Thunder Bay’s mayor is voicing his opposition to TransCanada Corp’s proposed $12-billion Energy East pipeline project.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said the environmental impacts of the project outweigh any of the economic benefits. Hobbs’ comments follows a report last week by the Ontario Energy Board that warned a possible spill could easily cost more than $1 billion.

The report was done upon the request of the Ontario Minister of Energy and came with several recommendations.

The pipeline project, if approved, would convert existing natural gas pipeline and build a new pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Quebec and a refinery and marine terminal in New Brunswick. The proposed pipeline would run or cross rivers and lakes including Nipigon, Ottawa, Mattawa and the St. Lawrence.

Hobbs believes people are having second thoughts about the project.

“There’s just too many unknowns about it,” he said.

“Using an old pipeline and retrofitting it and we have a lot of concerns about that. This really needs to be thought out. I’m in total agreement with the energy board if there’s a spill. Look at Kalamazoo, Mich. There’s a prime example of a disaster and the cleanup costs involved in that.”

Hobbs was referring to the Kalamazoo River oil spill that happened in July 2010 when a pipeline burst causing one of the largest and most costly inland oil spills.

Hobbs said shipping crude oil by rail isn’t any safer but having a pipeline isn’t going to have any impact on the amount of oil shipped by rail.

He added that he is not in favour of the project yet but left the option open that he could still be convinced.

“I’m certainly not in favour of it yet, but who knows . . . maybe someone can convince me that it is going to be foolproof, but I don’t think anyone can do that,” he said.

At-Large Coun. Iain Angus, who is also with Common Voice Northwest Energy Task Force, welcomed the report by the Ontario Energy Board but pointed out that they don’t know what TransCanada is going to submit to the national energy board as they are still doing baseline studies. He said they need to wait until TransCanada puts in its final submissions before knowing what concerns they still have.

“At the end of the day, it will be up to the national energy board to say to the proponent, ‘If we are going to approve it, this is how you are going to do it,’” Angus said.

Angus questioned one of the recommendations in the report regarding building a new pipeline in order move it farther away from a sensitive area. He asked how they could do that in Nipigon and said the alternative would be to go north of the CN Rail line, which poses its own environmental challenges.

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