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Going East! Transcanada to Build Tar Sands Pipeline to Atlantic

'They're in for a fight' say environmentalists on both sides of the US/Canada border

- Jon Queally, staff writer

With the passage of the Keystone XL pipeline uncertain and under financial pressure to find export terminals so to justify expansion of vast tar sands operations in Alberta, the Canadian pipeline company—with backing from the Harper government— announced on Thursday that it will seek to build an enormous eastward pipeline so it can bring what critics call "the world's dirtiest fuel" to market.

Environmentalists and citizens groups in Canada were swift to promise "fierce opposition" to the proposal.

Called the "East Energy Pipeline," the $12 billion project would connect with existing pipeline networks in Quebec province and will be able to move up to 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil a day up and over the northeastern United States to the coast of New Brunswick.

The new project, according to TransCanada's CEO Russ Girling, is not intended to signal that the company has given up on building Keystone but shows it is willing (and able) to push for multiple pipelines at any given time.

“What we know in North America is production is continuing to grow,” Mr. Girling said at a news conference in Calgary. “The marketplace needs both of these pipelines and probably more.”

Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, welcomed the TransCanada announcement and said the Canadian government would offer its full support.

“Our government welcomes the prospect of transporting Canadian crude oil from Western Canada to consumers and refineries in Eastern Canada and ultimately to new markets abroad,” Oliver said in a statement.

Critics, however, were unimpressed and vowed to fight the pipeline with the same energy and intensity that Keystone XL has faced.

The Council of Canadians condemned the planned and matched TransCanada's announcement with plans for a national campaign to fight the pipeline.

“While using an existing pipeline may reduce TransCanada’s costs, it increases spill risks for the many rivers, lakes and communities along the route,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The disastrous pipeline spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Mayflower, Arkansas highlight the dangers of shipping tar sands crude and using an older pipeline not originally built for carrying oil.”

"While there has been a lot of talk about Atlantic energy security, this crude will actually go to the highest bidder. India, China, Europe and the U.S. are in line,” added Maude Barlow, the Council's national chairperson.  “This would threaten the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy, water bodies that must be protected as part of the commons and a public trust, not as a highway for oil exports.”

“TransCanada is desperate to show that tar sands are viable, " said Michael Marx, the 'beyond oil' US campaign director for Sierra Club. "The truth is they are not. This announcement of an eastern Canada pipeline is a fantasy. It’ll face the same opposition dirty, dangerous pipelines to the west or south through the United States face, if not more. Tar sands is the dirtiest source of oil on Earth and running it through Montreal, Quebec and the Bay of Fundy is like running Keystone XL through Manhattan and the Grand Canyon. It’s not going to happen.”

As the New York Times adds:

TransCanada’s new plan involves converting 1,864 miles of a natural gas pipeline to carry oil, and the construction of 870 miles of new pipeline, mainly in Quebec and New Brunswick. It has long-term contracts to carry about 900,000 barrels of oil a day along the route, Mr. Girling said.

“They’re in for a fight,” John Bennett, the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said shortly after the announcement. Mr. Bennett said he was particularly concerned about the possibility of oil spills in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and about harm to whales in the area from tanker traffic. In a statement, Environmental Defence said the plan was “yet another misguided scheme that puts Canadians in harm’s way for the benefit of the oil industry’s bottom line.”

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