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NEB must review oilsands

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By Cam Fenton and Alex Paterson

Last July, Manitoba flooded. This province was swamped by rains and rising waters for days, drowning fields, washing out highways and driving hundreds of people from their homes.

The experience here was part of the widespread effects of what is being called the warmest year on record: wildfires across Canada; a record drought in California; a typhoon striking the Philippines for the third time in as many years. This is why the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, a coalition of Manitobans and community groups committed to defending the lands, air, and waters, has called for the National Energy Board to review the full climate impacts of the Energy East pipeline.

The global climate campaign 350.org supports the call as we know we can’t have a safe climate and grow the oilsands with projects like Energy East.

In claiming that a full climate review is outside the NEB’s jurisdiction, Peter Watson (Energy debate is complicated, Dec. 16) chairman of the NEB, is passing the buck. Problem is, there is nowhere left to pass it. The federal government gutted all legislation protecting the environment with Bills C-38 and C-45. They were explicit this was done to speed approvals for pipelines.

The NEB is now the only federal agency with a mandate to evaluate interprovincial pipelines. It is plain absurdity that the only body that can review this project claims it cannot review its full impact. The NEB’s mandate is to determine whether projects like Energy East are in “the national interest.” How can we as Canadians possibly believe it is not in our national interest to ensure that the full impacts of this project are considered?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comprising the best scientific minds in the world with respect to climate change, has told us we need to rapidly transition off of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the oilsands have become Canada’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions. Our government’s refusal to take meaningful climate action is making Canada an international embarrassment. If developed at the pace and scale proposed by industry, and desired by the Harper government, the oilsands would eclipse all the emissions from U.S. coal power in history.

Energy East is key to this expansion. It would expand oilsands production by between 650,000 to 750,000 barrels per day, adding upwards of 32 million tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere — the same as adding seven million cars to Canada’s roads. Building Energy East is a leap in the opposite direction from where we need to go.

We’re not the only ones who think this. Over the past month, it has become clear that the NEB has lost its credibility in the public eye because it refuses to consider the full climate impacts of pipelines. Over 60,000 individuals have already sent messages to the NEB demanding a full climate review of Energy East.

The events that unfolded on Burnaby Mountain in past weeks are the most recent example of the public’s dwindling faith in the NEB. Many of those arrested cited the NEB’s silence on climate as their motivation to risk arrest.

The NEB has already amended its “list of issues” for the Energy East review to include risks related to marine shipping, a downstream impact caused by the pipeline. The board should just as easily amend its “list of issues” to include upstream and downstream climate impacts — especially because the NEB’s mandate includes reviewing the upstream economic impacts of oil sands developments of the project. It is only fair to include climate impacts too.

According to the International Energy Agency, for Canada to meet its international commitments to limit warming to two degrees, oilsands production must be capped at three million barrels per day. Within this limit, proposed pipeline projects like Energy East would never be needed. With the current falling price of oil and increasing provincial and international action on climate change — including

U.S. President Barak Obama’s climate test on the Keystone XL pipeline — reviewing the full climate impact of Energy East is necessary to judge whether this pipeline is in our “national interest.”

Climate change is here. It is impacting Manitobans already. History will judge us by how we respond to this, and whether NEB chairman Peter Watson likes to admit it or not, in Canada this means reviewing projects like Energy East on their full climate impact and rejecting them if they, as Barak Obama says, “exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Alex Paterson is an organizer with Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition’s No Energy East campaign. Cameron Fenton works across Canada as 350.org’s Canadian tar sands organizer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2014 A9

About Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition

Grassroots citizens' group working to bring climate justice to the energy sector for Manitoba.
NEB must review oilsands
NEB must review oilsands
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