Activists celebrate as the Energy East Pipeline is cancelled

energy east mapOn October 5, TransCanada Pipelines issued a press release , announcing that it would no longer proceed with the proposed Energy East pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects.  Accordingly, the National Energy Board Hearing Process has been closed, although documents remain on its website.  Below is some of the reaction that has poured forth, including: “TransCanada terminates Energy East pipeline” and  “Disappointment and delight mark the end of Energy East Pipeline”  in the National Observer (Oct. 5); “Climate Hawks celebrate as TransCanada abandons Energy East pipeline” from Energy Mix.   The Council of Canadians had conducted a 5-year campaign against Energy East: their reactions and those of their allies appear in “WIN! Energy East tar sands pipeline defeated!”  ;  “Voices from the Energy East Resistance”  (Oct. 6)  and “Diverse Groups Opposed to Energy East Celebrate Project’s Cancellation” .  The common message is exemplified by Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake on behalf of the 150 First Nations and Tribes who have signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, who is quoted as saying: “Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win …. “So that’s two tar sands expanding mega-pipelines stopped in their tracks but it will be a hollow victory if either Kinder Morgan, Line 3 or Keystone XL are allowed to steamroll over Indigenous opposition and serve as an outlet for even more climate-killing tar sands production.”  (and for more on that, read “Energy East cancellation resonates for opponents of Trans Mountain expansion in B.C.”  in the National Observer.

Commentators trying to explain TransCanada’s decision focus on three principle reasons: the economics of falling oil prices, regional political forces, or the regulatory burden of pipeline approvals in Canada (especially since the Energy East review was  required to account for upstream and downstream emissions).  From the Globe and Mail, an editorial:  “The death of Energy East was a Business Decision – Swimming in Politics” , which attributes the decision to  Quebec opposition to Energy East, and the likely go-ahead of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S.  The Editorial states: “Mr. Trump appears to have solved most of the Canadian oil industry’s pipeline shortage, making Energy East no longer economically necessary. The American President…. has also temporarily solved one of the Trudeau government’s, and Canada’s, most challenging political problems.” For a view of the political dimensions within Canada, read  “Energy East pipeline is dead, fallout in Alberta will be measurable” in Rabble (Oct. 6) . Finally, three overviews of the issues:”Regulations alone didn’t sink the Energy East pipeline” by Warren Mabee,Queen’s University and ACW Co-Investigator in The Conversation (Oct. 15);  “Five Things you need to know about the Cancellation of the Energy East Oilsands Pipeline” from DeSmog Canada, and “Energy East’s cause of death: Business, politics or climate?“, from CBC News, which describes the regional differences via reaction from Canadian provincial premiers.

 

Finally, the National Energy Board Modernization process is underway

The Review process for the Modernization of the National Energy Board has begun.  The Terms of Reference  are here, summarized on the website as focussing on “ governance and structure; mandate and future opportunities; decision-making roles, including on major projects; compliance, enforcement, and ongoing monitoring; engagement with Indigenous peoples; and, public participation.” Twelve Discussion Papers are available   to guide input.  Comments can be submitted online here , with a deadline of  March 31, 2017;   cross-country “engagement sessions” for the public will begin in Saskatoon on January 25, and end in Montreal on March 29.  The Expert Panel will deliver its report to the Minister of Natural Resources, with a  May 15 deadline.     See an article in the  National Observer (Jan. 16) , which notes that the process launch comes amidst legal challenges: Two First Nations of Northern Ontario have named the National Energy Board and the government of Canada as defendants in their suit against TransCanada pipeline, for failing to consult with them before  allowing work on a 30-kilometre stretch of the pipeline that runs through their traditional territories  (details here) .  A second  court challenge was filed on January 10 by community group Transition Initiative Kenora, asking that the entire Energy East consultation process be voided and re-started, because of the conflict of interest allegations of the Charest Affair  in  Fall 2016.     (more details about the court challenge from Energy Mix here or from Ecojustice here  )

New Brunswick arrives at First Ministers’ meeting with a new Climate Action Plan

On December 7, the government of New Brunswick released its climate action plan,  Transitioning to a Low-carbon Economy .  It pledges a “made-in-New Brunswick price on carbon and caps on GHG emissions that reflect the reality of the New Brunswick economy”; similarly, the pledge to phase out coal as a source of electricity is “respecting New Brunswick’s economic reality and considering potential financial support from the federal government”. Government operations, facilities and vehicles will become  carbon-neutral by 2030 .  The government pledges to develop working groups with First Nations to address priority actions, and include First Nations representatives on a climate change advisory committee.   Only one day previously, on December 6, New Brunswick issued a press release  reiterating the government’s support for the Energy East pipeline, on the grounds that “An estimated 4,551 direct and indirect jobs are expected during construction of the pipeline, with 321 jobs every year of operation. The potential increase to New Brunswick’s GDP is more than $3 billion.”

