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David Suzuki: Paris Changed Everything, So Why Are We Still Talking Pipelines?

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.

In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.

Feds Announce Upstream Emissions Will be 'Factor' In Pipeline Decisions

Miniser of Environment Catherine McKenna

The federal government announced on Wednesday the upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with pipeline projects will be taken into consideration when federal cabinet makes its decisions on pipeline projects.

We are considering direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions,” Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said. McKenna along with Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr made the announcement.

Today’s announcement is a great step forward and shows the federal government is listening to Canadians,” Kai Nagata, Dogwood Initiative’s energy and democracy director, told DeSmog Canada. “The dark days of the National Energy Board are coming to an end.”

The new measures will apply to pipeline projects currently under regulatory review, such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline projects, according to Carr. Five principles that proposed pipelines will be measured against were unveiled. One of those includes “meaningful consultation” for Indigenous peoples.

Calgary Mayor Nenshi, Premier Wall Blast Montreal’s Energy East Opposition

Several prominent western Canadian politicians came out firing at Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s announcement yesterday that Montreal-area municipalities will oppose TransCanada’s Energy East oil pipeline project. The outraged western leaders were not exactly polite in their criticism either.

He’s wrong on this one. There’s no better way to put it,” Calgary Naheed Nenshi told CTV’s Power Play. “The alternative is more oil by rail and people in Quebec know the dangers of oil by rail, tragically.”

I trust Montreal area mayors will politely return their share of $10B in equalization supported by (the) west,” Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said on Twitter.

The 82 municipalities of the Communauté Municipale de Montréal (Montreal Metropolitan Community) voted yesterday to oppose the 1.1 million barrels a day proposed pipeline going through their jurisdictions. The environment risks outweighed the meager economic benefits of the project, according to the political body representing nearly four million Quebecers.

Montreal Formally Opposes TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline

Montreal Mayor Denise Coderre announced Thursday the city's formal opposition to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. The 4,600-kilometer west-to-east oil pipeline project would see 1,600 kilometres of new pipe built along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and in New Brunswick.

“We are against it because it still represents significant environmental threats and too few economic benefits for greater Montreal,” Coderre said in a press conference.

Groups opposed to the 1.1 million barrels-a-day project, which is significantly larger than TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, welcomed the announcement.

Today, 82 municipal counsellors, representing 3.9 million citizens in the greater Montreal region, have issued a resounding ‘no’ to the Energy East project and to TransCanada Corporation,” Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director at Équiterre, said in a media release.

Coderre’s announcement came after 82 municipalities comprising the Communauté Municipale de Montréal (Montreal Metropolitan Community) voted this morning on whether to approve or oppose the project. Energy East’s proposed route would go through the northern municipalities of the greater Montreal-area.

We’re really happy,” Audrey Yank, spokesperson for Montreal-based citizens-group Coalition Vigilance Oleoducs told DeSmog Canada. “It feels like a another small victory to give us hope.”

Nexen’s Brand New, Double-Layered Pipeline Just Ruptured, Causing One of the Biggest Oil Spills Ever in Alberta

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about five million liters (32,000 barrels or some 1.32 million gallons) of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters (almost 4 acres). The emulsion leaked from a “feeder” pipe that connects a wellhead to a processing plant.

At a press conference Thursday, Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologize[d] for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen's new system and that the line's emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection. 

Benzene Gas from Kinder Morgan Bitumen Spill Could Endanger 1 Million Vancouverites, Hospitalize 31,000

The Economist says Vancouver is liveable, but boring. Clearly they haven’t read its latest evidence against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

As part of its final package of evidence in the NEB’s review of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker expansion, the City of Vancouver solicited expert testimony on how air quality would be impacted by a spill in Burrard Inlet.

The 53-page report prepared by Richmond-based Levelton Consultants has the same underlying thread of doom featured in much of Vancouver’s other evidence. The key difference? This time there’s a possible human body count.

