Energy East Route. Source: National Energy Board
By Joseph Quesnel, AIMS Fellow
Now that US President Donald Trump has given the green light to the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project, Atlantic provinces as well as Indigenous communities should still push for the Energy East pipeline, as it will generate many economic benefits for all involved.
According to the Globe and Mail, some oil and gas analysts viewed Energy East as “Plan B” should Keystone XL be rejected. The new pipeline would move up to 1.1 million barrels a day to Saint John, New Brunswick from Alberta.
A Senate Committee report released in December 2016 recommended that the Strait of Canso superport be the ultimate destination of the pipeline instead of Saint John. The report highlighted how partnerships with Indigenous communities along the proposed pipeline route should be considered, including benefit sharing and equity stakes for the groups involved.
However, whether the pipeline ends in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia would be moot if the pipeline itself were in jeopardy.
Atlantic governments and Atlantic-based Indigenous communities need to all work together to make sure that the Energy East pipeline is seen as viable and that these two levels of government ensure a fair regulatory process for the project to proceed. The project already faces hurdles from Quebec politicians and First Nation leaders.
Some energy research analysts believe that both the B.C.-based Trans Mountain pipeline and the Energy East are advantageous because they expand new markets for Canadian crude beyond just the United States, as Keystone XL intends to do. They argue the renewed protectionism on the part of the new US administration makes the case for a west-to-east project that much more critical.
Government consultation policies with First Nations, or the lack thereof in some cases, are presenting problems for resource development projects. Many Indigenous communities feel they are receiving very little in return for serious environmental risk to their traditional territories. The Energy East pipeline approval process has benefited tremendously from Indigenous input along the proposed route. TransCanada has made hundreds of route changes to accommodate those concerns.
Partnering with First Nations is the path forward on Canada’s strategy for building any new pipelines. This is true in a national context, and especially in Atlantic Canada with regard to Energy East. The time is now for Atlantic First Nations to show their good faith in helping assist resource development. The answer for these impoverished communities is for better deals, rather than opposing all deals.