OTTAWA – The Council of Canadians is opposed to a west-to-east oil pipeline plan being proposed by TransCanada Corp., which is supported in principle by the Harper government, and enthusiastically backed by the Alberta and New Brunswick provincial governments. The pipeline – which could move upwards of one million barrels of oil from Alberta per day – would run to the Irving refinery in Saint John, as well as to the deep water port in that city.
While TransCanada – the builders behind the Keystone XL pipeline to be decided on by US President Barack Obama in the coming months –- has not formally submitted a proposal to the National Energy Board, the energy industry is showing “almost unprecedented interest” in proceeding with the pipeline, according to Alberta premier Alison Redford. TransCanada’s plan also does not involve a massive construction project, but rather conversion of an existing, but underused natural gas line.
“This pipeline would pose serious threats to local water supplies and communities along the route,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. “The option then to export to the much larger and more profitable markets of India, China and Europe with massive tankers from the deep water port is also a major concern of ours.”
Analysts have noted that it is a shorter route to reach India's west coast refining hub from the Atlantic coast than from British Columbia. It is also possible to reach China from Atlantic Canada by moving oil tankers through the Straight of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia and then north through the South China Sea. Shipping oil to major refineries in Europe would also be possible. Just this week Premier Redford emphasized that Alberta oil reaching world markets is crucial.
“Export tankers would pose a real threat to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy,” says Atlantic regional organizer Angela Giles. “The water bodies must be protected as part of the commons and a public trust, not as a highway for oil exports.”
Redford has also framed moving Alberta oil east to New Brunswick as part of a Canadian Energy Strategy. But this is not a strategy that ensures stability of supply, protection of the environment, and that sets out a plan to wean the country off its dependence on non-renewable fuel sources.
“We have the capacity, to come up with better solutions for our energy needs,” says energy campaigner Maryam Adrangi. “We can create sustainable, local, and permanent jobs while respecting the health and safety of communities. To do this, we need to transition off of fossil fuels.”