Update: National Energy Board suspends Energy East hearings, Regulatory review process underway

On September 9, public outcry about  the NEB “Charest Affair” became too strong to resist, and the NEB announced  that the Energy East hearings are adjourned, that all three panelists have voluntarily recused themselves, and the hearings will be reconvened once a new panel can be constituted.  In addition, the the Chair and Vice-Chair are recusing themselves  from administrative functions related to the Energy East process, and will not be involved in the selection of the new panel.   For a recap of this unexpected turn of events,  and the series of investigative reports which led to the exposure of the entire “Charest Affair” , go to the National Observer.  See also the Environmental Defence blog (Sept 9)    and the Energy Mix coverage here and here.

In mid-summer, WCR  wrote:  “Canada’s National Energy Board was served a legal notice on August 11, the latest fall-out from news reports in July which revealed  that Jean Charest, former Premier of Quebec and a paid consultant to TransCanada at the time, met privately with NEB Board members to discuss the Energy East pipeline proposal. The panelists met privately with other registered intervenors, including the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal  and Équiterre – a Quebec-based environmental group, despite NEB’s own rules that require it to review projects in public, keeping a full record of discussions, and to use a fair and transparent process.  The revelations would not have come to light without the digging of a National Observer reporter and his Freedom of Information requests;  the NEB has now apologized for the meetings and released some records and emails.  According to a series of reports in the Globe and Mail in March 2016 (here  and here)  Jean Charest has also been investigated for his attempts to contact the Prime Minister’s Office about Energy East, but was cleared of breaking lobbying rules in March.

The NEB officials who conducted the “off-the-record”  meetings  are now panelists on the NEB hearings on Energy East,  currently underway in New Brunswick . The legal letter  sent on August 11 demands that the Energy East hearings be suspended; a new panel be struck  to conduct hearings into the private meetings; and two senior members of the NEB ( the Chair and Vice-Chair) who both participated in the controversial meetings, must be excluded from any duties related to Energy East during the course of the investigation . The legal letter was sent on behalf of two Quebec advocacy groups: Stratégie Énergétiques and the Association Québécoise de la Lutte contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQPLA).

Reaction to the controversy is summarized in  “Charest pipeline controversy flares as May calls for resignation from federal panel”   in the National Observer (August 8).  And Chantal Hebert sums it all up succinctly in “National Energy Board’s credibility as an independent agency at stake: Hébert”  in the Toronto Star, (August 11). To date, the federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change hasn’t addressed the NEB controversy directly, but urged Canadians to have confidence in the system during a news conference in Halifax in August.

In September, environmental groups, including Greenpeace Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique, Nature Québec, and the Council of Canadians sent a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources,   demanding a suspension of hearings and an investigation into the NEB. (See a summary at the National Observer ) .

The National Energy Board controversy is part of the poisoned chalice passed down from the Stephen Harper government, which the current Liberal government is attempting to deal with through regulatory review.  In June,  the federal government announced   a comprehensive review of environmental and regulatory processes – including “modernizing” the National Energy Board, and restoring protections in the Fisheries Act.  On August 15, a second announcement  described the creation of a four-member Expert Panel to undertake the review of federal environmental assessment processes, and stated that public consultation would begin in September. The Terms of Reference for the Panel are here   ; the Review website is here.

In anticipation of the Review, the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation convened a Summit of Experts in May 2016, and in August, published an Executive Summary of the proceedings, setting out twelve “pillars” of a next-generation environmental assessment,  based on the key principles discussed.  Amongst the pillars: a call for recognition of the rights of Indigenous people, improved consultation and information flow to the public, and the consideration of the impact on Canada’s GHG reduction targets as agreed to in the Paris agreement.

Feds issue Interim Rules for Environmental Assessment, including Climate considerations

In one of the first concrete actions of the Trudeau government, interim changes to the environmental assessment process were announced on January 27, 2016  . Interim Measures for Pipeline Reviews  applies specifically to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and Energy East Pipeline projects, extending the deadlines for the National Energy Board reviews to allow for greater consultation with First Nations and the public, and to “Assess the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with this project and make this information public”. Some reaction was favourable, for example, Environmental Defence . Ecojustice states “Liberals’ Interim Pipeline Measures fall Short” ; the Pembina Institute is supportive but asks “4 Key Questions for the Canadian Government’s New Climate Test ” , as it might apply to Petronas’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project in British Columbia. And David Suzuki asks, “Paris changed everything, so why are we still talking pipelines?” .

