Energy East pipeline will affect more than the economy, says photographer

Robert van Waarden is a photojournalist who travelled the full route of the Energy East pipeline in 2014, armed with a film camera. He captured the faces and the stories of those living in the direct path of the proposed development, to hear how they felt about this. Listen to him describe the Along the Pipeline project, from an interview with Checkup‘s digital producer, Ayesha Barmania.

Van Waarden’s journey took him from Hardisty, Alta., to Saint John, N.B., and in each stop he encountered surprising and nuanced opinions about Energy East. In Alberta, he spoke with a ranching family who gain subsidies for having oil and gas leases on their land, but are not certain that the Energy East pipeline is the appropriate way forward for the province. He said, “For them it is a very complex question.”

It’s about more than the economy. It’s about water, it’s about climate, and the jobs that could be threatened if something were to happen.– Robert van Waarden

Moving eastward across the country, van Waarden heard opinions changing. In North Bay, Ont., he was surprised to hear the opposition of many residents. Their reasons were twofold: the potential impact of the pipeline on their water supply, and the large-scale issue of climate change. He said, “[They were opposed to] the idea of creating an infrastructure project that will exacerbate that problem and increase emissions. So it went from a very local issue of their water, to the global issue of climate change.”

His final stop in New Brunswick took him to Grand Manan Island, where many fisherman have mixed feelings about a pipeline through their province. “It would be very difficult for them to do their job without oil, but they’re also questioning the fact that if there was an incident in the Bay of Fundy with an oil tanker that would be the end of the lobster fishery and tourism, which they rely on,” he said.

Overall, his journey showed him that the Energy East pipeline is about more than the economy. “It’s about water, it’s about climate, and the jobs that could be threatened if something were to happen,” he said.


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By Ayesha Barmania

Ayesha Barmania is an independent journalist, radio producer, audio artist and podcast consultant based in Peterborough, Ontario.