Climate change consideration no longer requirement for Energy East approval

Intro

Ontario and Quebec premiers announced yesterday that rising greenhouse gas emissions from the Energy East pipeline will not be considered as they weigh in on the fate of the controversial project. According to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, there is no place for discussions about upstream GHGs — a type of emission that would be released as Alberta ramps up crude extraction from tar sands. Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard reinforced Wynne’s position on upstream GHGs, claiming that “it doesn’t add anything to the debate.” Couillard’s announcement comes just weeks after Quebec’s national assembly passed a motion that was supposed to ensure their government considers Energy East’s global contribution to climate change — a resolution that explicitly called out the NEB for not considering upstream climate impacts. Environmental groups are accusing Premier Wynne of backing down to pressure from Alberta’s leadership and “flip flopping” on her stance on Energy East — a project with climate impacts equivalent to those of 7 million cars.

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RT @TarSandsSolns Call @Kathleen_Wynne‘s office today and tell her to stop flip-flopping on #EnergyEast! http://act.350.org/call/eeflipflop/

Key Points

  • Ignoring the risks brought on by the Energy East pipeline won’t make them go away. If the Energy East pipeline is approved, crude extraction from Alberta’s tar sands would experience a major spike due to increased demand. This,  in turn, would accelerate Canada’s net carbon pollution by 32 million tonnes — equivalent to climate impacts of 7 million cars. Furthermore, major cities, First Nation and Métis communities are located directly along the pipeline route, leaving them vulnerable to oil spills that could devastate them.
  • Just as Quebec and Ontario were beginning to take steps forward, they are now taking disappointing steps back. In September, premiers Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard outlined a preliminary Canada Energy Strategy, indicating that the two most densely populated provinces were starting to make progress  towards cutting emissions. By omitting discussions about upstream GHGs — a type of carbon released when oil extraction activities increase — from the Energy East pipeline approval process, the two premiers are backpedaling on their commitment to prioritize climate and clean energy.
  • Strong leadership on climate and energy policy is crucial to curbing imminent risks brought on by pipelines. A critical review of the emissions impact of any energy project is essential to handling climate risks responsibly. As this year’s COP 20 is underway in Peru and major nation leaders are taking ambitious steps on climate, it’s now up to Canada’s provincial and federal leadership to follow suit and firmly commit to phasing out fossil fuels completely.

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Key Quotes

  • “If Ontario and Quebec want to be climate leaders, like they say they want to be, that means saying no to projects like this […] It’s absolutely essential that the provinces review all of the potential impacts to the environment, because no one else is going to do it.” – Adam Scott, Environmental Defence

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