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Will Energy East be operational before the Northern Gateway pipeline?

The short answer is no, our commitment is stop both pipelines.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway is a 1,177 kilometre 525,000 barrels per day pipeline westbound to the Pacific coast, while TransCanada Energy East is a 4,600 kilometre 1.1 million bpd pipeline eastbound to the Atlantic coast. Both companies seek to have their pipelines operational by 2018. And both pipelines represent a destructive expansion of the tar sands and greenhouse gas emissions that, if unchecked, will only accelerate our path to climate catastrophe.

Bloomberg reports, “Chances are good [the Energy East pipeline] to Canada’s east coast will beat to market Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project, even with its approval this week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. …Energy East seems a walk in the park by comparison [to the obstacles now faced by the Northern Gateway pipeline]. Much of the line already exists in the form of an underused natural gas conduit. New Brunswick, home to Canada’s largest refinery, has lobbied for a pipeline to Saint John, one of the country’s largest ice-free ports, as a way to promote jobs in an economically-depressed region.”

The article notes that John Stephenson, president of Stephenson & Company Capital Management, says, “Everything is already there. You’re converting an existing pipeline and there are no land claim issues. And you have a province at the end of the line that wants the oil.” And Greg Stringham, a vice-president at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says, “The big growth markets are in India and in China”, while Asim Ghosh, chief executive officer of Husky Energy Inc., says Energy East would allow western Canadian crude to reach India for the same transport costs as a pipeline to the Pacific coast.

This may mean that even though the Harper government has given its nod to the Enbridge pipeline, there may be increased pressure – given the wall of opposition that has formed in British Columbia – to move ahead with greater urgency on the TransCanada proposal because it’s a less established fight at this moment and not as high profile for now as Northern Gateway. And while resistance needs to stay strong in British Columbia, there is speculation that Harper’s tepid approval of Northern Gateway suggests a certain backing away from the pipeline given its political obstacles.

So yes there may be a new push for Energy East, but there is also strong opposition emerging against this pipeline. The Bloomberg article highlights, “Not everyone is in favour of a new cross-country pipeline. The Council of Canadians, an advocacy group, says the environmental risks would trump the few benefits the project would generate. Equiterre, a Montreal-based environmental organization, says emissions associated with Energy East would be even greater than the carbon impact from Keystone XL, and put local habitats along the route at risk from spills.”

There is also significant First Nations opposition to the Energy East pipeline.

People across the country working to stop these pipelines will need to find opportunities to share information with each other, discuss the strategies that are working, be inspired by each other, and express practical solidarity at key moments in these campaigns.

To read about campaigns against these pipelines, please see Northern Gateway and Energy East.