Wynne promises to address environmental concerns over west-east pipeline

TORONTO – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is promising to address environmental concerns amid protests over a west-east pipeline plan that would transport Alberta oil to foreign markets.

Protests that have cropped up in the province include a blockade of an Enbridge pumping station near Hamilton in June.

Eighteen people were arrested and charged in that incident when they refused to leave the station.

They oppose Enbridge’s plan to reverse the flow of oil in a stretch of pipeline from North Westover, Ont., — about 30 kilometres northwest of Hamilton — to Montreal, saying the move could lead to a possible breach.

Wynne says environmental concerns have to be at the centre of any talk about the movement of fuel through the province.

She says the government has to work with all groups, including First Nations communities.

“We need to make sure that those concerns are understood and addressed and dealt with upfront, not in reaction to but as part of the beginning of the conversations so that we’re not in a situation where there’s lack of understanding and there is backlash,” she said Thursday.

There have to be “rational discussions” about environmental concerns, Wynne said.

“There will always be discussion around any kind of changes around energy policy or this kind of transportation of resources, but there have to be rational discussions about the environmental concerns,” she said.

“We have to make sure that the environmental protections are in place and that communities understand what is being done and why it’s being done as those decisions are made.”

Ontario, however, also has to work with other provinces with the understanding that they all share energy needs, Wynne said.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Enbridge’s plan includes Westover, Ont. In fact, the name of the town is North Westover.