As Opposition Builds, is Energy East Tar Sands Pipeline 'Dead in the Water'?

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As Opposition Builds, is Energy East Tar Sands Pipeline 'Dead in the Water'?

Of Energy East, Montreal mayor says: "Let's call a spade a spade: It's a bad project."

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. (Photo: Bibliothèques de Montréal/flickr/cc)

Elected officials across Canada are locking horns over TransCanada's proposed Energy East tar sands pipeline, after the Montreal Metropolitan Community, which represents 82 municipalities, decided unanimously to fight the project because its economic benefits for Quebec would pale in comparison to the possible clean-up costs of a spill.

The proposed pipeline would take Alberta tar sands oil as far east as an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, and would be capable of carrying up to 1.1 million barrels a day from west to east. In a blog post outlining its dangers earlier this week, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior policy analyst Danielle Droitsch referred to the project as "Keystone Redux." It faces staunch opposition from environmental groups, First Nations communities, and now, Montreal-area leaders.

"Trudeau already said that pipelines projects must be accepted by the local communities before they get approved,. MMC's decision is a clear no to TransCanada’s project, which means that it cannot go forward."
—Patrick Bonin, Greenpeace Canada

"They didn’t do their homework, obviously," Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said of TransCanada, vowing to oppose the company's proposal at hearings by provincial and national energy boards. "They were a bit arrogant, frankly. Let’s call a spade a spade: It's a bad project."

On Thursday, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Patrick Bonin said (pdf) the Montreal Metropolitan Community's (MMC) decision "proves once more that Energy East is a very risky project that is not acceptable to Quebecers and is incompatible with the plan to build a 100 percent renewable energy future."

As others have been doing all week on the opposite side of the country, Bonin called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "keep his promise to reform the environmental assessment procedures in Canada and ensure that the evaluation of this pipeline will not go forward until the process put in place under the Harper government is reformed."

"Trudeau already said that pipelines projects must be accepted by the local communities before they get approved," Bonin pointed out. "MMC's decision is a clear no to TransCanada’s project, which means that it cannot go forward."

According to CBC News on Thursday, "Trudeau's support for Energy East has not been clear."

However, citing public opinion polls that show most residents are now opposed to the pipeline across eastern Canada, Environmental Defence's Adam Scott said the project "appears to be dead in the water, even before the regulatory review has started." 

But politicians from three provinces with big stakes in the project—Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick—were quick to slam the MMC's decision, with one Alberta party leader accusing Coderre of hypocrisy.

"Montreal buys millions of barrels of foreign oil from dictatorships, but it is rejecting oil from their friends in Confederation," declared Wildrose Leader Brian Jean in a statement. "It's disgraceful!"

"Well, he's wrong, it's as simple as that," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said of Coderre CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley met on Friday with her Ontario counterpart, Kathleen Wynne, in an attempt to win her support for Energy East.

"This massive pipeline threatens to unleash enough carbon pollution to undo Ontario's progress in phasing out coal. It is entirely incompatible with Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for a 1.5 degree limit on global warming affirmed in Paris."
—Andrea Harden-Donahue, Council of Canadians

According to CBC News:

On the topic of pipelines, Notley advocated for the approval of the Energy East pipeline, saying that it is safest and best option, despite the opposition from some Canadian politicians such as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre

"Frankly, municipal leaders who don't see that are being short-sighted," said Notley. "This pipeline is part of building a strong Canada, it's part of building a strong economy." 

But Environmental Defence took the opportunity to remind Wynne that the "pipeline proposal fails to meet any of the reasonable conditions her own government put in place to safeguard Ontario residents."

"We call on Premier Wynne to follow the example of other Canadian leaders," said Scott. "Last week B.C. Premier Christy Clark publically opposed the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker proposal. Yesterday, all Montreal area mayors stood up for the safety and security of the citizens they represent."

He continued: "Energy East is not in the best interests of Ontario and does not meet the conditions set out by Premier Wynne. The majority of Ontarians oppose this project. Ontario should not support this project."

Mark Calzavara, Ontario-Quebec regional organizer with the Council of Canadians, went even further. "Premier Wynne is not listening to Ontarians or the Ontario Energy Board," he said. "Wynne is sweeping legitimate concerns about TransCanada's performance and plans under the rug. The Ontario Energy Board’s review of Energy East found the project’s risks outweigh the benefits for Ontario."

Added Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy and climate campaigner with the Council of Canadians: "This massive pipeline threatens to unleash enough carbon pollution to undo Ontario's progress in phasing out coal. It is entirely incompatible with Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for a 1.5 degree limit on global warming affirmed in Paris."

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