A lot has been said about the Energy East pipeline, but what is Canada’s Energy East project and why is it so controversial?

The Idea Behind the Energy East pipeline

Energy East would have been a new 4,500km crude oil passageway led by the company TransCanada.1

Energy East would create jobs and use some existing natural gas infrastructure, supporters said.2 What’s more, this pipeline would link the Alberta oil sands to New Brunswick in Eastern Canada.3 As such, it would finally allow exports of crude oil to countries other than the United States. This would let Canadian oil companies sell to countries in Europe and Asia. 4

The Energy East Pipeline emerged as a real possibility in 2012 after development of the Keystone XL pipeline stalled. 5

But, people living along the project protested the plans. They said the route of the pipeline project put their homes, their way of life and the environment itself at risk. 6

Protests over the project

The Energy East project faced opposition at almost every turn.

Firstly, the construction route proposed by TransCanada would have meant the pipeline going through 180 different First Nation territories.7 First Nation leaders filed injunctions to prevent the pipeline’s repair and development.8 They said that TransCanada had failed to consult them, and that the company had to do so under human rights laws.9

Secondly, scrutiny also fell on the the Canada National Energy Board (NEB) itself. The Board’s job is to review new energy projects and ensure they fit the country’s legal obligations, including to the environment and human rights.10

Yet some of the board’s members were accused of holding private meetings with pipeline officials. When information of this meeting emerged, environmental groups claimed the meeting broke the National Energy Board’s regulatory promises.11 The NEB must hold fair and open meetings, and this action broke that rule, they said.

Eventually the National Energy Board panel was forced to step down and a new panel was appointed.12

The new panel decided that it would take a fresh look at the TransCanada pipeline project. It also said it would look at upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions. 13

Following this, TransCanada put the project on hold. 14

The Pipeline Project Ends

Ultimately, TransCanada cancelled the Energy East project in October of 2017.15 With the threat of stronger environmental regulations on the horizon and falling oil prices, the business case for the pipeline no longer made sense.16

It is hard to read the details of the project and Canada’s stated commitment17 to fighting climate change and think the two go together — because they don’t. The Energy East project failed not because of one problem but many, and those issues have not gone away. Yet Canada continues to allow other similar projects, like the expanding TransMountain pipeline.18

As a result, Canada’s government can expect more legal fights19 from First Nation peoples and environmental groups if it decides to revisit the Energy East pipeline.

References

  1. Hydrocarbons Technology. n.d. Energy East Pipeline, Hardisty, Alberta – Hydrocarbons Technology. [online] Available at: <https://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/projects/energy-east-pipeline-alberta/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  2. Rosengarten, J., n.d. The Energy East Pipeline Project: Creating Thousands Of Jobs And Boosting Local Economies. [online] Careers and Education. Available at: <http://www.careersandeducation.ca/career-opportunities/the-energy-east-pipeline-project-creating-thousands-of-jobs-and-boosting-local-economies> [Accessed 20 May 2020].
  3. Hughes, L., 2019. Five Routes For Western Canadian Oil To Get To Eastern Canada. [online] Policy Options. Available at: <https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/june-2019/five-routes-western-canadian-oil-get-eastern-canada/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  4. Berkow, J., 2018. Reviving Energy East Pipeline Could Hit Putin In Europe: Mackay – BNN Bloomberg. [online] BNN. Available at: <https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/reviving-energy-east-could-undo-putin-s-hammerlock-in-europe-mackay-1.1086574> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  5. CBC.CA. 2017. A Chronological History Of Controversial Keystone XL Pipeline Project. [online] Available at: <https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/keystone-xl-pipeline-timeline-1.3950156> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  6. Newswire.ca. 2017. First Nations In Quebec Stand In The Way Of The Energy East Pipeline. [online] Available at: <https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/first-nations-in-quebec-stand-in-the-way-of-the-energy-east-pipeline-617443463.html> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  7. McCarthy, S., 2013. Energy Companies Struggle With Aboriginal Needs On Pipelines. [online] The Globe and Mail. Available at: <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/energy-companies-struggle-with-aboriginal-needs-on-pipelines/article15818477/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  8. Munson, J., 2017. First Nations File Injunction Against Energy East Pipeline Route – Ipolitics. [online] iPolitics. Available at: <https://ipolitics.ca/2017/01/09/first-nations-file-injunction-against-energy-east-pipeline-route/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  9. Robbins, J., 2015. Canada’S Indigenous Bands Rise Up Against A Tar Sands Pipeline. [online] Yale E360. Available at: <https://e360.yale.edu/features/canadas_indigenous_bands_rise_up_against_a_tar_sands_pipeline> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  10. Cer-rec.gc.ca. 2015. NEB – National Energy Board Ministerial Briefing Binder – The NEB In Brief. [online] Available at: <https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/bts/whwr/gvrnnc/brfngbndr/dcmnt2-1-eng.html> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  11. National Observer. 2016. NEB Bans Critics From Speaking Out About Accusations Of Bias At Montreal Hearings. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/08/23/news/neb-bans-critics-speaking-out-loud-about-accusations-bias-montreal-hearings> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  12. Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News. 2017. New Panel Reviewing Energy East Pipeline Voids Past Decisions, Restarts Process – Canadian Business. [online] Available at: <https://www.canadianbusiness.com/business-news/new-panel-reviewing-energy-east-pipeline-voids-past-decisions-restarts-process/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  13. Healing, D., 2017. Energy East Pipeline Review Topics To Include Upstream, Downstream GHG Emissions. [online] Calgaryherald.com. Available at: <https://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/energy-east-pipeline-review-topics-to-be-released-may-include-ghg-emissions/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  14. Healing, D., 2017. Energy East Pipeline Review Topics To Include Upstream, Downstream GHG Emissions. [online] Calgaryherald.com. Available at: <https://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/energy-east-pipeline-review-topics-to-be-released-may-include-ghg-emissions/> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  15. Inc., P., 2017. Transcanada Blames ‘Substantial Uncertainty’ For Killing Energy East Pipeline. [online] Financial Post. Available at: <https://business.financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/newsalerttranscanada-says-its-cancelling-energy-east-pipeline-project-2> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  16. Carr, J., 2017. Regulations Alone Didn’t Sink The Energy East Pipeline. [online] The Conversation. Available at: <https://theconversation.com/regulations-alone-didnt-sink-the-energy-east-pipeline-85360> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  17. Canada.ca. 2019. Pan-Canadian Framework On Clean Growth And Climate Change – Canada.Ca. [online] Available at: <https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/pan-canadian-framework.html> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  18. Transmountain.com. n.d. Expansion Project. [online] Available at: <https://www.transmountain.com/project-overview> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
  19. Kennedy, M., 2020. NPR Choice Page. [online] Npr.org. Available at: <https://www.npr.org/2020/02/05/803002446/canadian-court-clears-the-way-for-trans-mountain-pipeline-expansion?t=1589906680255> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
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