Context for Alberta Climate Change Policy “After the Sands”, and Energy East

Two recent sources provide context for the new climate change policies of the Alberta government under Rachel Notley:  “The Path to Alberta’s Climate Deal ” (Jan. 7) in the National Observer , and “Alberta: Fossil fuel Belt or Green Powerhouse” in the CCPA Monitor (Nov/Dec 2015 issue, pages 26 – 32 ).   The Monitor article is an excerpt from the recently released book by Gordon Laxer, After the Sands.   The governments of Alberta and Manitoba announced a Memorandum of Understanding on January 8 , committing to share information and develop co-operative measures related to energy conservation programs, renewable energy development and greenhouse-gas reduction policies,   as well as recognizing the importance of improving integration of electrical grids in western Canada.

On January 21, the mayors of the Montreal Metropolitan Community announced their opposition to the Energy East pipeline. A rapidly-convened meeting of the premiers of Alberta and Ontario on January 22 illustrates the east-west politics of Energy East, with a press release which states “the people of Ontario care a great deal about the national economy and the potential jobs this proposed pipeline project could create in our province and across the country.”

For a summary of the national political reaction , see the CBC, “ Trudeau, Coderre meet after Tories blast Energy East comments”.   Prime Minister Trudeau, seeking to calm the waters, is promising a thorough, neutral environmental review. Read the Globe and Mail article: “Trudeau says Ottawa will be ‘responsible mediator’ in energy debate”.  ( January 26) or another  CBC report of Trudeau’s meeting with the mayor of Montreal, when he states that he will not be a “cheerleader” for the pipelines.

Energy East Pipeline is not worth the Risks

Energy East Pipeline is Not Worth the Risks: The Ontario Energy Board released the conclusions from an 18-month study and consultation on August 13. A Review of the Economic Impact of Energy East on Ontario  considered the impacts on tax revenue and local employment, and concluded that “there is an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the project and the expected benefits for Ontarians”.   The greatest concerns were expressed about potential gas shortages as the pipeline switches from transporting natural gas to oil, proximity to important waterways, and the need for up-to-date technology to prevent and mitigate spills. Employment impacts were difficult to estimate because of lack of data from the Trans Canada proposal, but were considered minimal, especially in Northern Ontario.   The final report was prepared by researchers at the Mowat Centre and University of Toronto; consultants’ reports and submissions are available online at the Consultation website, including the Canada’s Building Trades Unions submission.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick describes the natural environment and thriving fishery and tourism industry in its August report, Tanker Traffic and Tar Balls: What TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline means for the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine . The report cites the dangers to whales increased noise and traffic in already busy shipping lanes, as well as the greater danger of an oil spill. Further, it cites research that states that oil dispersants can by 52 times more toxic than spilled oil to certain marine species. It concludes with 9 recommendations for further consultation, research, and environmental protection legislation.

The Council of Canadians also exposed the dangers of Energy East oil spills to waterways across Canada in a 2014 report,  Energy East: Where Oil meets Water.

Oil and Gas and Canada’s Energy Policy

Two other reports were released in advance of the Premiers meetings in Quebec City. Crafting an Effective Canadian Energy Strategy: How Energy East and the Oil Sands Affect Climate and Energy Objectives by the Pembina Institute reviews Canadian experience with carbon pricing, emissions levels, and states that any energy strategy will only be effective if it takes into account the emissions footprint of new infrastructure projects, including the proposed Energy East pipeline project. The report also recommends that the Council of the Federation create an advisory committee modelled on the disbanded National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The report is also available in French.

 Another study, released by Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, makes similar arguments and asserts that “continuing to expand tar sands production makes it virtually impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets or show climate leadership”. Read Digging a Big Hole: How tar sands expansion undermines a Canadian energy strategy that shows climate leadership.

 In April, Environment Canada released the UNFCC-mandated report, National Inventory Report 1990-2013: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The report states that the Energy industry was responsible for 81% of Canada’s emissions in 2013. 

Energy East Pipeline: Transporting Crude Oil for Export, not Processing

Contrary to the economic projections put forth by TransCanada Pipeline, a new report released on March 18 contends that the proposed Energy East pipeline will be used primarily as a means to export crude oil, rather than to refine it in Canada.

