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Natural Resources minister backs pipeline expansion as NEB approves Line 3 expansion

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

The Council of Canadians backs the Leap Manifesto demands that call for a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050 and “no new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future”. But it would appear that the prime minister and top cabinet ministers hold different views.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr assured Albertans on [April 25] that he recognizes the importance of building oil pipelines to new export markets… Meeting at a retreat in Kananaskis, Alta., Liberal cabinet ministers were told by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley that it is urgent that the federal government approve proposed pipelines in order to provide confidence for the industry and access to international pricing for her province’s principal export. Mr. Carr said the Premier was ‘very effective’ at making her case. ‘She has an argument and a story to tell and ministers were very keen to hear it’, he told reporters. Asked what the cabinet ministers learned, he said: ‘That Alberta is going through a tough time, [that] access to market is important.'”

In November 2015, the Globe and Mail reported, “The Liberals under Mr. Trudeau have supported TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone project, which offered Canadian oil producers a bigger conduit to ship their product to the U.S. market, but [foreign affairs minister Stephane] Dion said they also back another TransCanada crude export proposal: the Energy East pipeline. There has been confusion over the Liberal policy on Energy East … but Mr. Dion said the government is willing to get behind the project. ‘We support this … but we want that to be done properly…'”

Reuters has also reported, “Dion disagrees with those environmentalists who oppose any expansion of oil sands…” He stated, “We didn’t say we will close the shop and then we will not have any pollution. We believe in development but it must be sustainable, including for the oil sands. It’s a challenge but we’ll do it with the industry, with the province of Alberta, we’ll do it altogether, we have no choice.”

And earlier this month, National Post columnist John Ivison wrote, “[Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau has told his senior lieutenants to draw up plans to make the Energy East pipeline and the Trans Mountain expansion in British Columbia a reality. The prime minister has been convinced by his finance minister, Bill Morneau, and other influential voices around the cabinet table that the pipelines have to be built to achieve the ambitious economic growth targets his government has set.” Ivison highlights, “The prime minister has never been an advocate of a Canadian future without oil. He supported the Keystone XL pipeline, and explicitly stated that no country that found 170 billion barrels of oil would leave it in the ground.”

These are worrisome indicators as a number of pipeline proposals will go before cabinet soon.

Enbridge Line 3

Yesterday, Reuters reported, “The Line 3 project will allow Enbridge to run the pipeline [from Alberta to Lake Superior] at maximum capacity of 760,000 barrels per day. Currently capacity is 390,000 bpd because of voluntary pressure restrictions. …Canadian regulators recommended the federal government approve Enbridge Inc.’s plan to replace one of its major crude oil export pipelines on [April 25], but also imposed 89 conditions on the project to enhance safety and environmental protection. …Carr said in a statement that he would study the report and seek additional public input before making a decision ‘in fall 2016.'”

Kinder Morgan TransMountain

The Globe and Mail reports, “Carr said he expects the government to decide on Kinder Morgan Canada’s proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, which would add roughly 600,000 barrels a day of capacity to a line that ends at Vancouver Harbour. The mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C. – along with local First Nations – oppose the proposal.” In January 2014, Trudeau stated, “I am … very interested in the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline that is making its way through. I certainly hope that we’re going to be able to get that pipeline approved.” It is believed that a decision on this pipeline will go to cabinet in December of this year.

TransCanada Energy East

This is the 1.1 million barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick and then to export markets via the Bay of Fundy. In December 2014, Trudeau commented, “I hope [TransCanada] will develop a means to reassure and demonstrate that [Energy East] can be done in a responsible fashion.” The speculation is that the hearing order on this pipeline could drop in June meaning the National Energy Board hearings would begin late this summer or early in the fall. The cabinet could decide on this pipeline proposal in May-June 2018.

The Council of Canadians believes that the 2 million barrels per day of production that would be facilitated by these three pipelines is incompatible with the scientific need to keep 85 per cent of the tar sands in the ground to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, as well as the Paris climate commitment to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.