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TransCanada Corp. (TRP.TO) provided an Ontario town along the proposed Energy East pipeline route with cash to buy a rescue truck on conditions that include the municipality not comment on the company’s operations.
TransCanada gave Mattawa $30,000 under its community engagement program, according to an agreement appended to the agenda of the town council’s June 23 meeting. The city agreed to “not publicly comment on TransCanada’s operations or business projects” for five years as part of the agreement, the document showed.
Calgary-based TransCanada plans to apply for a permit this year for Energy East, which would supply crude to the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf Coast as well as European and Asian markets. The 1.1 million barrel per day pipeline would consist of a converted natural gas line that passes near Mattawa as well as new pipe installed farther east.
“This is a gag order,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, a campaigner for energy and climate issues with the Council of Canadians, a non-profit organization that advocates for clean water, fair trade and public health care. “These sorts of dirty tricks impede public debate on Energy East, a pipeline that comes with significant risks for communities along the route.”
If Mattawa had expressed a concern that the contract would limit the town’s ability to take part in a “full and open discussion” about the project, “we would have removed it,” TransCanada spokesman Davis Sheremata said in an e-mail responding to a request for comment.
“The language in the agreement was designed to prevent municipalities from feeling obligated to make public comments on our behalf about projects that did not impact them and about which they had no experience or knowledge,” Sheremata said.
“We are looking at amending our contract language to ensure communities know they and their staff retain the full right to participate in an open and free dialogue about our projects,” Sheremata said.
Mattawa Mayor Dean Backer wasn’t available to comment on the decision when contacted at his office.
The money for Mattawa will be used to buy a new rescue vehicle for first-aid services along Highway 17, known as the Trans-Canada, near the community about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of Ottawa, according to the agreement. The contract was drafted in January after being negotiated for at least two years, said David Burke, an administrator with the town of 2,100 people, which has already received the money. The agreement was approved by the mayor and six councilors, Burke said. Mattawa agreed to 10 items as part of the deal, including that the TransCanada name appear on the truck.
TransCanada and rival Enbridge Inc. have encountered opposition to pipeline proposals including Keystone XL and Northern Gateway. Canadian oil producers have suffered from depressed prices for their crude because they’re limited to selling the resource largely in the U.S.
Opponents to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway route, which is proposed to carry oil from Alberta’s oilsands to the coast of British Columbia, have threatened protests and legal action to stop the pipeline, which was approved by the federal government last month.