life.13

The EIS for the BC LNG project, prepared by the proponent, Pacific NorthWest owned by Malaysian Petronas, focussed only on the LNG plants. One condition of approval was a plant emission cap of 4.3 million annual tonnes of greenhouse gas. Upstream fugitive emissions from fracked wells, compressors, pipelines, sour gas plants, and CO2 in raw natural gas have been estimated to be up to 155 million annual tonnes of greenhouse gas by 2020, far more than the LNG plant emissions.14 Why were the adverse environmental effects of upstream processes not assessed?

A climate impact analysis by Environment and Climate Change Canada for the upstream emissions for the Enbridge line 3 replacement,15 was based on NEB forecasts of increasing global demand for oil. Why was the climate analysis not based on a national carbon budget consistent with global commitments? The combined upstream emissions from all the proposed pipeline expansion projects and the BC LNG project could not possibly meet a national carbon budget.

EA in Canada is clearly broken and biased toward industry.


Context and Conduct of Environmental Assessment

A permanent independent Federal Environmental Assessment Agency funded by proponents should be formed that conducts the EA based on cumulative effects of the entire project from extraction to usage and determines limiting terms and conditions. EA must be done by independent unbiased experts selected and managed by the federal assessment agency. Legacy projects approved by provincial licensing that were not subject to EA’s should be reviewed by the agency. The amendments passed by the Harper government should be repealed.


Public Involvement

Public input should be an integral part of the process.



Levels of government and government agencies such as NRCan, the NEB and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission should provide technical input where relevant.


Climate Change and International Obligations

A climate test should be completed first based on a national carbon budget consistent with international commitments. International trade agreements and economic effects should be considered but environmental protection should take precedent using the precautionary principle and the principle of as low as reasonably achievable.

Overarching Indigenous Considerations

Full and complete indigenous consultation and assessment of effects on traditional lands and the food chain, respecting all treaty rights should be completed under the direction of the agency.

Decision and Follow up

Final decision should rest with the Federal Government respecting all terms and conditions determined by the agency. Ongoing environmental monitoring of project effects should be conducted based on the recommendations from the agency.

Legal Challenges

Environmental lawsuits having merit as determined by the agency should proceed expeditiously with legal cost borne solely by the defendant.













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Energy East Community Meeting at SNAC

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 21, 2016 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter helped to organize an October 20 community meeting for St Norbert residents concerned about the TransCanada's Energy East (EE) pipeline.

The LaSalle River runs through St Norbert

The session was offered as a way for St Norbert Arts Centre (SNAC) to engage community members in preparation for the centre’s Intervenor work in the National Energy Board hearings on EE. It’s important for SNAC to understand how their community members see the pipeline, and to provide information on the process and on the pipeline itself.

Many in the area recall the 1996 explosion of a natural gas pipeline that destroyed a house 175 metres away. The explosion occurred where the pipeline crosses under the LaSalle River, and was in part due to the instability of the slope. There are still strong concerns over the safety of that pipeline, and residents want to know how the conversion from gas to dilbit will affect them.

Others are worried about the water supply. The pipeline travels near the Winnipeg aqueduct for 100 kilometres from Shoal Lake to St Anne, and poses a threat to Winnipeg’s drinking water. However, it also crosses the Red River as well as the LaSalle River, and a leak on either of these rivers would poison water that is regularly used for agriculture, fishing, and recreational activities.

Several people had questions on the need for the pipeline, leading to a discussion about transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. Some residents in the semi-rural area are already adding solar panels and windmills, and believe that if Canada put money into green energy development instead of fossil fuels, new pipelines would be completely unnecessary.

Others weren’t sure that the pipeline was expendable, but were opposed to the current route. They felt that the risk of a dilbit pipeline passing through or near their gardens and waterways would be far too great. No one at the meeting expressed satisfaction with the Energy East pipeline proposal.

A retired man spoke up when he heard that one of the presenters had walked through the swamp area where the pipeline and aqueduct run close together. He said that he’d worked on the pipeline when it was first built.

“I’ve worked there. You just walk and that swamp is moving 1 to 2 feet. When they were building, they lost 7 cats into the bog.”

