What does the New Obama Climate Change Plan Mean for Keystone – and what is Stephen Harper Doing about it?

On what has become the defining issue of his climate policy, President Obama stated that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” In a New York Times interview in July, the President downplayed the job creation impact of Keystone XL, saying that, after construction, “we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.” See “Obama Says He’ll Evaluate Pipeline Project Depending on Pollution” (NY Times, July 28) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/us/politics/obama-says-hell-evaluate-pipeline-project-depending-on-pollution.html?ref=politics

On July 23, a Natural Resources Defence Council White Paper on the Keystone’s impact calls for the denial of approval on the grounds that the pipeline would exacerbate global carbon pollution. Further, the paper states, “Canada is not pursuing climate policy that would effectively counteract significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions, or meet its international climate target. … Current regulations in Alberta are inadequate, and despite promises from the last four Canadian federal environmental ministers, the Canadian federal government has not yet introduced rules to effectively limit greenhouse gas pollution from Canada’s oil and gas sector.” (See the White Paper at: http://docs.nrdc.org/energy/files/ene_13072301b.pdf).

Until now, the Canadian government has used the job creation and energy security arguments to promote oil sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline (as exemplified in its Go with Canada Website). But on September 6th, CBC reporter Chris Hall reported that Prime Minister Harper sent a letter to Obama in August, “formally proposing ‘joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector'”. See Harper offers Obama climate plan to win Keystone approval (Sept. 6) at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/09/06/pol-harper-canada-us-climate-change-strategy-letter-keystone.html.

So far, Obama has not responded to Harper’s proposal, and the Canadian government has not announced any new policies or regulations for GHG emissions. The Keystone XL decision is now deferred till 2014, after the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General confirmed a delay in the inquiry about potential conflict of interest in the environmental review process.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of protest against Keystone XL goes on: a report released on August 29 by the Sierra Club and Oil Change International compiles data and failcommentary “from oil industry experts, Wall Street analysts, and Canadian politicians who say on the record that without Keystone XL the industry cannot expand production of tar sands crude”. Sources for the report include Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Royal Bank of Canada, International Energy Agency, Standard & Poor, TransCanada, Government of Alberta, Scientific American, Financial Post, and others. Read the report: FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test at: https://content.sierraclub.org/beyondoil/sites/content.sierraclub.org.beyondoil/files/documents/kxl-climate-report.pdf

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.