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Environmental and citizen groups across the province of Québec are celebrating a bittersweet victory this week, Transcanada is finally complying to the laws of the province. It has agreed to submit environmental impact study of its Energy East Pipeline project, but has negotiated a limited assessment which excludes green house gases.
That being said, the bulldozer has been ditched, it would seem the public relations staff at Transcanada are now out to gain "social acceptance" for the project. We call this the Energy East Trap. It is this context that progressive publisher Écosociété allied with the "Coule Pas chez Nous" foundation has launched the book Piège Énergie Est, Energy East Trap written by Eric Pineault with David Murray.
The book was launched during a press conference where more than 50 large and grassroots environmental and citizen groups against pipelines published a joint declaration that has reignited the citizen struggle against Energy East in Québec.
Today we say "No" to Energy East.
Our no is categorical and uncompromising. We oppose Transcanada's Energy East pipeline as well as any project that expands the Tar Sands complex.
We call on the people of Québec and its political representatives to form a common front and block this menace to our ecosystems, our health and the planet's climate. The opposition to Energy East rests on our capacity for collective mobilization. It is in this spirit that we publish "The Energy East Trap" (Le piège Énergie Est. Sortir de l'impasse des sables bitumineux) as a tool to inform citizens. Our aim is to ensure the project is never realized.
The conclusion of the Paris climate conference is straightforward and sobering: we are on the verge of planetary climatic collapse. From this urgency stems an ecological imperative of transition addressed to all humans and to all nations. We must turn our backs on fossil fuels; they belong to our past.
Our historical task is to build a future based on other sources of energy, other logics of production and consumption. This ecological imperative implies, first and foremost, that our governments respect their signature of the Paris accord in New York on April 22 and refuse any project that distances us from our climatic challenge.
An ecological, economic and social trap
Energy East is more than a mere pipe through which will flow 2,000 litres of oil per second. It is an ecological, economic and social trap that will lock us into decades of reckless and extreme hydrocarbon expansion. If we authorize Energy East, we expose ourselves to major ecological risks and trade off meagre short-term gains for long-term constraints on our economic development.
In Québec, Energy East will cross 860 rivers and streams, including the St. Lawrence River. If ever there is a major oil spill, it be the equivalent of 36 times the size of the Lac Mégantic derailment and threaten the drinking water of 5 million people. Do we really want to risk a spill in the St. Lawrence?
Above and beyond the environmental and security risk, if we accept Energy East, we will submit ourselves to the dictates of an industry -- Big Oil -- that has only one objective: extract as much oil as possible from under the Boreal Forest and bring it to tidewater so that it can be shipped off to international markets.
Domestic demand in Québec and elsewhere in eastern Canada is simply too small. Our refineries are already well supplied -- this oil is not for us and was never planned to be. To accept Energy East is to accept Tar Sands expansion for at least the next half century. In other words, Energy East is the symbol of our collective lock-in into a social model that explicitly ignores the dangers of climate change.
Climate change requires an immediate transition
Climate science is clear: 85 per cent of Tar Sand "reserves" must remain beneath the ground until at least 2050 to avoid climate chaos. We cannot ignore this alarm and let the oil industry pump all the dilbit it can towards tidewater.
We cannot ignore the imperative of ecological transition. It is towards this objective that we must invest our energy and channel our creativity. We must avoid a temperature rise of 2 C. The Canadian government has actually targeted a 1.5 C limit to avoid runaway climate change. Every litre and gallon of oil burnt from the Energy East pipeline will already have contributed up to four times as much greenhouse gas emissions as a gallon or litre of conventional oil.
We will thus probably run out of atmosphere to stock these CO2 emissions before we run of oil in the ground. That's why we must block Energy East.
An uncompromising No
Our "no" is firm and uncompromising; it is not a "maybe, we'll see." Energy East cannot be greened, Energy East does not benefit the people. Yes it binds us together, from Alberta to New Brunswick, through Québec and Ontario. But the only real tie Energy East represents is the common risk we all face of seeing our forests, fields and rivers polluted by a dilbit spill somewhere along the pipeline.
It is not a "nation-building project," it only symbolizes the collective neglect of our international and environmental obligations. It makes us the accomplices of those few large corporations who hold extraction rights and whose sole objective is to expand their profits.
Our "no" does not rest on the desire to simply "protect our back yard"; its foundation is much deeper. It rests on a sense of duty and obligation towards the climate that trumps any economic right to extract. We are not naïvely opposed to hydrocarbons per se, but to a mode of extraction and consumption that is irresponsible and incompatible with the future of the planet's climate as we know it. If the planet is to have an ecological future, then some forms of oil must stay in the ground. The Tar Sands are among them.
Our irresponsibility must cease.
The world is watching us.
Eric Pineault is professor at the Institute for Environmental Science and Sociology Department at UQAM.
Signataires: Fondation Coule pas chez Nous!, Écosociété, Équiterre, Greenpeace, Nature Québec, Eau Secours, Association Québécoise contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQLPA), Alternatives, Fondation Rivières, Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), ENvironnement JEUnesse, Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbure Québec, Stop Oléoduc Capitale Nationale, STOP oléoduc Montmagny-L'Islet, Stop oloéoduc Portneuf Saint-Augustin, AmiEs de la Terre de Québec, Enjeux énergies et environnement, Regroupement citoyen contre les bitumineux et pour le développement durable, Justice climatique Montréal, Alerte Pétrole Rive-Sud, Comité citoyen environnemental de l'Est de Montréal, Villeray en transition, Union Paysanne, Anny Roy (ATSA), Dominic Champagne, Ianik Marcil, Anny Roy, Christian Vanasse, Manon Massé, députée de Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques et porte-parole en matière environnementale pour Québec solidaire, Craig Sauvé, Conseiller de la ville St-Henri-Petite-Bourgogne-Pointe-St-Charles, Projet Montréal, Xavier Barsalou-Duval, député fédéral de Pierre-Boucher-Les Patriotes-Verchères, Jean Baril, professeur de droit au Département des sciences juridiques de l’UQAM, Lucie Sauvé, Directrice du Centre de recherche en éducation et formation relatives à l'environnement et à l'écocitoyenneté de l'UQAM, Eve Lamont, réalisatrice du film Pas de pays sans paysan, Olivier D. Asselin, réalisateur du film Pipelines, pouvoir et démocratie.
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