Environmental studies students from Mount Allison University attempted to persuade Sackville Town Council Monday night to oppose construction of the Energy East pipeline.
The students are conducting their campaign against the pipeline as part of an environmental activism course taught by Professor Brad Walters.
If it eventually wins federal approval, the proposed pipeline would carry 1.1 million barrels of bitumen per day from the Alberta tar sands to an Irving Oil terminal in Saint John.
“The Energy East pipeline will lead to a 40 per cent increase in tar sands production directly contributing to climate change, which as we all know here in Sackville, contributes directly to increased storm surge and more frequent flooding,” student Will Balser told council.
He noted that last April, council adopted an adaptation plan in recognition of the town’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change and that council has also been active in promoting environmental sustainability as one of its main goals.
Balser asked councillors to pass a motion opposing construction of the Energy East pipeline.
“This is a real chance for Sackville to show leadership and set a precedent among municipalities in New Brunswick and in Canada,” he said.
Earlier, fellow student Claire Neufeld told council the $15 billion that would be spent on the pipeline could be better spent on alternative energy projects that create more jobs.
When Mayor Higham suggested that the tax on carbon proposed by the federal government could change the economics of the pipeline project, Balser responded that the students campaigning against the pipeline don’t want to make Energy East economically viable.
He added that the pipeline would not be environmentally viable since leaks could threaten drinking water and expose Canadians to the toxic chemicals that are added so that bitumen will flow freely.
When the mayor noted that the CN Rail line passes through Sackville and expressed concern that railways could be required to carry the oil if the pipeline isn’t built, Balser suggested that increased tar sands production would not happen without Energy East.
“Under our current rail system, there is no way to move that much oil,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much you invest in rail, there will be no way to move this much oil.”
For his part, Councillor Bill Evans expressed strong support for the students.
“This to me is a no-brainer,” he said adding that we’re doomed if we consume the known tar sands reserves.
“We have to cut back on our consumption of oil now, we need to encourage the use of renewables, this is what we have to start doing. Anything that we do that is not consistent with that is stupid, wrong, irrational,” Evans said.
He promised to consult with his colleagues on council before moving a motion opposing Energy East.
“Spending $15 billion on something that you shouldn’t be doing is just a dumb thing to do,” he said.
The students, who are part of a seven-member group called Sackville, No Energy East, plan to attend council’s regular meeting next Monday to see if councillors pass a motion to oppose Energy East.
For earlier coverage, click here.