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Senate report on pipelines steeped in old-school energy ideas

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Flickr/Chris Yakimov

This week the Canadian Senate committee on transportation and communication released a report on fossil fuel transportation, and much like the recent approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, it was unsatisfying on many levels. 

First and foremost the fact that this committee even had a mandate to “examine and report on the development of a strategy to facilitate the transport of crude oil” is shameful. This is morally and logically reprehensible, given that cutting carbon emissions should be a federal priority. 

I would have rather seen a committee looking for strategies to facilitate a just transition to a renewable economy with public power-generation ownership or a report on worker re-training opportunities for oil industry workers trying to move to sustainable fields.

I would like to have seen a report on an investment plan to update Canada’s electricity grids to be able to manage variable renewable energy inputs or a report on policy priorities to remove barriers for renewable energy uptake.

Any of those would have been a joy to see and participate in, but not this out-of-date report.

The report opens with an Einstein quote, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

The irony of this choice of quote is representative of our government’s and largely our society’s inability to imagine existence beyond fossil fuels. 

The thinking behind this committee -- that relying on fossil fuel companies is the only way to create energy for our communities and the only way to have a strong economy -- has not changed. It is the exact same thinking that was behind the global climate crisis we are now experiencing. 

Secondly, the recommendations of this report specifically push to extend the Energy East pipeline to the Point Tupper terminal in Nova Scotia beyond the currently planned Saint John, NB terminus.

Energy East is not good for communities’ water, safety, climate or economy, no matter where it ends, so extending the pipeline to Nova Scotia is similarly unacceptable.

Additionally, from a public process perspective, this recommendation goes against the concept of public participation in the National Energy Board review process.

The NEB does not provide perfect opportunities for public input (read more on that here and here) but it is anti-democratic for politicians and senators to not discuss this extension in a serious way with the public through a regulated process like the NEB.

The Energy East extension must be immediately included in the NEB review of Energy East and be subject to public scrutiny and comment if it is seriously being considered by TransCanada, the Government of Nova Scotia or NuStar (the company that owns the Point Tupper terminal).

The committee and several hearing participants -- including Nova Scotia’s Minister of Energy Michel Samson and the province’s Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie -- presented the Energy East extension as a more environmentally friendly option for Energy East, because the Bay of Fundy is too high-risk for bitumen export. 

Their argument amounts to, “if it has to go somewhere, it shouldn’t be the bay with the highest tides in the world.” The new thinking we need would rebut that idea with “we don’t need it at all.”   

Check out these links to learn more about how the Council is working against Energy East across Canada and in Atlantic Canada specifically.

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