On Proposed Mega-Pipeline, Tar Sands Opponents Vow: 'It's Not Going to Happen'

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On Proposed Mega-Pipeline, Tar Sands Opponents Vow: 'It's Not Going to Happen'

TransCanada applies for permits to build 'Energy East'—which would be longest pipeline in North America—environmentalists and local communities vow to stop it

The proposed route of TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline. (Image: PRI)

The energy corporation TransCanada on Thursday filed a 30,000-page regulatory application for its proposed Energy East Pipeline Project, which is expected to cost approximately $12 billion and would transport 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil daily from Alberta and Saskatchewan in Western Canada to the Irving oil refining complex in Saint John, New Brunswick.

If built, it would be the longest oil pipeline in North America—almost 3,000 miles—and would cross at least 90 watersheds and 961 waterways. Part of the project involves constructing a marine terminal and storage facility in Cacouna, Quebec, on the Saint Lawrence River.

"We will fight Energy East every step of the way, and we are far from alone.” 
—Andrea Harden-Donahue, Council of Canadians

Following TransCanada's announcement that the permit had been officially submitted to the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB), environmental organizations, First Nations communities, and local organizers vowed to stop the pipeline.

"It's not going to happen," said (pdf) Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace Canada. "Energy East would negate all the good work on climate that has been done at the provincial level, pose a major threat to millions of people's drinking water and disrespect Canadians in Eastern Canada, who care as much as any other Canadian about oil spills contaminating their homes, waterways and livelihoods."

Though the pipeline company claims to have been "out in the field for more than 18 months gathering data, performing environmental studies and engaging with Aboriginal and stakeholder groups in the initial design and planning of the project," some of those groups don't feel that their concerns have been heard.

"TransCanada entered my territory, Kanehsatàke, like a slick snake oil salesman with promises of jobs and economic benefits," said Ellen Gabriel of Kanehsatàke, a Mohawk community in Quebec. "The company's unscrupulous manner to impress upon our community that Energy East is a 'done deal' is unethical and coercive. In the absence of our free prior and informed consent, it would be illegal for the National Energy Board to grant TransCanada an application for Energy East."

Just this week, voters in three Ontario cities—Kenora, North Bay, and Thunder Bay—elected city councils with strong mandates to oppose Energy East; Thunder Bay, in northwestern Ontario, also re-elected Mayor Keith Hobbs, who is an opponent of the pipeline. In the Canadian capital of Ottawa, a majority on city council have expressed concerns about Energy East, while more than 40,000 Canadians have signed petitions opposing Energy East.

"We will fight Energy East every step of the way, and we are far from alone,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, Council of Canadians’ energy and climate justice campaigner. "Right now we are in Atlantic Canada, where momentum is building against Energy East. Fishers, landowners, Indigenous people and local communities are becoming aware that Energy East will cause unsustainable expansion of the tar sands and a significant increase in pollution, yet there is no mention of these impacts in TransCanada’s filing."

The NEB has said it will not consider the climate impacts of the pipeline in its assessment, despite the fact the greenhouse gas emissions generated by filling Energy East's capacity would be equivalent to adding more than 7 million cars a year to Canada's roads, according to a February report by the Pembina Institute.

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