As Keystone XL Falters, TransCanada OKs Bigger Canada East Coast Pipeline

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Aug 5, 2013

Energy East Pipeline. (Credit: TransCanada)

Energy East Pipeline. (Credit: TransCanada)

In a recent interview with the New York Times, US President Barack Obama hinted that TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline may never come to life.

Obama trashed TransCanada’s manufactured estimates of 20,000 jobs. He called them “the most realistic estimates”. A “blip relative to the need.” Obama suggested that the construction of Keystone, which would carry oil from Alberts to the US Gulf Coast , might create “maybe 2,000 jobs”. And after that, “somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”

Canada’s second-biggest pipeline operator was quick to respond.

First, TransCanada insisted on the corporate spin that Keystone XL will create 20,000 jobs, despite what Obama said. Then, on Thursday, the Calgary-based company announced that it will proceed with a $12 billion pipeline that will ship Alberta’s dirty tar sands oil to Canada’s East Coast.

The Energy East Pipeline project would convert a portion of TransCanada’s existing 3,000 kilometre Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline to crude oil service. And then add approximately 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline.

In a statement that mirrors the Harper Conservatives’ dictatorship-style propaganda, Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said Energy East was about “pushing out more expensive crude oil from foreign regimes.”

“We are very pleased with the outcome of the open season for the Energy East Pipeline held earlier this year and are excited to move forward with a major project that will bring many benefits across Canada,” Girling said. “This is an historic opportunity to connect the oil resources of western Canada to the consumers of eastern Canada, creating jobs, tax revenue and energy security for all Canadians for decades to come.”

Girling added: “Energy East is one solution for transporting crude oil but the industry also requires additional pipelines such as Keystone XL to transport growing supplies of Canadian and U.S. crude oil to existing North American markets.”

According to a new petition sponsored by the Council of Canadians:

The “Energy East” pipeline is expected to carry up to 850,000 barrels of crude per day, including diluted bitumen, through Canadian communities and sensitive ecosystems and waterways. As shown by tar sands pipeline ruptures in Mayflower, Arkansas and in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, a pipeline spill would have devastating impacts on land and water and endanger people’s health. This pipeline would also encourage expansion in the tar sands, Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the crude would be available to the highest bidders including larger, international markets.

“While using an existing pipeline may reduce TransCanada’s costs, it increases spill risks for the many rivers, lakes and communities along the route,”  said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The disastrous pipeline spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Mayflower, Arkansas highlight the dangers of shipping tar sands crude and using an older pipeline not originally built for carrying oil.”

“While there has been a lot of talk about Atlantic energy security, this crude will actually go to the highest bidder. India, China, Europe and the U.S. are in line,” added Maude Barlow, the Council’s national chairperson.  “This would threaten the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy, water bodies that must be protected as part of the commons and a public trust, not as a highway for oil exports.”

These are messages the Harper government still fails to grasp. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver welcomed the TransCanada announcement, offered full support.

Our government welcomes the prospect of transporting Canadian crude oil from Western Canada to consumers and refineries in Eastern Canada and ultimately to new markets abroad,” he said in a statement.

But East Energy is not a done deal.

First, it still requires approval from the National Energy Board.

Second, environmentalists are promising a fierce fight.

“TransCanada is desperate to show that tar sands are viable, ” said Michael Marx, the ‘beyond oil’ US campaign director for Sierra Club. “The truth is they are not. This announcement of an eastern Canada pipeline is a fantasy. It’ll face the same opposition dirty, dangerous pipelines to the west or south through the United States face, if not more. Tar sands is the dirtiest source of oil on Earth and running it through Montreal, Quebec and the Bay of Fundy is like running Keystone XL through Manhattan and the Grand Canyon. It’s not going to happen.”

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He's the founder and editor of these independent publications: The Canadian Progressive, a political blog dedicated to progressive Canadian journalism; The Zimbabwean Progressive, a political blog dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented Zimbabwean journalism; and Charity Files, a publication dedicated to journalism in the charitable public's interest. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad