Quantcast

The Energy East Pipeline Is Dead, but Three Tar Sands Pipeline Projects Remain

Massive pipelines would transport millions of barrels of oil per day from the Athabasca tar sands mines. howlcollective / Flickr, CC BY

By Ron Johnson

Last week, energy company TransCanada pulled the plug on its 2,800-mile Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects, which would have shipped 1.1 million barrels of crude oil from the Athabasca tar sands to refineries in eastern Canada. The move was celebrated as a victory by environmentalists and Indigenous people pushing for a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

"This is a tremendous battle victory in the greater fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground and for climate justice for Indigenous nations," Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network's Keep It In The Ground project, said in a statement.


The announcement, Goldtooth said, "supports the validity and strength of an Indigenous rights-based approach to win these battles. All along the Energy East pipeline route First Nations took a stand to defend their inherent rights, protect their water and Mother Earth and resist the colonial actions of Canada and its oil regime."

But the work is far from over—three other massive tar sands pipeline projects representing millions of barrels of oil per day loom in the distance.

Depending on who you talk to, there are a few explanations for TransCanada ending the billion-dollar Energy East project, which happens to be the second major pipeline project to be cancelled following the end of the $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline in 2016. Theories include relentless resistance, especially from Indigenous communities whose traditional territories and waters were located on or near the pipeline route, as well as over-regulation by various levels of government and forecasts of a continuing dip in global oil prices and production that made the project less economically attractive.

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, a coalition of First Nations and Native American tribes across North America, attributed the pipeline's demise to grassroots activism.

"Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win," Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanestake said on behalf of the Treaty Alliance.

TransCanada, however, said the decision to abandon the project had less to do with the protests and land claims and more about not wanting to deal with a more stringent and unclear regulatory framework.

In a letter (pdf) to the National Energy Board upon cancellation of Energy East, TransCanada explained that "there remains substantial uncertainty around the scope, timing and cost associated with the regulatory review of the Projects." It said that due to "the existing and likely future delays resulting from the regulatory process, the associated cost implications and the increasingly challenging issues and obstacles facing the Projects, the Applicants will not be proceeding."

There is little doubt that since the 2016 election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has stepped up its regulatory and environmental assessment efforts. Trudeau's government made serious commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change as well as to the rights of the country's First Nations. For instance, the government required that both the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions be considered during the approvals process for Energy East, and for all other pipeline projects in the country.

Proponents of Energy East, including the opposition Conservative Party of Canada, criticized Trudeau's government for bungling the pipeline project by piling too many reviews and regulations on TransCanada, and costing the country thousands of jobs and a massive injection into the economy. "Terrible news this morning about Energy East pipeline. Make no mistake, Justin Trudeau is to blame," was the word from newly elected Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, the day the news became public.

But Jim Carr, Canada's minister of natural resources, defended the government's position. "TransCanada Pipelines' decision to cancel the Energy East Pipeline project was a business decision," he said in a statement, emphasizing that three additional pipeline projects are currently either under construction or close to it: TransCanada's Keystone XL; Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project between Hardisty, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin and American energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

"Our government has two major export pipelines that are now under construction, and a third is expected to start soon," he said. "The Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3 projects alone represent over $11.6 billion in investment and will support thousands of jobs."

Global oil prices have indeed weakened since 2014, and as a result the forecast for future oil production has been lowered to the point where if all pipelines were built, there would be competition to keep them all at capacity. According to University of Alberta's Andrew Leach, Canada will have more than enough pipeline capacity to handle future growth if the last three pipelines are completed. One of the pipelines is TransCanada's Keystone XL, so why would the company want two of its own pipelines competing against each other? Or so the theory goes.

This is exactly why anti pipeline activists are cautioning against complacence. "It will be a hollow victory if either Kinder Morgan, Line 3 or Keystone XL are allowed to steamroll over Indigenous opposition and serve as an outlet for even more climate-killing tar sands production," Chief Simon said.

Grassroots activists in Nebraska and Western Canada that will have much to say before any of these remaining pipelines gets built.

In Nebraska, a regulatory body that will rule on the fate of the Keystone XL project this November. But even if approved, local activists have vowed to continue fighting it..

Meanwhile, despite being all but approved by the government, Kinder Morgan faces serious opposition to its Trans Mountain expansion, especially from British Columbia First Nations who have not given consent to the pipeline crossing traditional and unceded territories. Seven First Nations, two environmental groups and the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver have mounted a legal challenge against Trans Mountain and the case is currently being heard in court. And given that the new provincial government in BC won the election in part because of a commitment to fight the Kinder Morgan project, the fight seems set to intensify as all sides dig in for the final showdown.

As hard as the oil companies push their agenda, there will be those who stand up and resist.

With President Donald Trump rewriting the climate change denial handbook and pushing dirty coal like it's a new miracle energy source, the world is waiting to see what happens in Canada. Will the Trudeau government greenlight the exploitation of the country's massive fossil fuel reserves and move us farther and faster towards catastrophic climate change or will it be climate smart and stick to its Paris promises?

As Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said: "The climate math is sadly simple—the carbon contained in Alberta's tar sands must stay there. Nothing else that Canada could do to help stabilize Earth's climate matters anywhere near as much."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Earth Island Journal.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.


PxHere

Americans like wind turbines as neighbors, at least when compared with the alternatives.

Read More Show Less
Offutt Air Force Base after flooding on March 17. U.S. Air Force / TSgt. Rachelle Blake

The historic flooding that devastated Nebraska last week has also submerged one third of an Air Force base, offering a further illustration of the threat posed to national security by climate change.

Read More Show Less