Energy & Environment

The many faces of Energy East

Part 2 of the Along the Pipeline photo series

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline — a project mere weeks away from being filed with the National Energy Board — would be the single largest tar sands pipeline, and the longest pipeline of any sort, in North America. The pipeline would carry crude oil and dilbit (diluted bitumen) from Alberta, through Ontario to Quebec, and all the way to export terminals in the Maritimes. It would cross hundreds of waterways, countless communities, vast tracts of farmland, drinking water supplies, First Nations territories, beluga whale habitat and iconic Canadian landmarks.

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Editors' note: This is the second part of an exclusive two-part series. You can see part one here.

In this era of pipeline politics we hear from politicians, pundits and environmental groups, but not from the people most directly impacted: people who live or work along the route. This past summer photographer Robert van Waarden travelled the proposed Energy East pipeline route, conducting interviews and portrait sessions with Canadians and First Nations who find themselves caught in the polarizing world of tar sands expansion. For this project he used an old 4x5 view camera, black and white film, and interviewed over 75 people across the country.

Some people support the pipeline project, others oppose it, and some are still making up their minds. But everyone wants to know more, and are contemplating complex issues of energy and environment. The following images demonstrate what farmers, First Nations, fishers, ministers, families and others think about a proposed tar sands pipeline heading East.

Just because a pipeline is going to be shipping crude across this country doesn't mean that rail is going to stop. Now you have two forms of transportation, where you had one before. The Energy East pipeline and other transportation modes for fossil fuels are high on our radar. Our biggest issue is where they are going to cross waterways, especially when they impact the Great Lakes.

Keith Hobbs, mayor, former chair of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The greater concern for myself is the environmental one. We are connected not only locally but globally and the expansion of the tar sands by this project would worsen climate change. I'm very much opposed to that. I don't see any benefit, not only to our local Canadian population, but as a citizen of the world, this expansion is what I would call a madness.

Elizabeth Frazer, retired United Church minister. North Bay, Ontario

I think ultimately climate change is the reason we shouldn't even put the pipeline in. We shouldn't develop tar sands until it can be done without destroying the planet. That only makes sense to me. Right now, they're telling us the oil industry is driving our economy. If that's the driver, we need a new driver, because we're not happy with the direction this one's going.

Ambrose Raftis, sustainable community builder. Englehart, Ontario.

Every day, our group puts on hazmat suits and gas masks and goes downtown with 'Our Risk - Their Reward' signs. We just sit on rocks downtown in a park and wave at the pedestrians and cars. We have leaflets and people can sign and join us. We really want to preserve the purity of this place, especially the water. We need to be going right off fossil fuels. This won't happen in my generation, but it might happen in yours. I agree with the experts and think that we are right on the cusp of closing the window if we don't do something right now.

Bunty and Roy Swanson, retired high school teachers. North Bay, Ontario.

TransCanada says Energy East will bring lots of money and money will pour into my community, along with the oil. Bullshit. I don't believe that. And even if it were true, I wouldn't want their dirty money because I couldn't live with myself thinking that I had something to do with the eventual frying of this planet.

Serge Simon, Mohawk chief. Kanesatake.

Il faut que les gens se mobilisent, c’est le seul espoir que nous avons face à des gouvernements totalement favorables aux pipelines. Dans tout projet, on ne parle que des profits économiques sans tenir compte de son impact environnemental. Il faut que les gens exigent le changement de la part de leur gouvernement. Les jeunes familles et toutes les générations doivent manifester et exprimer leur inquiétude.

(Translation: People have to mobilize, it is the only hope we have in the face of governments that are totally in favour of pipelines. In all these projects we only talk about the economic profits without taking into account the environmental impact. The people need to demand a change from their government. Young families and all generations have to protest and express their concern.)

Patrick Rissman, géologiste.

TransCanada veut laisser le pipeline en place à perpétuité. Donc après ça, nous les propriétaires deviendront responsables déversements qui s’en suivront. Un pipeline sur notre terre… Qu'est-ce qu’on va faire avec ça? Qu'est-ce que nos enfants vont dire? Qu'est-ce que vous avez faire maman et papa pour laisser passer une affaire comme ça sur notre terre?

(Translation: TransCanada wants to leave the pipeline in place forever. So after this, we, the landowners, become responsible for any spills or problems that follow. A pipeline on our land... What are we going to do with that? What are our kids going to say? What have you done mom and dad to let a project like that pass on our land?)

Karine Audet, mère, propriétaire. St. Raphael de Bellechasse, Québec.

S'il y a une marée noire dans le Saint Laurent, il ne nous restera plus rien. Il ne restera plus d'emplois, plus rien du tout.

(Translation: If there is an oil spill in the Saint Lawrence, there would be nothing left. No jobs, nothing at all.)

Isabelle Cadieux-Landreville, shop attendant, political science student. St. Andre de Kamouraska, Quebec.

We are the people of the Wolastoq, the beautiful bountiful river. A river that has supplied food and medicines not just to the two-legged but to the four-legged. Birds, fish... She, the river, is already struggling to provide these things for us and many won't even eat from Wolastoq anymore. We need to protect her at all costs. Not for today but for the many tomorrows that we will never see.

Judie and Angee Acquin, sisters, singers, protectors. Wolastoq Nation, St. Marys.

We bought this house 8 years ago. Now I understand that there is going to be an Energy East pipeline into Saint John and ending in the back field, where there will be a tank farm. I am thinking of staying - at least until I get so sick from the tanks that I can't stay here. I don't know what is going to happen in the future, nobody ever does, but this is definitely our retirement home.

Janet Jonson, retired real estate agent. Saint John, New Brunswick.

I quit school when I was 14 and started fishin'. I've pretty well been aboard a lobster boat ever since. There is good money it in and it is a good lifestyle. I knew I wasn't smart enough to be in school 'cause I had problems in school, so I figured fishin' would be my lifestyle. Right now lobster fishin' is the only thing that keeps this island goin'. I'd never want to see something bad like an oil spill here 'cause it would affect everyone.

Henry Harris, fisher. Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick.

I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. I think there are a lot of people that think it is an easy answer, 'just stop using oil.' Well that is fine, but it will be cold tomorrow morning and the lights wouldn't be on. We're just not there yet. I would like to think that in this day and age, if we are going to spend one billion dollars on oil development, then we should be spending one billion dollars on renewable energy. If we don't make a real effort getting there, we will be having this conversation 20 years from now. That's not where we should be 20 years from now.

Laurence Cook, commercial lobster fisher. Grand Manan, New Brunswick.

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