NDP supports the Energy East pipeline

Halifax-based Council of Canadians organizer Tori Ball holds "Energy East = Climate Change" banner outside NDP Megan Leslie's constituency office. Photo by Julien White.
Halifax-based Council of Canadians organizer Tori Ball holds "Energy East = Climate Change" banner outside NDP Megan Leslie's constituency office. Photo by Julien White.

The federal New Democratic Party (NDP) is backing the controversial 1.1 million barrels per day Energy East tar sands pipeline.

The Canadian Press reports, "Despite growing concern in Quebec, [NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair said he still believes the proposed Energy East pipeline is preferable to three other proposals for getting Alberta's landlocked unrefined oil sands crude to tidewater: the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines to British Columbia's coast."

Mulcair says, "As a basic proposition, of course, it makes sense, much more sense, for Canada to be taking that product from the west, moving it within our own country, refining it here because by refining, upgrading and adding value here, you're creating jobs in Canada. It's a win-win to bring it from west to east. It's better prices for the producers and therefore more royalties for the producing provinces. It's better energy security for Canada and it's more jobs here."

The news article adds, "But it has to be done right, Mulcair warns -- with a rigorous, transparent environmental review process and legislation to force oil companies to pay for the pollution they create, including any increase in greenhouse gas emissions. He says opposition to Energy East has grown precisely because the Harper government has failed to do either."

This is not the first time Mulcair has expressed support for a west-to-east pipeline. In September 2012, the Globe and Mail reported, "The federal NDP – which strongly opposes plans for a Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific coast – is now pledging its full support for a pipeline that would see Alberta oil pumped to Eastern Canada. In a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto at the Royal York Hotel, Mulcair gave his clearest sign of support yet for the notion of a west-to-east pipeline." And this past February, he told the Canadian Press, “As a matter of principle between something like Keystone XL, which as far as we’re concerned is a big mistake, and west-east, west-east is a better alternative."

The Council of Canadians
We unequivocally oppose the Energy East pipeline.

We reject Mulcair's assertion that it makes more sense to move bitumen in Canada east rather than west. In terms of sheer distance of the pipelines, it doesn't stand to reason that the 4,600 kilometre Energy East pipeline would be safer than the 1,177 kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline. Our report Energy East: Where Oil Meets Water estimates that Energy East could spill more than one million litres of crude oil in just 10 minutes. Furthermore, the pipeline would cross the source of drinking water for millions of people. A spill would have devastating effects on waterways flowing through cities such as Winnipeg, Ottawa and Quebec City.

We reject Mulcair's presumption that Energy East would mean refining, upgrading and adding value to bitumen in Canada. The report TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline: For Export, Not Domestic Gain shows that refineries located along the Energy East pipeline route can process up to 672,000 barrels of crude a day (combined). Much of that capacity is already being filled by Atlantic crude and U.S. crude, with Line 9 soon to become a third major supply source. The report estimates that 978,000 barrels a day from the Energy East pipeline would be available for export. The Alberta Federation of Labour has commented, "Energy East will only solidify our role as 'hewers of wood, drawers of water…and diggers of bitumen."

We reject Mulcair's belief that it will create jobs in Canada. The majority of the jobs promised would be short-term, not permanent, and in construction and secondary industries. The Cornell Labour Institute found not only would TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. create fewer jobs than promised, but could actually kill more jobs than it creates. A spill from Energy East could also be a job killer for numerous industries. For example, a tanker spill in the Bay of Fundy, which sustains 2,500 direct jobs in fishing on the New Brunswick side alone, would be devastating to that sector, not to mention its impact on tourism jobs.

And we reject Mulcair's view that the greenhouse gases produced by the Energy East pipeline could be offset by companies paying for the pollution they create. In fact, the pipeline would produce 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year from the crude oil production required to fill it. That's greater than the 22 million tonnes that would be produced by the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would also spur 650,000 to 750,000 barrels per day of additional production from the tar sands. That would mean a 39 per cent increase in tar sands production from 2012 levels. As such, this pipeline represents a dangerous expansion of the tar sands and GHG emissions that cannot be "attenuated" as Mulcair claims.

The next federal election is scheduled for October 19, 2015. The NDP will face resistance across the country to its position on the Energy East pipeline, particularly in Quebec where the party holds 54 of its 96 seats. We call on the federal NDP to reconsider its position on the Energy East pipeline.

For more on our campaign against the Energy East pipeline, please click here.

Further reading
Three myths about the Energy East pipeline (op-ed by Maude Barlow and Matt Abbott)