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TransCanada CEO says it “is crazy” to link GHG emissions with the Energy East pipeline

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling.

On Monday, Council of Canadians organizer Aleah Loney and members of our Calgary chapter joined with 350.org, Leadnow.ca, Greenpeace and Avaaz in Calgary to deliver more than 100,000 messages from people across the country to the National Energy Board (NEB) demanding that climate change be included in their review of the Energy East pipeline. But TransCanada CEO Russ Girling doesn’t see the connection between his company’s proposed 1.1 million barrel per day pipeline and climate change. Girling says connecting the greenhouse gas emissions debate to Energy East “is crazy, in my mind.”

The Toronto Star reports, “A report by the Pembina Institute last February said that the proposed pipeline would release 30 million to 32 million tonnes of emissions annually — the same as adding seven million cars to Canada’s roads. Environmentalists are asking the NEB to consider climate change when assessing the project.” But Girling argues this “is crazy” because “We are going to produce oil in the world, whether it is produced in Western Canada or in someplace else. …Until you stop driving your car, we will need oil. The question is: Where do you want to get the oil from?”

He also implies that if Energy East isn’t approved, the oil will move by rail. Girling says, “If we don’t do this, we will do something a lot inferior than what we are proposing. And that is a tragedy.”

And apparently in frustration with climate justice and Indigenous rights activists who oppose his pipeline, Girling says, “We’ve got to quit the little bickering that goes on between us and get to the bigger picture and let the institutions that we charge with managing the public good get on with doing their job. …They’re responding to public sentiment, [but] at some point, you’ve got to lead.”

We couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Girling. We side with the scientists who say that we cannot avert catastrophic climate change unless we begin to phase out the burning of fossil fuels. A pipeline that would allow the expansion of the tar sands by 40 per cent only further endangers the planet. We have also argued that the expansion plans for the tar sands means companies will be pushing for both pipelines and oil by rail, it’s not an either or proposition for them. And we respect Indigenous sovereignty and their right to free, prior and informed consent, as well as community members along the 4,600 kilometre pipeline route who are concerned by the likelihood of an oil spill in their waterways and on their farmlands.

Girling has now also warned of possible delays with the Energy East pipeline. The Globe and Mail reports, “[The pipeline] has already encountered push back in Quebec over potential impacts on Beluga whale calving grounds at the site of a planned export terminal.” Girling says, “This is going to be, unfortunately, a slower process than we had hoped.” Maybe that’s because Energy East pipeline project president Francois Poirier noted on Monday that the controversial oil loading terminal on the St. Lawrence River at Cacouna, Quebec remains part of the plan they are putting forward.

TransCanada filed its application with the National Energy Board in October. The deadline to apply to intervene at the NEB hearing on Energy East is March 3. The NEB review could start in the next few months. The NEB says, “From the time that the Hearing Order is issued, the Board has up to 15 months to deliver its recommendation report to the government who then has another three months to review the recommendation and make the final decision.” If the hearings were to begin in May, for example, that means the NEB would have until July 2016 to deliver its recommendation to the federal cabinet and that the cabinet would then have until December 2016 to make its decision. Construction on the pipeline would take place in 2017 and the company has said it wants Energy East operational by 2018.

In addition to all this, Girling has also commented on the US Environmental Protection Agency saying that developing the tar sands in northern Alberta would considerably increase emissions. It is believed that US President Barack Obama could now reject TransCanada’s proposed 830,000 barrels per day Keystone XL pipeline on the basis that it would emit an estimated 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. Girling says, “I don’t have a backup plan for something as illogical as that.”

To submit your application to the National Energy Board’s review of the Energy East pipeline, please visit the Council of Canadians website here for information on how to go through the process. For more on our campaign against the Energy East pipeline, please click here.