Energy East needs full climate review

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A pipeline could be moving oil through our province in the near future as part of a plan to transport the fossil fuel from Alberta to eastern Canada, yet the federal government is shutting out Manitobans and Canadians in general on many of the critical questions related to the proposed project.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/05/2015 (2759 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A pipeline could be moving oil through our province in the near future as part of a plan to transport the fossil fuel from Alberta to eastern Canada, yet the federal government is shutting out Manitobans and Canadians in general on many of the critical questions related to the proposed project.

The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC) has been calling for a democratic — open, transparent and participatory — review of the climate implications of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline and further tar sands development. In the best-case scenario, 75 per cent of proven Canadian reserves have to stay in the ground to avoid runaway climate change.

In December, we asked the National Energy Board (NEB) to include a full climate review as part of its assessment of Energy East. Our request has been part of a national movement for citizen involvement in energy planning. For instance, 100,000 letters from people along the proposed line asked the NEB to fully review the impact of the pipeline and the tar sands on climate.

The board says climate change is not part of its mandate, but we say it should be.

MEJC applied to be interveners in the NEB assessment process along with 1,800 individuals and organizations who wish to express their views on the pipeline. More than 1,200 of these applicants (including many from Manitoba) also asked to be part of the national conversation about how this project and further tar sands development will affect our climate. People from across the country are beginning to receive the inevitable rejections from the NEB for daring to desire to talk about climate and the tar sands.

During the recent Manitoba NDP leadership convention, a resolution on the Energy East pipeline was passed. It demands the NDP government request the NEB conduct a full review of climate impacts of the Energy East pipeline, including the climate impact of increased tar sands development.

Currently, Manitobans have little control over Manitoba Hydro or its business plan. Manitoba Hydro is proud its exports of electricity displace fossil fuels. But how can this be a point of pride when electricity from the Keeyask dam will be used to power the Energy East pipeline, carrying the dirtiest oil in the world? Hydro’s own market forecast requires up to 50 per cent of Keeyask generating capacity to be used for Energy East pumping stations in Manitoba.

In Manitoba, Energy East will require new transmission lines. Pumping stations will consume significant amounts of energy, and the rate TransCanada pays will likely be less than half the rate that regular Manitobans pay. The province’s clean energy strategy acknowledges hydro generation requires a $20-billion capital investment over the next 10 years. Much of this investment will subsidize electricity costs for Energy East.

Our choice has never been clearer. Are we investing that $20 billion in fossil fuels expansion, or are we investing it in an energy system that will save us from runaway climate change? This is one of those moments when the answer is black or white: Climate chaos or a clean energy future.

Manitoba’s excellent Clean Energy Strategy anticipates a clean energy future, free of fossil fuels; a future with affordable and clean energy for everyone. The strategy, subtitled “Focused on what matters most”, recognizes climate change is already costing Manitobans money, and that it will cost us more money the longer we take to make changes. Dramatic reductions in global emissions are required if we are to meet the safe climate trajectories of the International Panel on Climate Change.

Any short-term economic benefits related to Energy East must be analyzed within the context of costs associated with extreme weather events, and the infrastructure improvements needed to prepare for a radically different climate. We see these costs already in the Red River floodway expansion and the required diversions in the Interlake. Both projects are needed to help keep Winnipeg above water.

Manitobans must be part of the conversation about the role our public utility wants to play in expanding fossil fuel infrastructure in Canada. We needs to commit to democracy in the energy sector. Now is the time for the province to engage Manitobans in a public conversation about the future of fossil fuels. These strategies can’t be crafted in boardrooms behind closed doors. They need to be crafted by the people.

The provincial government needs to task the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) to host meetings all across Manitoba. This is energy democracy.

The CEC needs to consider all upstream and downstream impacts of the project because, among other things — let me repeat — 75 per cent of proven Canadian reserves have to stay in the ground to avoid runaway climate change. This must be part of the conversation. This is the conversation Manitobans want to have with each other. This is what the NEB won’t give us.

 

Alex Paterson is a volunteer community organizer with Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, a group advocating for energy democracy and climate justice.

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