The Energy East Proposal Must Be Stopped
North America's largest ever pipeline project, and one local group that intends to stop it
By Enrique Olivo
In October of 2014, TransCanada submitted its application to the National Energy Board for its Energy East project. Spanning over 4,400 kilometres from Alberta to New Brunswick, and designed to ship 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, this proposed pipeline is set to be the largest in North America.
In response, environmental groups across the country have mobilized against the project, citing the risk of oil spills, the potential impact on the local environment, and the climate change impacts associated with tar sands expansion.
For instance, according to the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based think tank, producing the crude oil needed to fill the pipeline "would generate up to 32 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year—equivalent to doubling the number of cars on Ontario's roads."
As a consequence, if Energy East is approved, Canada's commitment to reaching its 2020 emissions goal and stopping overall climate change would be greatly compromised.
However, despite the opposition from environmentalists, politicians and citizens alike have been pushing back, pointing to the economic benefit that this pipeline would give to a Canada in recession.
As one study by Deloitte found, Ontario alone would benefit from about a $13 billion growth in its GDP from Energy East.
But are the risks worth the purported economic benefits of this pipeline project? According to the Ontario Energy Board's latest report, the answer is no.
"What we have found is that there is an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the project, and the expected benefits for Ontarians," said the Board's vice-president, Peter Fraser.
In particular, these risks are rooted in how the pipeline would cross or run beside major Ontario waterways, like the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers, and its lack of up-to-date technology to prevent and mitigate oil spills.
Clearly, much is at stake in this pipeline debate, which is exactly why Beeta Senedjani decided to set up TREE in April of this year. Otherwise known as Toronto Rejects Energy East, this Scarborough-based group has spent the last few months reaching out to both community members and politicians to inform them of the detriments in approving such a project.
"We want to let people know that there are better ways to grow our economy while still protecting our environment," said Beeta in an interview. "We can do more to invest in the transition towards renewable energy, and move away from pipelines."
According to Clean Energy Canada, an NGO associated with Simon Fraser University, this transition is actually attainable—and is, in fact, already underway.
It explained in a 2014 report that the sector for renewable energy outnumbers the oilsands sector in terms of direct employment.
Facts such as these embolden Beeta and TREE to move forward, and to work together with other groups like Toronto350 and Environmental Defence, to stop the pipeline.
In light of the upcoming federal election on October 19 (the winner of which will decide how to handle the National Energy Board's final recommendation on Energy East), their fight comes at as good a time as any.
If you are interested in getting involved with groups like TREE, you can find out more on Twitter @noenergyeast or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org