Someone asked how it ever got built under those circumstances. “First of all, we riprapped as much as we could,” he said, “then we had to yoyo it in.”

The NEB hearings are on hold right now, after the three panel members had to recuse themselves because of bias. In the meantime, SNAC and other Intervenors are taking the extra time to more fully explore the concerns that first brought them to the table.

The Manitoba Intervenors are coming together to identify some common concerns. Aurora Farm, retired biophysicist Dennis LeNeveu, Falcon Trails Resort, and SNAC are working with environmental lawyer Doug Tingey, and the group is collaborating with other Intervenors here in Manitoba and across Canada. Both Dennis and Doug are Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter members, and other chapter members are helping to support this initiative.

Winnipeg Sun Article “Pipeline runs through it” By Jim Bender October 19, 2016

CBC News "Riverbank pipeline route may be unstable, St. Norbert advocates say" October 21, 2016

Winnipeg Free Press Article "Fear of Energy East pipeline runs high among project opponents at community meeting" October 20, 2016

Op Ed: The Time is Now to Act on Greenhouse Gases

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 16, 2016 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Climate change is changing our world in catastrophic ways. Clean energy becomes more accessible and more affordable every day, even without the enormous subsidies poured into fossil fuels. We must transition away from fossil fuels to clean, sustainable energy, and we have the opportunity to make that transition right now. 


One priority is to ensure the big decisions we are making today start us on the paths to the necessary transitions.”



The time is now to act on greenhouse gases


By: Robert Gibson and Byron Williams

Posted: 06/15/2016 4:00 AM


Sometimes, the question is not whether the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, but whether the two are even aware of each other’s existence.

Case in point: the federal government’s efforts to deal with climate change and oil pipelines.

One federal hand was at the Paris climate conference last December. It committed us to doing our part to keep global warming "well below" two degrees Celsius.

The other federal hand, meanwhile, is rolling toward approving a suite of projects that will greatly expand Canadian oil-pipeline capacity. And this second hand is paying no serious attention to how permitting expanded pipeline capacity can be reconciled with the commitment to climate change mitigation.

Our part in keeping global warming well below 2 C (the Paris commitment) entails very deep reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions attributable to human activities in Canada within the next few decades.

While the implications of this commitment have not yet been clarified in detailed analysis, they involve some tightening of the pre-Paris GHG-reduction target for relatively advantaged jurisdictions.

For countries such as Canada and EU members, the commonly recognized old target was an 80 per cent cut in GHG emissions by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. The Paris commitment means we need to achieve something approaching effective decarbonization of most of the Canadian economy by 2050 or shortly thereafter.

Meeting such a commitment is not merely a matter of converting from fossil fuels to non-fossil alternatives. It entails shifting to different revenue sources, job opportunities, transportation modes and infrastructure, home heating practices, and a host of other new arrangements, opportunities and interconnections — none of which will happen automatically or be quick and easy.

Ontario is starting down this path with its new five-year climate change action plan. But it is just a beginning and comes none too soon.

Canada has been delaying effective action to reduce GHG emissions for the past quarter-century. Despite official statements of concern and promises to cut our contributions to climate change, Canadian governments have allowed GHG emissions to rise significantly, and are now 20 per cent higher than they were in 1990. While there have been some positive shifts and advances in understanding and technologies, we now have more emissions to cut and 25 years less time to make a smooth(ish) transition before the worsening effects of climate change make everything much more difficult.

One priority is to ensure the big decisions we are making today start us on the paths to the necessary transitions.

Decisions on oil pipelines offer an obvious opening. Collectively, three of the main proposed pipeline projects — Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion and TransCanada’s Energy East — would expand Canadian oil pipeline throughput capacity by more than two million barrels per day. Upstream, the three projects would facilitate expansion of bitumen extraction from the oilsands. Downstream, they would deliver more oil to refineries and points of combustion.

Each of the pipelines would have a life expectancy well beyond the 2050 deadline for GHG-emission abatement. Together they would more deeply entrench fossil fuel use infrastructure and associated dependencies.

On the surface at least, approval of these projects would move us further from the path to meet climate change mitigation commitments at a time when we should already be well on the road of low pain, maximum opportunity transition.

