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WIN! National Energy Board review of Energy East to include upstream and downstream emissions

Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue has argued that the climate impacts of the Energy East project must be included in any National Energy Board review of the proposal.

The Council of Canadians is celebrating the decision to include both upstream and downstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the upcoming review of the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East project, but remains cautious about the overall review process for the controversial tar sands pipeline.

Upstream emissions generally refer to the extraction process (extraction, processing, handling, transportation), while downstream emissions refer to what happens after the oil has left the pipeline and is consumed by its end-users. About 90 per cent of emissions from a project come from downstream emissions.

The National Energy Board (NEB) has previously only considered the GHG emissions directly associated with the construction and operation of a pipeline.

Now the Canadian Press reports, “In a decision cheered by environmentalists but considered a setback by the oil industry, Canada’s national energy regulator says it will allow wider discussion of greenhouse gas emission issues in upcoming hearings for the Energy East Pipeline. The National Energy Board said [on August 23] it will for the first time consider the public interest impact of upstream and downstream GHG emissions from potential increased production and consumption of oil resulting from the project.”

This is a significant win. The crude production needed to fill the Energy East pipeline would generate an additional 30 to 32 million tonnes of upstream carbon emissions each year — the equivalent of adding more than seven million cars to our roads. The downstream emissions are obviously much higher.

The Council of Canadians has argued – in our May 2014 legal appeal of the NEB’s initial list of issues (which excluded upstream and downstream emissions), in this action alert, in this December 2014 open letter to the National Energy Board, and in numerous popular education materials and blogs – that both upstream and downstream emissions had to be counted in the review of the Energy East project.

The National Observer highlights that industry lobbying to stop this consideration failed: “Earlier this year, both TransCanada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce wrote letters to the NEB in an attempt to discourage it from considering such emissions during hearings for the massive pipeline.”

Reuters notes, “Considering Energy East’s associated emissions makes the upcoming regulatory review for the pipeline more onerous and had been opposed by TransCanada, which had called it ‘completely redundant and unnecessary’. The company said it will review the NEB’s announcement to ‘understand the potential impacts on the project’.”

And The Globe and Mail adds that the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association argued “the broad questions about GHG emissions and climate-change policy should be decided separately from the project assessment.”

While this is an important win, there is still much work to be done.

The Council of Canadians continues to see the National Energy Board review process as flawed and we believe that the review of Energy East should be put on hold until the Trudeau government has sufficiently overhauled NEB and federal environmental laws. We are also firmly opposed to the Trudeau government’s decision to exclude the proposed Energy East marine terminal and tank farm in Saint John from proposed new federal regulations to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) air pollutants.

With respect to cumulative impacts, we remain concerned that Trudeau has already approved the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, the 760,000 barrel per day Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, and supports US President Donald Trump’s approval of the 830,000 barrel per day TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The Council of Canadians has been campaigning against the Energy East tar sands project since February 2013.