More than 100,000 messages from people across Canada were hand-delivered on Monday to the National Energy Board's office in Calgary demanding climate impacts be considered in the agency's review of the proposed Energy East tar sands pipeline.
The largest petition ever delivered to the NEB—organized by environmental and civil society groups including 350.org, Leadnow.ca, the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, and Avaaz—calls on NEB head Peter Watson to "either include climate impacts and community voices in his review, or lose all credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the Canadian people."
"If the NEB considers upstream economic impacts when determining if a pipeline is in the 'national interest' then they must also consider that Energy East would have the same climate impact as 7 million cars."
—Aleah Loney, Council of Canadians
The Energy East pipeline would transport 1.1 million barrels per day of toxic tar sands oil from Alberta to the Atlantic Ocean, traversing at least 90 watersheds and 961 waterways between Alberta and New Brunswick—including some protected by Indigenous treaty rights.
Recent changes to Canada's environmental review processes, including the language of the National Energy Board Act, mean that only people who the NEB considers to be "directly affected" by the pipeline and who choose from a pre-determined list of issues are allowed to provide input into the review. Climate change is not on the list of issues, although participants are invited to share their concerns related to marine shipping.
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"If the NEB considers upstream economic impacts when determining if a pipeline is in the 'national interest' then they must also consider that Energy East would have the same climate impact as 7 million cars," said Council of Canadians organizer Aleah Loney. "Surely stopping climate change is in Canada's national interest."
Cameron Fenton, Canadian tar sands organizer with 350.org, echoed the call: "Whether Mr. Watson likes it or not, the NEB's function is to review projects that also happen to have a massive impact on our climate. With no other institution that reviews climate impacts in this country, and with a gaping hole in climate leadership at the federal level, the job is falling to Mr. Watson and the NEB. They can't hide from this forever."
Stakeholders expect that the federal cabinet will make its decision about the Energy East pipeline by May 2016, construction would begin in 2017, and that by 2018 the project would be operational. From February 3 to March 3 of this year, people across Canada can file applications to intervene in the NEB review.
"We’ve seen in [British Columbia] how the National Energy Board’s review of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is being used to justify a project that’s been rejected by British Columbians," Leadnow.ca declared in a press release. "Without major changes, the National Energy Board’s review of the Energy East project will be a piece of theatre in the government-industry PR campaign for this mammoth pipeline."