By Brad Tennant
In August of 2013, only days after TransCanada first announced its plans to build the now-in-limbo Energy East pipeline, the Government of New Brunswick just couldn’t contain itself.
Brimming with optimism over the pipeline’s tantalizing economic benefits, the provincial government launched a television advertising campaign heralding how Energy East would boost their sluggish economy and boldly proclaiming “the future has never looked brighter.”
New Brunswick’s excitement was justified. At the time, the province’s 11% unemployment rate was the highest in Canada and an estimated 8,000 New Brunswickers commuted to Alberta and Saskatchewan for work. Then along comes Energy East, promising upwards of 3,700 jobs, $6.5 billion in economic activity, and - to top it off - a brand new $300 million export terminal in St. John.
But Energy East’s positive economic shockwaves certainly weren’t confined to the Maritimes. Overall, the $15.7-billion, 4,500-kilometre pipeline would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil from points in Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries and ports in New Brunswick and Quebec.
Energy East would create 14,000 jobs along the route, add $55 billion to Canada’s GDP, and pump $10 billion into federal and provincial coffers in the form of taxes - to say nothing of the fact, 70% of the project would be converted from an existing natural gas pipeline. It had the added benefit of potentially reducing eastern Canada’s reliance on foreign conflict oil and providing locked-in western Canadian producers with direct access world markets at world prices.
It’s no mystery why Energy East also enjoyed broad political support across partisan lines. Conservative, Liberal and NDP premiers along the route each expressed varying degrees of support for the project, which, in the context of Canadian energy infrastructure, qualifies as a smashing success. There were pockets of legitimate opposition on environmental grounds, but there seemed to a national consensus that Energy East was going to be good for the country.
So why am I presenting this in past tense? Well last week, the National Energy Board - the federal regulator in charge of pipeline construction - abruptly announced it would render its verdict on Energy East based on both upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, the NEB will attempt to quantify both the emissions used to build Energy East and the total emissions resulting from the consumption of the oil it will carry.
This on-the-fly shift in regulatory policy forced TransCanada to suspend its application, indicating that it might drop the application altogether.
If that’s how the Energy East story ends, it would represent a sad and extraordinary failure of leadership to advance the economic interest of virtually all Canadians.
Which is why it’s time for Energy Citizens to step up again.
As we have proven time and time again, as Canada’s Energy Citizens we have the power to be heard and affect change at the highest decision-making levels. If you believe, as I do, that Energy East remains a powerful and positive force for economic prosperity, send a letter to your MP at asking them to support this important pipeline project and the prosperity for middle-class Canadians it will bring.
Energy East is just as valuable and essential to our country as it was four years ago when it captured the imaginations of Canadians from coast-to-coast. Let’s make it happen.