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Trudeau appears to back Energy East pipeline

Photo: The Council of Canadians Fredericton chapter challenges Justin Trudeau on Energy East at a campaign stop, Sept. 2015.

The Council of Canadians Fredericton chapter challenges Justin Trudeau on Energy East at a campaign stop, Sept. 2015.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to be backing the Energy East pipeline.

On Thursday, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre stated, “Call a spade a spade. It’s a bad project. TransCanada’s project includes important risks for our environment and too few benefits for our economy.” That evening, Alberta premier Rachel Notley commented, “We must be able to present to the world an intelligent, progressive and well-managed energy product. And that cannot and will not happen without access to tidewater in our country.” And then on Friday, at a joint media conference with Premier Notley, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne stated, “We appreciate that there is a need for a way to get Canadian oil, that is allowed under Alberta’s new emission cap, to overseas markets. And the people of Ontario care a great deal about the national economy and the potential jobs that this proposed pipeline project could create in our province and across the country.”

It’s clear Mayor Coderre opposes the pipeline, that Premier Notley has been championing it, and that Premier Wynne is now sounding supportive of it.

The prime minister’s response?

Trudeau says, “I am solidly in one camp on this one. I am very much in the camp of both premiers, Wynne and Notley, who demonstrated that Canada can and should work together on economic issues for all of us. Canadians believe that a strong economy goes hand in hand with a strong and protected environment, and that’s exactly what we’re committed to. I’m feeling very good about our capacity to get our resources to market in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.”

It’s hard to draw any conclusion from this statement other than Trudeau supports the Energy East pipeline pipeline. Trudeau didn’t highlight Mayor Coderre’s concerns about the threat the pipeline poses to Montreal’s drinking water, nor did he choose to emphasize the 32 million tonnes of carbon pollution the pipeline would generate every year, instead he talked about provinces working together and getting resources to market.

Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue says, “Energy East is entirely incompatible with Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for a 1.5 degree limit on global warming affirmed in Paris. Premier Notley’s proposed cap won’t constrain the amount of carbon pollution the Energy East pipeline could enable and the pipeline threatens to unleash enough carbon pollution to undo Ontario’s progress in phasing out coal.”

Science has told us that no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from the tar sands over the next 35 years to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. At 1.1 million barrels per day, the Energy East pipeline alone would exceed that target within about 19 years. It would be even fewer years with a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit. While Premier Notley’s climate plan does place a 100-megatonne a year cap on tar sands emissions, the current level of emissions from the tar sands is now 70 megatonnes a year. In other words, her cap would allow for a 43 per cent increase in production from the tar sands.

And while Premier Wynne’s closing of Ontario’s five coal-fired power plants was the equivalent of pulling seven million cars off the road in terms of global warming greenhouse gas emissions, Energy East alone would produce the same amount of carbon each year as seven million new cars on Canada’s roads.

In Nov. 2014, Premier Wynne and Quebec premier Philippe Couillard agreed to seven conditions on which to evaluate the Energy East pipeline. If those conditions, including “take into account the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions”, were to be seriously applied, there is no way Premier Wynne could support Energy East.

To send a message to Premier Wynne on this, please see our Wynne – Stay Strong on Energy East action alert.

For more on our campaign to stop Energy East, please click here.

Further reading
China appears interested in free trade agreement if Energy East pipeline is approved (Jan. 15, 2016)