Wildfires Rage Near Oilsands Operations, Raising Climate Questions

Forest fires covering 8,200 hectares of land in northern Alberta continue to burn out of control, spurred on by extremely dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures. The fires have forced the evacuation of hundreds of oilsands workers, the irony of which is not being lost on many  (just check out the reactions to this CBC article).

Climate change during the 21st century is expected to result in more frequent fires in many boreal forests, with severe environmental and economic consequences,” said a 2014 Natural Resources Canada post

About 10 per cent of Canada’s oil output — amounting to about 233,000 barrels a day — has been shut down since Monday, May 25, due to the fires. The Bank of America Merril Lynch warned in a research report that if wildfire disruptions persist, there could be a 0.1 to 0.3 per cent hit to second-quarter annualized growth.

An increase in the number of forest fires is likely to make one of the world’s most costly fossil fuel sources even more labour intensive and expensive.

Groups Want Pipeline Regulator to Explain Why it Won't Order Safety Test of Enbridge's Line 9

Environmental and citizen groups in Quebec are demanding the National Energy Board (NEB) explain why it refuses to order a hydrostatic safety test of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline, a west-to-east oil pipeline that could come online as early as next month.

A hydrostatic test or hydrotest is a commonly used method to determine whether a pipeline can operate safely at its maximum operating pressure. The test involves pumping water at through the pipeline at levels higher than average operating pressures. Enbridge is reversing the flow of the 39-year old Line 9 pipeline, which previously carried imported oil inland from Canada's east coast, and will increase its capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

[The NEB] claims to be transparent and to listen to what the public is saying, yet despite having all the required information in their possession for over six months, it refuses to render a written and reasoned decision on whether or not it will impose hydrostatic tests on the length of Line 9B,” Lorraine Caron, spokesperson for the citizen group Citoyens au Courant, said.

When the NEB, Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, approved the Enbridge pipeline project in March 2014, the board stated it could order a hydrostatic test of Line 9 if it felt the integrity of the 39-year old pipeline was in question. So far the board has chosen not to exercise this option and has said very little as to why.

Refusing to make a decision public means the NEB wants to keep the public in a state of ignorance. This only contributes to diminishing public confidence in the NEB,” Steven Guilbeault, executive director of Equiterre, said.

Energy East Threatens Drinking Water for 850,000 Manitobans, Report Finds

Drinking water for more than 60 per cent of Manitoba's population will be put at risk by TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline, according to a report released Monday by the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. 

The entire length of the Winnipeg aqueduct is in danger of contamination from the nearby pipeline,” the report states. “Contamination could occur from large spills anywhere along the pipeline and from small, more frequent, undetected spills between Falcon Lake and Hadashville where the aqueduct and pipeline are very close.”

Retired biophysicist and author of the report, Dennis LeNeveu, announced his findings in Winnipeg, saying the city's aqueduct is at risk from the nearby pipeline. LeNeveu added it is not just Winnipeg’s drinking water that is threatened by the 1.1 million barrels a day Energy East project.   

The drinking water supplies in the province, as well as Winnipeg’s supply are at risk of contamination from the pipeline. Many communities draw their water from rivers that the pipeline directly crosses,” LeNeveu wrote in the report.  

“Winnipeg has much to lose from the pipeline crossing within its boundaries and little to gain.”

Manitobans in the Dark on Province's Energy East Position

Three Manitoba-based environmental groups — Manitoba Wildlands, Wilderness Committee, and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition — held a press conference Thursday in Winnipeg demanding the Manitoba government “acknowledge the magnitude” of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project, which would see oilsands (also called tar sands) bitumen shipped through the province. 

Does the Manitoba government have an agreement with TransCanada Energy East already? Or does Manitoba Hydro already have an agreement to provide this energy? Will the Manitoba government follow the lead of other provinces and review the climate impacts? There are so many unanswered questions,” Gaile Whelan-Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands, said.

While Ontario and Quebec are conducting public consultations on the propsed west-to-east oil pipeline and have expressed some uneasiness with the project, Manitoba premier Greg Selinger has been accused of saying very little about Energy East.

Manitobans deserve to know where their government stands on this issue,” Whelan-Enns said.

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