Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weak Climate Test for the Energy East Pipeline

On February 3, 2015, the National Energy Board (NEB) will officially begin its review of the Energy East pipeline project. Energy East is a massive 4000 kilometer pipeline that if built would carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil from Alberta to Quebec.

If it is built, the Energy East pipeline would allow for a 40 percent expansion of the tar sands that would produce at least 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. It is the largest tar sands pipeline ever proposed, with a climate impact equivalent to adding 7 million cars.

In November the governments of Quebec and Ontario announced seven conditions for the approval of the Energy East pipeline. One of those conditions involves a climate change test. However, the leaders of the two provinces have indicated that they will only concern themselves with emissions from the building of the pipeline, not the emissions generated by the extraction and burning of tar sands oil.

Ontario premiere Kathleen Wynne indicated that she was not talking about upstream emissions and Quebec premiere Philippe Couillard has said that "Whatever the future of the TransCanada project, the extraction will take place. So it doesn’t add anything to the debate to look at [upstream emissions]. What we really want to see is the sum of greenhouse gases over the Quebec section of the project."

In the context of the massive GHG load from the Energy East, failure to factor upstream emissions is tantamount to willful ignorance. The federal governments own estimates indicate that emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector will increase by 48 per cent between 2005 and 2030. Climate scientists have indicated that the carbon load from expanded tar sands exploitation would make it impossible to reign in climate change.

A number of organizations are working to demand that the NEB do a proper review of the Energy East. Thus far 350.org have gathered over 60,000 messages for the NEB demanding they evaluate the climate impacts of the pipeline. On February 2nd, 350.org is going to deliver these messages to the Board headquarters in Calgary. The Council of Canadians have also organized a petition against the pipeline as has Avaaz.

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