Pipe­line rup­ture

The Western Star - - Editorial -

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment must over­haul the Na­tional En­ergy Board (NEB), es­pe­cially its en­vi­ron­men­tal assess­ments, be­fore any more harm is done to east­ern Canada. The NEB has al­tered its man­date to reg­u­late pipelines and en­ergy de­vel­op­ment. It is fail­ing to fac­tor in eco­nomic and so­cial con­sid­er­a­tions that rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests and con­cerns of all Cana­di­ans.

The board’s lat­est de­ci­sion to throw a po­ten­tially fa­tal road­block in the path of Tran­sCanada’s $15.7 bil­lion, 4,500 km En­ergy East pipe­line is a gross over-reach of its man­date. It is ig­nor­ing the eco­nomic con­cerns of east­ern Canada where pro­vin­cial govern­ments, busi­nesses and res­i­dents are in favour of the pipe­line.

At al­most the same time that hur­ri­cane Har­vey was bat­ter­ing Hous­ton, shut­ting down re­finer­ies and send­ing oil prices soar­ing across Canada, the NEB de­cided to over­step its pow­ers and crip­ple our coun­try’s ac­cess to its own oil. Just when it was ev­i­dent that east­ern Canada should not be held hostage to off­shore oil is­sues, the NEB thumbed its nose at the re­gion.

Tran­sCanada plans to pump ap­prox­i­mately one mil­lion bar­rels a day through the En­ergy East pipe­line to re­finer­ies in Mon­treal and – of spe­cial in­ter­est to At­lantic Canada – the huge Irv­ing Oil re­fin­ery in Saint John. Thou­sands of jobs and hun­dreds of mil­lions in con­struc­tion costs are at stake, nowhere more so than New Brunswick. The pipe­line will pro­vide a se­cure sup­ply of Cana­dian oil, which helps Al­berta and our na­tional econ­omy, and end the need to im­port hun­dreds of thou­sands of bar­rels of for­eign oil every day. Three years af­ter sub­mit­ting its ap­pli­ca­tion, Tran­sCanada is still wait­ing for a de­ci­sion.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups had pushed for the En­ergy East re­view to in­clude a cli­mate test. The re­cent de­ci­sion to con­sider in­di­rect green­house gas emis­sions in eval­u­at­ing the pipe­line is a ca­pit­u­la­tion to those groups and a cause of grave con­cern.

The board has changed the rules mid­way through the process and gen­er­ated out­rage from pro­vin­cial govern­ments in New Brunswick, Al­berta and Saskatchewan. To no one’s sur­prise, Tran­sCanada is putting its ap­pli­ca­tion on hold. Many con­sider the pro­ject is dead. Tran­sCanada hints the pipe­line could be can­celled un­less there are some im­me­di­ate and ma­jor changes to the NEB.

The NEB de­ci­sion on so-called up­stream and down­stream green­house gas emis­sions could also de­rail any fu­ture en­ergy de­vel­op­ments in Canada and opens up other sec­tors to the same new rules. Will util­i­ties, auto man­u­fac­tur­ing, rail lines or truck­ing com­pa­nies now be sub­ject to an emis­sions test?

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment should step in to get the re­view process back on track and clar­ify the role and man­date of the NEB. Oil is nec­es­sary to our sur­vival and way of life – to­day and well into the fore­see­able fu­ture - even as the world tran­si­tions to cleaner fu­els.

Pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment should not mean the death knell for any new pipelines. The NEB is with­draw­ing into a dream world of elec­tric cars and so­lar and wind power.

It gets very cold in Canada dur­ing the win­ter. That’s the re­al­ity. Deal with it.

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