It seems like everyone has an opinion on the proposed Energy East pipeline. And that’s a good thing the more engaged citizens are, the better off we will be as a province. Unfortunately, there remains a lot of noise and misinformation about this project, pipelines in general and natural resource development as a whole. Opponents have been emboldened by the blockage of the Keystone XL pipeline and continue to peddle a simplistic narrative of ‘economy vs environment’ they know that if the issue was really that black and white, we would all pick environment. Every time. But it isn’t that simple.
As the National Energy Board hearings on the Energy East pipeline began earlier this week in Saint John for the first of ten sessions (the second is in Fredericton beginning August 15, 2016), it may be instructive to focus on what we know.
Oil will flow out of Alberta. That oil can travel via rail, on our highways or through pipelines specifically designed for that purpose by far the safest option. It isn’t a question of oil or no oil fossil fuels are a part of our reality the question is how do we want to manage this important resource. Now we are making the choice to import 700,000+ barrels a day of crude oil from around the world. Let’s choose to reverse that.
The world will continue to rely on fossil fuels throughout most or all of our lifetimes. Renewables are the future and we should (and have) start embracing green energy, but it is not a switch that can be turned on, it’s a process that we will live through for the next century. The idea that we can suddenly do without carbonbased fuels is false.
New Brunswick receives billions from oilproducing revenues annually. It pays for our social programs, our healthcare and our education. We already benefit greatly from the oil and gas sector without contributing much to its development. The Not In My Backyard attitude has to stop. All Canadian benefit from the oil sands, it is not unreasonable to expect all Canadians to contribute to their development.
Risk is a twopart equation. Pipeline opponents focus on only one part of the equation the consequences of potential risks, leaving out the other half the likelihood of the risk. Spills are exceedingly rare and mitigation plans are becoming increasingly complex and effective. Avoiding and containing spills is a central part of oil and gas sector business plans. Companies know their reputation is everything and believe that one spill is too many.
Regulations and oversight in Canada are robust and effective. These NEB hearings and the expected 18 month process are another step in the checks and balances system. Before these hearings even started, the Energy East project has submitted a 30,000 page proposal, held more than 139 events and made 700 route changes based on input received. They have met with 166 indigenous communities, holding nearly 2400 individual meetings. TransCanada is doing their homework, listening and making appropriate adjusts just how the system should work.
The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce continues to be supportive of the Energy East pipeline. It’s not just because we need the boost to our economy (although we do), it’s because we have the confidence that the government and regulators can effectively manage the project and mitigate the potential risks. We have a long history of developing and managing our natural resources. Through innovation we get better at it every day. The risks and the benefits are known we can and should build this pipeline.