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.