In the current deliberations on the Line 3 and Trans Mountain proposals, however, the federal reviewers have not considered GHG abatement needs.

In each case, the reviewers have examined only the project’s possible contributions to upstream GHG emissions. The downstream effects of refining and burning the oil are ignored entirely.

The upstream effects analyses are further restricted to certain individual project effects. They avoid attention to indirect effects on pricing and production. And despite legislated requirements to assess cumulative effects, the reviews ignore the joint effects of approving two or more pipelines.

Most regrettably, the reviews consider only whether the individual projects would facilitate an increase in upstream GHG emissions. No attention is paid to implications for commitments to reduce GHG emissions.

In overlooking Canada’s GHG abatement commitments, the federal reviews of the Line 3 and Trans Mountain proposals cling to a world that no longer exists. They assume GHG emissions attributable to current levels of bitumen extraction, production and use are not an issue now and will not be an issue through the lives of the proposed projects.

What is missing is a serious assessment of whether and how approving the projects could be compatible with deep abatement of GHG emissions.

That is the central question to be addressed in a credible and responsible environmental assessment of these pipeline proposals. Open and rigorous attention to this question is also a fundamental test of whether the federal government’s Paris commitment is genuine.

Perhaps a new pipeline could be designed, supported by effective fiscal and regulatory tools covering upstream and downstream effects, and managed in a way that contributes to meeting Canada’s GHG abatement commitments. But the possibility and the means of achieving it are not obvious. They cannot be wished into existence.

The time has come to join hands. The federal climate hand needs to introduce itself to the federal pipeline review hand so the two can do some serious and highly visible work on aligning our assessments with our commitments.

Robert Gibson is a professor in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. Byron Williams is the director of the Public Interest Law Centre of Legal Aid Manitoba.

Original Free Press article


The Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter works closely with the PILC on energy and pipeline related issues. We are grateful for their expert contributions to our efforts.





Winnipeg: Energy East: Our Risk - Their Reward

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 20, 2016 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

On Wednesday March 16 over 150 people gathered at a town hall sponsored by the Council of Canadians and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition to hear about the Energy East pipeline and what it means for Winnipeg.

Chickadee Richard welcomed everyone to Treaty One territory, and offered a prayer to open the gathering. Michael Matczuk spoke for the coalition, describing specific local issues and the ongoing campaigning of MEJC volunteers. He outlined the potential for slow, undetectable leaks spreading from the pipeline to seep into the aqueduct where the two follow a parallel route for 100 kilometres between Shoal Lake and Winnipeg. Matczuk explained the city’s legal obligation to provide and protect drinking water for the citizens of Winnipeg, and spelled out the reality that if the original pipeline had been for oil instead of gas, the route through the boggy area near the aqueduct would not have been approved. It would not even have been proposed.

Daryl Redsky shared his perspective as an indigenous man and a member of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, pointing out that his community was never consulted, and never informed about the original, 40-year-old pipeline. “Now this pipeline...I’ve never had any conversation with anyone about it, It’s 10-12 kilometres from my house,” he said. “I’ve waited for someone to talk to me, waited for my phone to ring. I always tell industry, it’s my job to protect my people and my resources. Nobody has contacted me. I’m strongly opposed to having a pipeline in my backyard and I told the chief what my feelings are.” Redsky spoke movingly of his connection to the earth and the water that we all share, and referenced the unique connection that Winnipeg has to Shoal Lake 40. Winnipeg’s drinking water comes entirely from Shoal Lake through the aqueduct, but the First Nation itself has no access to safe drinking water. “Everyone in this room is 60-70% Shoal Lake,” he said wryly. “So you’re fighting for yourself.”

Andrea Harden-Donahue moderated the evening, sharing information throughout to clarify and give national context. She described the phenomenal effect that citizens’ action can have on seemingly unwinnable battles, showing slides of action at Cacouna Quebec, where people put an end to Transcanada’s plans to put a dilbit port in the middle of a Beluga habitat; and of the grassroots resistance at the eastern end of the pipeline where indigenous and non-indigenous communities are rising up in solid opposition to Energy East.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of Council of Canadians, spoke on the many, many dangers of the proposed pipeline, dangers that affect local ecosystems, communities along the 4200 kms, the increasingly fragile environment we all share, and the global climate.