The Energy East project would convert 3,000 kilometres of existing natural gas pipeline in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario to carry crude oil, and also would build over 1,500 km of new pipelines through Quebec and New Brunswick, with the objectiveenergyeastreport of carrying 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day. In September 2013, an industry-sponsored report by Deloitte & Touche consultants projected job creation in the order of 10,000 jobs in development and construction, and 1,000 ongoing jobs in the operational phase.

TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline: For Export, Not Domestic Gain argues that the crude delivered by Energy East would exceed the processing capacity of existing Canadian refineries, given that they also source crude from the U.S., the Newfoundland offshore, and in the future, the newly-approved Line 9 pipeline project. The authors argue that new refineries are unlikely to be built in Canada, and point to TransCanada’s proposed plans for export terminals at Gros Cacouna, Québec (east of Québec City) and Saint John, New Brunswick to prove that the intended purpose of the oil is export.

LINKS

TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline: For Export, Not Domestic Gain, prepared jointly by the Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence and Equiterre, is available at: http://www.canadians.org/publications/transcanada%E2%80%99s-energy-east-export-pipeline-not-domestic-gain

CBC summary is at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/energy-east-pipeline-benefits-overblown-report-says-1.2576782

Energy East: The Economic Benefits of TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline Conversion Project (Sept. 2013) is on the Deloitte website at: http://www.energyeastpipeline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Energy-East-Deloitte-Economic-Benefits-Report.pdf

Recommendations for Québec’s Next Energy Policy Emphasize Energy Efficiency, Support Pipelines

A 2-person commission appointed to review energy issues in Québec reported to the government in January 2014, generally recommending a change in direction to emphasize energy efficiency and limit new infrastructure investment. According to a report in the Montreal Gazette on March 2 (http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Quebec+needs+energy+course+panel/9570190/story.html), the recommendations included: set a goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2050; study the possibility of suspending phases 3 and 4 of the Romaine River hydroelectric project; stop or suspend wind, cogeneration and small-dam projects that have not yet been built; support TransCanada’s west-east oil pipeline, conditional on study by the province’s environmental review board; support Enbridge’s Line 9B oil pipeline; improve public transit; update the provincial building code to improve the energy efficiency of buildings; and support the construction of a natural-gas pipeline connection to the Gaz Métro network to replace heating oil with natural gas. The Energy Consultation website is at: http://consultationenergie.gouv.qc.ca/english/ (English version), and http://consultationenergie.gouv.qc.ca/ (French version). The report and briefs presented to the Commission are available only in French.

Energy East Pipeline Could Increase Canada’s Emissions More than Keystone

A new report from the Pembina Institute says that TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline could increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 32 million tonnes per year, surpassing estimates for Keystone XL. The new pipeline would have the capacity to transport 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to New Brunswick. Terminals near Rivière-du-Loup and in Saint John would likely export crude by tanker. Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline argues that because the oil sands are “land-locked”, pipelines are a vital component of accessing international markets and are therefore directly linked to rising oil sands emissions. Pembina asserts that the National Energy Board should consider those “upstream” effects as part of Energy East’s environmental impact assessment, though it has neglected to do so for past pipelines.
ANY_ITEM_HERE
See Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline and the media release at: http://www.pembina.org/pub/2519.
ANY_ITEM_HERE

Energy East Pipeline: Job Creation Projections Provided by TransCanada

TransCanada Pipelines released an economic analysis of their Energy East pipeline project on September 9, providing detailed estimates of direct, indirect and induced job creation, as well as the impact on tax revenues and Canadian GDP. The report was prepared by Deloitte and Touche LLP, using a Statistics Canada input/output model. It forecasts more than 10,000 full-time jobs will be directly supported during the development and construction phase (2013 to 2018), with approximately half of the jobs in construction, engineering, architectural, and oil and gas support services industries. In the operational phase, approximately 1,000 full-time jobs are forecast.

Despite the enthusiasm of federal politicians and New Brunswick Premier David Alward, CBC and the Globe and Mail have reported skepticism about the job creation numbers by New Brunswickers. There is also serious opposition from Ontario and Quebec, based on environmental and safety concerns.

LINKS

Energy East: The Economic Benefits of TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline Conversion Project at the Deloitte website at: http://www.energyeastpipeline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Energy-East-Deloitte-Economic-Benefits-Report.pdf; A briefer (2-page) Backgrounder is available at: http://www.energyeastpipeline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Energy-East-Economic-Analysis-Backgrounder.pdf.

