'Energy East' a sign BC is hostile territory for oil pipelines, critics say

The oil pipeline industry's shift to points east of Alberta is a sign British Columbia has mounted an effective "wall of opposition", according to Aboriginal and environmentalist opponents.

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Though favoured by pundits to succeed, Kinder Morgan's TransMountain expansion pipeline to Burnaby is also facing fierce scrutiny.  

More than 2,000 participants have signed up to participate in an upcoming federal hearing into the project -- the majority -- including parent groups, politicians and scientists -- are expected to oppose the project. 

The company states it has engaged extensively with landowners, Aboriginal groups, communities and stakeholders.

Easier ride eastward?

University of Calgary petroleum lands management professor Robert Schulz expects TransCanada will have an easier time selling Energy East with First Nations than Enbridge has experienced with Northern Gateway.

Many Aboriginal communities already receive TransCanada revenues from an existing natural gas pipeline that would be converted for oil.

“The bands are already receiving money.  So the negotiations would be, ‘ok... we signed an agreement in 1960 or whatever, and here we are 50 years later, we want to charge a little more for the oil going through,” said Schulz.

TransCanada said it is well on its way to securing partnerships with the 187 First Nations and Metis communities its project touches.

“We have close to 50 letters of agreement.  We’re committed to engaging with them, and engaging in a fulsome and respectful dialogue,” said Cannon.

TransCanada held more than 60 public open houses last year, spreading its job creation and pipeline safety message.  The company expects to create 10,000 construction jobs, and 1,000 permanent jobs.

Pipeline pressure

But eastern environmentalists have been stepping up the pressure too.

One group -- “Save Canada” -- has its members disguise themselves as TransCanada spokespeople at Energy East public engagement events, to inform people of pipeline spill risks.

Toronto-based Environmental Defence also has a petition urging the Ontario Energy Board to say no to the Energy East pipeline.

Others worry about the marine impacts of Atlantic shipments of tar sands oil.

“To export with multiple tankers through the Bay of Fundy, a world heritage site, with the most dynamic tides in the world, and full of whales and other marine mammals -- it’s a dangerous proposition,” said John Bennett, with the Sierra Club Foundation in Ottawa.

Tar Sands "doubling"

Fort McMurray, Alberta - Kris Krug oil sands photo

The Alberta Energy department said oil sands production will double from its current 2 million barrels of oil per day to 3.8 million by 2022.

But the rapid expansion won't be possible without the construction of major oil pipelines to carry the product.  There are five major proposals underway now.

Five major oil pipeline proposals in Canada

“Most people would say, you need all the pipelines and rail in order to handle the capacity of what could be produced out of the oil sands,” said Shultz in Calgary.

Energy East would not only pump Alberta oil.  

TransCanada said the pipeline would also draw Bakken oil from Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- an area experiencing its own "oil boom" at the moment.

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