Slowing the relentless pace of tar sands development.
“If these and other pipelines are allowed to be built, there will be no incentive in the foreseeable future to cut back on the production of fossil fuels and convert to the clean energy future we and the planet need. These pipelines are not only the arteries carrying the dirtiest oil on Earth, they become the drivers of an expanded industry as there will be relentless pressure to keep them full. We must and will stop these pipelines.” — Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians
An urgent need to stop the Energy East pipeline
With pipelines to Canada’s west coast facing massive opposition and the Keystone XL pipeline in doubt and awaiting a decision from US President Obama, pipeline companies and governments have been searching for new ways to get tar sands oil to lucrative international markets. Canada’s east coast is now the focus of attention from the oil, gas and pipeline industries.
On August 1, 2013, TransCanada Corporation announced its plans for the Energy East pipeline. It is a 4,400 kilometre artery that would carry up to 1.1 million barrels per day from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick as soon as 2017. Those backing this pipeline have highlighted the export potential given the deep water port in Saint John.
On the day TransCanada confirmed it will be proceeding with the project, The Council of Canadians launched a national campaign opposing the pipeline, arguing the pipeline is not safe and is unlikely to provide energy security for Atlantic Canadians or generate decent jobs. It will also lead to expansion of the tar sands. Our campaign launch garnered extensive media coverage with over 240 hits, establishing us in the media as a main organization opposing this pipeline with national tv, radio and press coverage. Our energy campaigners did numerous interviews with national and local media, including CBC, CTV and Global TV national news, Bloomberg Media, Radio Canada, the Canadian Press and more.
Speaking on CBC’s popular As It Happens radio program, Council energy campaigner Andrea Harden Donahue stated “with a pipeline, it’s not if it will spill, it’s a matter of when and where… when it comes to tar sands, when it spills, it’s particularly hard to clean up… if you look at the spill that happened in Kalamazoo in Michigan that happened three years ago, conventional methods for clean-up aren’t working and the river is still polluted there.” She went on to talk about the need for an energy strategy that has us transitioning off of fossil fuels.
The Calgary Herald reported “While there has been a lot of talk about Atlantic energy security, this crude will actually go to the highest bidder. India, China, Europe and the U.S. are in line,” said Maude Barlow, the group’s national chairperson. “This would threaten the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy, water bodies that must be protected as part of the commons and a public trust, not as a highway for oil exports.”
There is an urgent need to build public awareness of the pipeline and its impacts. TransCanada Corporation is holding open houses throughout August, September and early October 2013 to promote the pipeline, providing us with an immediate opportunity to build awareness and influence the public debate. We are producing a range of popular education materials to help diverse audiences understand the risks of this project. We have developed a fact sheet for our chapters, members and activists. We are also developing a fact sheet focused on safety concerns, making the argument that this pipeline is all risk and little benefit for communities. We will also have a fact sheet responding to frequently raised questions and industry spin. We will have an interactive map of the pipeline on our website that notes the communities along the route and encourages people get involved.
With this funding, we will design lawn or window signs and engage our chapters, membership base, and allies along the pipeline route in a ‘sign campaign.’ We will also pilot a ‘door knocker’ campaign in a pipeline community, developing a brief notice of the pipeline that can be hung on the doorknobs of homes, using this as a tool to raise awareness, drive people to our campaign webpage and provide opportunities to take further action.
This public awareness campaign is the first step of a major campaign that will include a national petition, having our chapters approach their municipal officials to pass resolutions opposing the pipeline, and organizing a speaking tour in strategic communities along the Energy East pipeline route. The speaking tour will featuring community members impacted by the tar sands pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where cleanup efforts have been ongoing for years, and in Mayflower, Arkansas, where cleanup efforts have been ongoing for months.
While we jumpstart our campaign work by building public awareness, we will be developing and implementing these and other elements of the larger campaign.
The Council of Canadians: working to stop pipelines and the expansion of the tar sands
The Council of Canadians works alongside other social justice and environmental organizations, indigenous communities, and the Council’s 70 activist chapters and tens of thousands of members throughout Canada to actively oppose pipelines and the expansion of the tar sands through campaigns, events and grassroots mobilization.
One of the Council’s key strengths is our grassroots activist base and expansive reach. Our campaigns are carried out at the community level through a network of 70 volunteer chapters throughout the country. This gives us an unparalleled mobilizing capacity that is desperately needed in the context of pipelines and climate justice work.
The Council has established deep relationships with anti-pipeline activists, environmental organizations, grassroots citizens groups, indigenous communities, labour and social justice groups in Canada. We also organize internationally through our campaigns on water, trade, and climate justice and have well-established relationships with US and UK groups working on tar sands and pipeline issues.
We have an amazing team with the knowledge, passion and commitment to advance this work. Our team includes energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue, whose prime focus is the Energy East Pipeline, and our national chairperson, Maude Barlow. They are supported by the Council’s regional organizers (based in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax), our communications team and our Board members who are active on these issues in their own communities. The Council’s extensive community organizing and movement building experience will ensure the success of our campaign.
About Tar Sands
Canada’s tar sands are one of the largest industrial projects in the world, and tar sands bitumen is one of the dirtiest oils on earth. Tar sands bitumen requires two to five barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced. The separation of bitumen from tar sands results in huge amounts of toxic water that is stored in massive tailing ponds, which according to many reports are leaking toxins into surrounding land and water. Indigenous communities’ right to free, prior and informed consent is being violated. There is concern over the impact to the wildlife population and indigenous hunting and fishing activities. The boreal forest is being clear cut for the open pit mines. There is concern that tar sands water pollution may be linked to increased cancer rates in indigenous communities. And the tar sands are Canada’s largest source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions which lead to climate change. With the world facing a climate crisis, these pipelines are the wrong way forward.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, in 2012 the tar sands represented over 56 percent of total Canadian crude oil production (1.8 million barrels per day out of total production of 3.2 million barrels). By 2030, the tar sands production will nearly triple, to 5.2 million barrels per day out of total production of 6.7 million barrels, or over 77 percent of Canadian production.
In order to keep the profits flowing, industry is pushing plans for new or expanded pipelines that will move tar sands bitumen from where it is mined to where it can be exported, with strong support from the Canadian government and some provinces. A pipeline or tanker spill would cause irreversible harm to ecologically sensitive lands and waters, as well as to people’s health and livelihoods.
Limiting additional pipeline capacity will force a slowdown of the current relentless pace of tar sands development, reduce risks of major environmental damage from spills, and curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2014
Our next step is a speaking tour featuring Maude Barlow and Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation (downstream from the tar sands in Alberta). Each tour stop will also feature a local guest speaker and video presentation about the diluted bitumen pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The speaking tour, from April 7-16 2014, will visit 6 communities in Ontario that are along the pipeline route. We’ll be informing people that the pipeline would result in more than 650,000 barrels per day of additional tar sands production, which would generate up to 32 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year – equivalent to the annual emissions of all the cars in Ontario. It will also put water sources along the route at risk of a devastating pipeline spill, and lead to further toxic exposure of downstream communities.
The tour will help to mobilize people to take action in their communities against the pipeline, including making presentations to the Ontario Energy Board (regulatory body) consultations on the implications of the Energy East pipeline for the province. These consultations are an important platform for people to have their voices heard, and to encourage the provincial government to stand up for Ontarians against this broken pipeline plan.