Ottawa's local opposition could spell trouble for Energy East pipeline proposal

"Here, people are starting to put the pieces together and understand that the only reason it's being proposed here is because TransCanada wasn't able to get their pipeline (Keystone XL) down to the U.S.," Ecology Ottawa campaigner Ben Powless said.

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According to a detailed account in Bloomberg, Energy East came about because Prime Minister Stephen Harper was frustrated by U.S. President Obama's call to delay Keystone XL in 2011. 

After searching for alternatives to get Alberta's landlocked crude to market, Harper came across New Brunswick's billionaire Irving family, which owns gasoline refineries in Saint John. The proposed Energy East  project would retrofit an existing natural gas pipeline running through Ottawa near Stittsville to ship 1.1 million barrels of oil and bitumen per day from Alberta.
 
While Energy East is massive in scale -- at 4,600 kilometres, the third largest pipeline in the world -- it has the advantage of building upon an existing Ontario pipeline (new pipelines would still have to be built  across six provinces). 

Powless says many communities are just starting to understand how Energy East came to be, and that it won't be an easy sell in the eastern provinces. 
 
"Here, people are starting to put the pieces together and understand that the only reason it's being proposed here is because TransCanada wasn't able to get their pipeline down to the U.S. and they all recognize that B.C. is hostile territory," Powless said.
 
He said many Ontario residents remembered the recent NEB rule changes that limited public participation on hearings as well as length of deliberation, which is now capped at 15 months, regardless of the scale of a project.

"I think it's clear the federal government has done everything it has to stack the books in favour of oil companies in general...It's taken the U.S. years to consider Keystone XL, and they're still ordering more tests to be done.

"To imagine that we can do the same thing in Canada for an even bigger pipeline carrying more oil across a further distance -- I think the federal government is out of their minds." 
 

Taking part in the review process 

 
TransCanada spokesperson Shawn Howard told the Vancouver Observer it had an ongoing dialogue to build trust with communities across Canada, and was "engaged in making sure local leaders...understand what this project is all about."
 
"We believe we have a tremendous project to put forward in Energy East, which will bring benefits of all kinds, from boosting the tax base of municipalities and creating jobs all along the pipeline route, to delivering Canadian energy in the most secure way possible from West to East, while curbing the need to import oil from foreign source countries such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria," he said. 
 
Three-quarters of candidates surveyed said the City of Ottawa should intervene in the National Energy Board’s federal review process on the pipeline project to ensure Ottawa’s interests are taken under consideration. 


Powless said it was "encouraging" to see leadership on the municipal level that was lacking at the federal and provincial level. In New Brunswick, newly elected Premier Brian Gallant said today that his government's support for Energy East had not wavered since the election. 

"A lot of opposition has built up, even before TransCanda has filed its application (for Energy East)...There isn't federal leadership on a lot of these big environmental issues, so it's almost up to municipal leaders, which is kind of incredible, but opens up a lot of possibility for locally directed change."

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