Friday, November 7, 2014

The Energy East Pipedream

If it is built the Energy East pipeline would be the largest fossil fuel pipeline in North America. This monster pipeline would snake 4,000 km from terminals at Hardisty, Alta. and Moosomin, Sask. to refineries in Montreal, the Quebec City region and Saint John, N.B. In addition to posing local risks to drinking water, ecosystems and toursim Energy East would spur further tar sands development and lead to a major increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Energy East pipeline would cross six Canadian provinces from Alberta to New Brunswick transporting 30 per cent more oil than Keystone XL and twice the amount of the Northern Gateway. Energy East would move 1.1 million barrels of tar sands (cut with toxic natural gas condensate) each day and produce up to 32 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. This is more emissions than produced by any Atlantic province. It is comparable to adding 7 million new cars to Canadian roads each year.

According to a review from the Pembina Institute the Energy East pipeline would significantly increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it difficult to meet our national climate targets.  Environmental groups, scientists, economists and citizens have repeatedly said that we simply cannot afford to ramp up tar sands development and combat climate change.

The proposed Energy East pipeline would convert 3,000 km of 55 year old natural gas pipeline to transport crude oil, and build over 1,400 km of new pipeline. TransCanada filed its official application with the National Energy Board on October 30th. 

The Energy East pipeline will cross at least 90 watersheds and 961 waterways. This includes the Rideau River, the Ottawa River, the St Lawrence River and the Bay of Fundy and Shoal Lake, which supplies water to Winnipeg. The pipeline jeopardizes the drinking water of millions of people

According to the Council of Canadians, the Energy East pipeline poses too much risk to waterways to be approved. There is no way to make a pipeline that is spill-proof. Even in the pipeline capitol of Canada, oil spills are common, in fact they are statistically inevitable.

A disastrous pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010, spilled more than 3.8 million litres of diluted oil-sands bitumen, contaminating a 48-km stretch of the Kalamazoo River which is still contaminated, even after “clean-up” of the spill.

Concerns about a pipeline spill are compounded by the fact that the waterways it would traverse are covered by ice for almost half of the year making any clean-up effort that much more difficult.

In addition to threatening drinking water, a spill could do irreversible damage to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. The proposed pipeline would follow the shores of the St. Lawrence River, a critical habitat for 13 species of whales including, sperm whales, Blue Whales, Fins, Greys, threatened Belugas, and others. Beluga whales in particular have become a key symbol for those opposing the pipeline.

The pipeline would link to a newly planned marine export terminal and storage facility at the port of Gros-Cacouna near Rivière-du-Loup Quebec. The site is just across the river from the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, a national marine conservation area known for its colony of beluga whales.

Ecologists warn TransCanada’s work disturbs the habitat and calving locations of belugas. There are now less than 900 Belugas in the St-Lawrence representing a 12 percent decline in the last decade.

Tourism, and the big business of whale watching in particular, would also be hit hard by a spill. Even one small spill from the pipeline or one of the tanker ships slated to carry the crude for export could be catastrophic to tourism not to mention fish and wildlife habitats. 

Energy East would also threaten the Baie de l’Isle-Verte wetlands and their teeming waterfowl populations. Other sensitive ecosystems that would be threatened include the Kennebecasis river system in New Brunswick, (its tidal and its freshwater marsh is one of the largest and most diverse of its kind) and the Musquash Tidal Wetland, also in New Brunswick. The terminus in Saint John would see hundreds of massive tankers laden with tar sands crude that would threaten the rich fishing grounds of the Bay of Fundy.

A host of other important rivers and streams would be threatened by the building of the new section of the proposed pipeline. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is no longer responsible for protecting our fisheries from pipeline projects. According to a memorandum of understanding signed on December 16, 2013 the fox is now guarding the henhouse. The National Energy Board (NEB) is now responsible for assessing the potential impacts to fisheries from pipelines. The NEB said that it will not consider the climate impacts of the pipeline in its assessment.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been doing everything he can to fast track tar sands development. He has ignored climate science in the pipeline review process and he has prevented communities for formally commenting.

Harper can be expected to ignore protestors but he cannot ignore Quebec's National Assembly. On November 6th, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously demanded a full review of Energy East, including its climate impacts. In 2013, the government of BC stood up and opposed the Northern Gateway project.

Harper hopes that he can increase current tar sands oil capacity from its current levels of just under 2 million barrels a day to 6 million barrels a day within the next decade. However, if we factor a science based approach to assess the climate impacts of the Energy East the project is dead in the water.

Related
Environmental Action Opposing the Energy East Pipeline
Quebecers Protest Energy East Pipeline and Terminal
Halloween Campaign Opposing the Energy East Pipeline
Environmental Leaders Comment on the Energy East Pipeline
Cities In Ontario and Quebec Opposing Energy East
Video - Stop the Energy East Pipeline

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