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Local firms should register for slice of proposed west-east pipeline: executive

HALIFAX - The president of the Energy East Pipeline encouraged a business audience Wednesday to start registering for possible work on the proposed cross-country project.

Steve Pohlod said in a speech at the Maritimes Energy Association in Halifax that the subsidiary of TransCanada (TSX:TRP) will need everything from security personnel for work camps to geotechnical experts and mechanical engineers if the 4,500-kilometre project is approved.

The executive invited firms to start registering on a company website for a pre-qualification process.

"The time to start is now. Though we're in early days it's never too early to start some of these activities," Pohlod said at the evening gathering.

The executive didn't say precisely how much local work is guaranteed for firms from each province, but he said the company will consider hiring in the areas where it is building the pipeline.

"We need to develop strategies that will develop local opportunities," he said.

Jeff Matthews, Irving Oil's chief business development officer, said a $300-million marine terminal near Saint John would be a key export point for the western oil.

He said in his speech the project would bring New Brunswickers back to the province to work.

"The jobs are high wage, good paying. The bulk of new construction jobs will be at wage levels 25 to 35 per cent above the average employment income for all workers," he said.

"This should represent enough of a wage premium to attract back and keep Atlantic Canadians home to work."

However, opponents of the project have said there are many environmental concerns that still have to be addressed.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick says fishermen are concerned about a rise in supertanker traffic in the Bay of Fundy as a result of the project.

Matthew Abbott, a spokesman for the group, says homeowners also want to know about the possible impact on water supplies and sports fishing groups have expressed concerns about river crossings in the 400 kilometres of the pipeline that will cross the province.

Pipeline safety has been in the spotlight of late after a natural gas pipeline explosion south of Winnipeg, resulting in thousands of homes losing their heating source in the midst of frigid Prairie temperatures.

The pipeline involved in the Jan. 25 explosion carries natural gas, posing different risks from the oil pipelines like Energy East and Keystone XL would.

Explosions are less of a concern with oil pipelines, but the environmental impacts from a possible crude spill would be more severe.

Pohlod said in his speech he realizes the environment and safety are the major concerns of the public.

"We have been doing everything we can and we will do everything we can to ensure this is one of the safest pipelines ever built," he said.

Pohlod said the pipeline will use advanced technology, including thicker pipe under environmentally sensitive areas such as streams and rivers.

"We're going to have the type of monitoring equipment that will see data transported to our control room every five seconds along the entire length of this pipeline," he said.

"It will be capable of being shut down within minutes of any kind of a drop of pressure or any kind of a leak."

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