Barlow directly addressed the myth of the pipeline as a nation builder, and identified that myth as the false manipulation that it is. Maude drew applause with her reminder that the water belongs to us not to any corporation and we must protect it for our children; that we must not leave a legacy of poisoned water for our children.

“This notion that this is a great national project - that’s a lie. One spill, just one spill, it doesn’t matter where -- that will be the place that divide us. The great project that will bring us together is the protection of water as a public trust. That’s our job. You cannot have that and Energy East.”

A question and answer session at the end brought up some interesting and challenging questions, including one about the exact process that TransCanada will follow to convert the gas pipeline. The answer was not reassuring. They don’t pull it up and rebuild the decades old gas pipeline that was never intended to cope with the very different demands of tar sands bitumen. They do monitor for signs of corrosion and other problems. There are of course many proprietary aspects to TransCanada’s plans, and that means the information is not publicly available, Again, not reassuring.

The Winnipeg chapter is a member of the MEJC, and together, these grassroots organizations have been working hard to educate and inform citizens and government. Michael’s talk is on the MEJC blog, and video of the entire evening is included below.

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Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair

Energy East Pipeline in Manitoba: Avenues for Action

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 1, 2016 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Next Manitoba Government Must Recommend Energy East Pipeline Reroute through NEB to Protect Winnipeg Water

WINNIPEG – With the writ drop days away, the next Government of Manitoba must be preparing now to protect Winnipeg’s water supply from the Energy East pipeline proposal, say the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC) in their new report, “The Energy East Pipeline: Avenues for Government Action Outside the Broken NEB Process.” The report offers ways the provincial and municipal governments can protect Manitobans from the Energy East pipeline and offers as examples of decisions made by other provinces and municipalities in the context of Manitoba's unique concerns.

The Province of Manitoba under the NDP has not publicly mentioned the risks of the Energy East pipeline proposal to the Winnipeg water supply, even though the city has expressed its concerns.

"During this provincial election, the parties must recognize that the threat of the Energy East pipeline can't be ignored. Voters need to know where the parties stand," said Mary Robinson, chair of the Winnipeg Chapter of Council of Canadians, and the author of the report. "Manitobans deserve to know exactly what risks would result from the conversion of a natural gas line to a dilbit line running so close to the Winnipeg aqueduct."

Robinson says that the best way to make sure the public understand the risk is for Winnipeg and Manitoba to follow Quebec and Montreal's example and immediately implement a full public consultation process.

“I want to hear publicly from all provincial party leaders where they stand on this issue,” said Alex Paterson, spokesperson for MEJC. “We need to know how they will protect the Winnipeg water supply. Selinger for instance, needs to stop hiding behind the facade of a broken NEB process that he is using to avoid telling the public his position on the Energy East pipeline.”

In their new report, the coalition provide recommendations on how any political party, if they form government, can protect Winnipeg’s water supply.

“There are only two choices,” said Robinson. “Either the pipeline must be rejected altogether, or the governments of Manitoba and Winnipeg must require a complete re-route, away from the aqueduct, other drinking water sources, and the natural gas lines.”

“When a pipeline threatens the drinking water of over half the population of your province you’d think the person who wanted to be the next leader of that province would have a clear and unambiguous public position,” said Paterson. “To me, it is the absolute basic responsibility of a provincial politician to protect our drinking water. If they can’t do that, they don’t have what it takes to be a leader for Manitobans.”

The coalition’s research shows that the pipeline is a threat to the safety of the Winnipeg aqueduct, and to the drinking water of communities across Manitoba. The pipeline parallels the Winnipeg aqueduct for 100-kilometres between Shoal Lake and Winnipeg. A slow, undetectable leak (anything up to 2.63 million litres a day) in that section would leach toxic benzene into the swampy area around the cracked and porous aqueduct.

