Telegraph Journal |The Gallant government says the addition of a greenhouse gas emissions test to the Energy East pipeline review process is “not surprising,” stating that all future investment decisions must now factor in the environment.
But the Progressive Conservatives are warning that the new test could stop the proposed pipeline from going ahead, believing it will be “very easy” for the country’s energy regulator to find that the project doesn’t fit within a national climate change strategy.
Meanwhile, a New Brunswick environmental group doesn’t believe the National Energy Board‘s newly proposed parameters to assess the proposed 4,500-kilometre pipeline amount to a final nail in the project’s coffin on its own.
Instead, the New Brunswick Conservation Council contends it’s another important factor in the consideration of a project with plenty of other hurdles standing in the way.
The country’s energy regulator announced on Wednesday that it may now factor in both upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions in deciding if TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project should be approved.
That would be a first.
It has asked the public to weigh in by the end of the month on whether emissions should be part of the review.
The scope of the review is expected to be finalized by early summer.
The National Energy Board also said on Wednesday that it intends to consider federal and provincial energy and greenhouse gas strategies, policies, laws and regulations in determining if Energy East should be built.
Any changes to the amount of oil production resulting from the project operations and any changes to oil consumption brought on by the project are also considerations.
Progressive Conservative Energy critic Glen Savoie said the changes amount to moving the “goal posts” for approving the project to something that may now be out of reach.
“This now opens the project to every imaginable claim from activist groups that are opposed to the pipeline,” Savoie said. “Frankly, this appears to be a way for Justin Trudeau to finish off the Energy East pipeline to placate Quebec as it will be very easy for the board to find that upstream and downstream emissions generated from the oil the pipe will carry doesn’t fit with Trudeau’s climate plans via the Paris agreement.”
The Trudeau government has maintained the opposite, believing that public confidence in the process is needed. If done right, Liberal minister Dominic LeBlanc believes the federal cabinet will be in a position to consider approving the project.
But Savoie believes the Gallant government should have actively advocated against having emission as part of the review.
“This is the slippery slope we warned Brian Gallant about when he blindly followed Liberal (Ontario and Quebec) Premiers (Kathleen) Wynne and (Philippe) Couillard stating that taking upstream and downstream emission into consideration was ‘reasonable,’” Savoie said in an email to the Telegraph-Journal.
The premiers of Ontario and Quebec said in 2014 that Energy East‘s impact on global warming needed to be considered if it was to gain their support.
Gallant told the Telegraph-Journal at the time that “it’s normal for each province to want assurances that the Energy East pipeline project be done the right way and will benefit as many people as possible.”
The premier added that he would continue to “drive home the message to other provinces that this is a major national project that benefits the whole country, including New Brunswick and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.”
Energy Minister Rick Doucet said in an email on Thursday that the Gallant government is “pleased” that the National Energy Board is now taking the next steps to restart the Energy East review process.
Doucet didn’t show any concern with the potential new parameters of the review.
“Given the federal government’s commitment to combating climate change, it is not surprising to see the National Energy Board considering the possibility of including the potential impacts of greenhouse gas emissions to its review,” Doucet said. “New Brunswick is aware that all future investment decisions in the country will have to factor in greenhouse gas emissions as part of the business case and ensure that projects meet strict standards to eliminate or avoid emissions where possible.”
Doucet said that the federal Environment department had previously announced that it would conduct a study of upstream greenhouse gas emissions of pipeline projects independent of the National Energy Board process.
Now the energy board wants to take that role over.
He didn’t directly answer whether the project is any less viable with emissions factored in, only that the government would be evaluating the information provided by the National Energy Board on Wednesday “and respond as appropriate.”
New Brunswick Conservation Council executive director Lois Corbett said in an interview with the Telegraph-Journal on Thursday that the addition of a greenhouse gas emissions test amounts to “a significant change to the assessment of the environmental costs of the project.”
“Any comprehensive review of a project of this size should have always had included an assessment of what this means to the climate from tailpipe to tar sands,” Corbett said. “But is it the final nail in the coffin for Energy East? No, I don’t think so.
“I think the price of oil and the economic aspects, as well as crossing First Nations land, going through Montreal, all those issues weigh significantly too.”
She added: “At the end of the day, the National Energy Board and ultimately the federal cabinet are going to have to take a close look at all of those issues.”
Corbett said that Energy East may not end up increasing greenhouse gas emissions in New Brunswick, meaning it may not impact the province’s carbon reduction targets.
The volume of oil to be processed at the Saint John refinery may not increase.
The Alberta oil could just end up offsetting the import of foreign product.
“It depends on if production at the refinery goes up significantly or is the oil just passing through New Brunswick?” Corbett said.
For its part, Irving Oil spokesman Sam Robinson said in an email that it remains committed to the proposed project, although not specifically addressing whether the project is any less viable with emissions factored in.
“We are proud to be a joint venture partner with TransCanada on the proposed Canaport Energy East Marine Terminal and we look forward to further participation in the National Energy Board process,” Robinson said. “We remain committed to listening and responding to our community on a project of such significance to our region and country.”
The Daily Gleaner, Fri May 12 2017, Page: B1, Byline: Adam Huras, as posted at https://www.telegraphjournal.com/daily-gleaner/story/100191418/energy-east-pipeline-neb