“TransCanada Touts National Benefits of Energy East Plan” (Sept. 10) in the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/energy-east-pipeline-will-create-2000-jobs-transcanada/article14213238/

Energy East Pipeline may create 10,000 Jobs, Study Says (Sept. 10) is at the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/energy-east-pipeline-may-create-10-000-jobs-study-says-1.1699614

“N.B. Mayor adds to Chorus of Dissent against Energy East Pipeline Plan” (Sept. 12) in the Globe and Mail at:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/nb-mayor-adds-to-chorus-of-dissent-against-energy-east-pipeline-plan/article14298359/

“TransCanada’s Eastern Path hits Snag in Ontario”(Aug. 22) in the Globe and Mail is at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/transcanadas-eastern-path-hits-roadblock-in-ontario/article13909022/

Canadian Pipelines: Funding New Eastern Markets for Western Bitumen Sparks Widespread Opposition

The Energy East pipeline project proposal by TransCanada Pipeline is being promoted by Premier Redford of Alberta and New Brunswick’s David Alward. The proposal involves the inversion of 3,000 kilometres of existing pipeline from natural gas to crude oil, as well as the construction of 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline from Quebec to the Irving refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. The project could carry as much as 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day. New Brunswick’s recent budget highlighted it as part of the province’s “Brighter Future”.

Echoing the recent vocabulary of Alberta Premier Redford, N.B. Premier David Alward has said “This project is potentially as important to Canada’s economic future as the railway was to its past. If we proceed, this project will strengthen our national and provincial economies and create jobs and economic growth today and for generations to come.”

Read Premier encouraged by important step in West-East pipeline (April 2) at CBC New Brunswick website at:http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/news_release.2013.04.0274.html; New Brunswick budget document, Managing Smarter for a Brighter Future (March 26, 2013) at: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/627691-budget-2013-14-final-e.html#document/p2 , and “TransCanada’s West-East oil pipeline gains momentum” in the Globe and Mail, (April 2, 2013) at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/transcanadas-west-east-oil-pipeline-gains-momentum/article10663042/.

A related protest is scheduled for Montreal on April 21: Marche pour la Terre/ Walk for the Earth is the result of a collaboration between AQLPA, the David Suzuki Foundation, Earth Day Quebec, ENvironnement JEUnesse, Equiterre, Greenpeace and Nature Quebec, along with the Idle No More movement. They will be protesting any expansion of the tar sands and the presence of pipelines in Quebec, along with many other demands for improved environmental policies and protections. See the website: in French at: http://marchepourlaterre.org/ and in English at: http://marchepourlaterre.org/en/.

Another East-West pipeline, Enbridge Line 9, has drawn criticism from environmentalists since November 2012, when Enbridge applied to the National Energy Board to reverse the flow of oil and boost the line’s capacity from 240,000 barrels per day to 300,000. Line 9 is a pipeline built in the 1970’s which currently runs between Montreal and Westover, Ontario, through highly populated areas and across water sources, including the three rivers of the Greater Toronto area. Because of the danger of a disastrous oil spill, especially given Enbridge’s historic spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010 and the toxicity of diluted bitumen that it could carry, the “Stop Line 9” movement has drawn large protests in communities across the proposed route.

On March 21, the following groups from Quebec and Ontario were allowed to submit their “List of Issues” to the NEB : Équiterre, Environmental Defence, Climate Justice Montreal, Sierra Club of Canada, Greenpeace Canada, and Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution Atmosphérique. The U.S. Environmental Resources Defense Council is also involved because of the potential for oil to travel from Montreal across New England, via the existing connection with the Portland-Montreal pipeline.

Read the Primer on the West-East Pipeline (April 8, 2013) by Maryam Adrangi at the Council of Canadians website at:http://canadians.org/blog/?p=20308Enbridge’s Oil Sands Pipeline Plan: All pain and no gain for Ontario at the Environmental Defence website at: http://environmentaldefence.ca/enbridgestarsandspipelineplan; Natural Resources Defense Council press release (March 26, 2013) at: http://equiterre.org/sites/fichiers/nrdcrelease_-_us_group_submittal_to_neb_line_9_reversal_project_review-nrdc-march_26-final-english.pdf, and visit the Stop Line 9 Toronto website at: http://www.stopline9-toronto.ca/ for links to major resources and other organized groups at: http://www.stopline9-toronto.ca/line9resources.php.