Map of area from Winnipeg to Shoal Lake showing the risk of aqueduct contamination

“You couldn’t put the pipeline in a worse place for the safety of the aqueduct,” says Doug Tingey, a lawyer and member of Council of Canadians – Winnipeg Chapter. “Where the groundwater drains north, the pipeline is south of the aqueduct; where the groundwater drains south, the pipeline is to the north.”

The coalition expressed frustration that such an issue of national importance is not being discussed openly in the province. The NDP, PCs, and Liberal Party have no declared position.

“The Energy East pipeline has been one of the most discussed issues nationally since Trudeau became PM, yet somehow there has been not a word publicly from any of the big three provincial political parties,” said Paterson. “You only avoid a national issue for one reason. It looks to me like they are scared to tell Manitobans their position on this project. That’s not leadership, that’s political cowardice.”

WATCH the Report Release:

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News Conference: How Governments Can Stop Energy East

Read our blog series No Energy East Pipeline

Energy East Problem: Crossing Water

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on July 6, 2015 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (1)


The Energy East pipeline crosses many rivers, drainage basins, and aquifers in Manitoba. Some of these are the sole drinking water supply for nearby communities or agricultural water sources, and some are First Nations’ traditional land, fragile ecosystems, fishing areas, and recreational spots. There are shut off valves every 30 kilometres and up to 25 million litres of oil present at any time between the valves. Even after the valves are closed, anything already in that section of pipeline will spill. The heavier bitumen will sink into the riverbed; the rest will either evaporate as toxic gasses or travel with the natural flow, poisoning miles of freshwater.

The pipeline crosses the Assiniboine River near Miniota, upstream of both Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and Brandon. Further east it crosses the Arrow River, Birdtail Creek, and Oak River, all upstream of the Kenton Reservoir and the Rivers Reservoir. The Kenton Reservoir supplies drinking water to Kenton and surrounding area, and the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, and the Rivers Reservoir is the source of drinking water for Rivers, Manitoba.

Between Brandon and Portage, the pipeline passes through the Assiniboine Delta Aquifer, and then crosses the Assiniboine for a second time, just south of Portage la Prairie. The city of Portage, Long Plain First Nation and Dakota Plains First Nation all rely on the Assiniboine for their drinking water; the 15 billion cubic meter Assiniboine Delta supplies water for livestock operations, farm and town wells, and an extensive irrigation system that supports Manitoba’s potato industry.

The pipeline crosses the LaSalle River twice: the first is upstream of the Sanford water treatment plant that services Starbuck. After cutting across several miles of drainage ditches that empty into the LaSalle, the pipeline reaches St. Norbert and its two vulnerable rivers, the LaSalle and the Red. The community still remembers the 1996 explosion where the pipeline crosses the Red River close to the floodway. The explosion was found to be caused by a crack in the pipeline combined with the movement of the slope in which the pipeline was buried. The resulting fire destroyed a family home situated 178 metres away from the leak.

On its way to Ontario, the pipeline crosses the Seine River upstream of St. Anne, the Whitemouth River about three kilometres upstream of Hadashville, the Brokenhead River close to Highway 1, and the Sandilands Aquifer. In the Whiteshell Provincial Park, the pipeline is near enough to Falcon Lake that a leak would pass quickly into the water, long before preventative measures could be put in place.

As part of Shoal Lake drainage basin, water from Falcon Lake eventually arrives in Shoal Lake itself, the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water and home to the First Nations Shoal Lake 40 and Iskatewizaagegan 39. Falcon Lake has several resorts and private cabins, and is part of Treaty 3 Territory. The Aquifer is home to the Sandilands Uplands, with its rich array of wetlands, bogs, marshes, peatlands and forests. It is also home to the headwaters of five watersheds.

A spill in any of these places could destroy the drinking water for the extended community, poison the air, and damage agriculture, recreation, fishing and First Nations land for several miles downstream.

There are many economic and environmental reasons to say NO to the pipeline. Sources and more information can be found in the recently released report, “Potential Impacts of the Energy East Pipeline On Winnipeg”.

Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair

Energy East Problem: Sulphur and Hydrogen Sulphide

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 23, 2015 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (0)


Tar sands bitumen contains huge amounts of sulphur. The sulphur must be removed before the bitumen can eventually become refined oil, but there is a glut on the world market and nowhere to send it. Already the mounds of raw sulphur extracted from tar sands bitumen are larger than the pyramids of Egypt and there’s more of it produced every day.


One “solution” is to convert the sulphur to hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and inject it underground into old oil wells, a process referred to as acid gas disposal. Hydrogen sulphide is extremely toxic. One breath over 1000 ppm can kill instantly while lower concentrations can cause permanent health damage. Oil wells will weaken over time and allow the stored H2S to leak, with deadly effect. Zama Lake, Alberta is a disposal site with sulphur accumulations much smaller than the tar sands; a study found that if a leak occurred there, an area 600 kms in radius could be unlivable for over 1,000 years because of poisoned air and water. That’s equivalent to an area of land around Winnipeg reaching from Regina in the west, all the way east to Lake Nipigon, north to The Pas and south to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

As the mountains of sulphur grow larger, another “solution” to the problem is to leave sulphur in the bitumen when it is mixed with the diluent for transport to refineries, so that sulphur disposal becomes someone else’s problem. Many scientists consider this poses an additional danger, because the relatively large amount of sulphur in the dilbit can form hydrogen sulphide inside the pipeline. Thermal decomposition (a chemical decomposition caused by heat) and microbes in the pipeline act on sulphur to form H2S. This increases the concentration of H2S as the dilbit moves down the line.There’s no data in the Energy East submission to indicate the maximum temperature of dilbit in the line, however the five natural gas lines parallel to the dilbit line have been reported to reach 50 C in the summer. The dilbit line would be even hotter due to the higher viscosity.

In some cases, H2S is present at point of entry in the tar sands . In Cold Lake, for instance, the hydrogen sulphide content of dilbit is reported to be 300 ppm. (Interestingly, Enbridge, in the United States, has put worker safety policies in place that ban a higher than 5 ppm H2S content in the oil transported through their pipelines.)

Sulphur and hydrogen sulphide are right there in the pipelines and trains carrying dilbit across farmers’ fields, aquifers, rivers and through our communities. Where there’s a pipeline leak, there will be hydrogen sulphide released; and where there is hydrogen sulphide there is significant risk to life and health for people, animals, air and water.

There are many economic and environmental reasons to say NO to the pipeline. Sources and more information can be found in the recently released report, “Potential Impacts of the Energy East Pipeline On Winnipeg.”



Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair

What is Dilbit?

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 18, 2015 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)


The Energy East Pipeline will carry diluted bitumen (also called dilbit) and other crude oil products.

Bitumen is steamed or strip mined from the sandy tar sands soil in Alberta, and is too thick and sticky to flow through a pipeline. A toxic, volatile diluent must be added so that the bitumen can be shipped.

The bitumen contains sand, silt, heavy metals and other contaminants as well as sulphur. The sulphur portion of the bitumen is about five percent by weight, and can contribute to creating hydrogen sulphide in the pipeline.

Some of the contaminants, and all the sulphur, remain after processing with diluent to form dilbit.

The diluent constitutes up to 30% of the dilbit and comes from a variety of sources, with the most common being natural gas condensate. Pentane is a main constituent of the diluent (about 9%) but the exact composition depends on the sources used and it varies from batch to batch.

Christina dilbit blend is very common and includes several volatile, toxic, environmentally persistent components (POPs) such as benzene, a known carcinogen. POPs (or Persistent Organic Pollutants) resist normal breakdown and accumulate in organisms, with potential significant impacts on human health and the environment.

The proposed Energy East pipeline will repurpose an existing natural gas pipeline that was not designed to carry dilbit. Dilbit contains abrasive sediment that will erode the pipe. Dilbit also contains chloride salts and toxic hydrogen sulphide that are both highly corrosive. The pipeline itself is known to already have many small, continuous leaks. When it is carrying dilbit, those leaks could expose the public to deadly hydrogen sulphide.

The natural gas pipeline is not designed to accommodate the pressure surges associated with liquid (dilbit) service. The pressure surges could easily rupture the pipe.

There are many economic and environmental reasons to say NO to the pipeline. Sources and more information can be found in the recently released report, “Potential Impacts of the Energy East Pipeline On Winnipeg.”

Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair