Ottawa May Be Signaling Support for $7B Natural Gas Pipeline
A slight change in phrasing is feeding speculation that Canada’s federal government will soon approve a $7-billion natural gas pipeline from Fort St. John, near the British Columbia-Alberta border, to the country’s west coast.
The pipeline would pass through the Great Bear Rainforest, the world’s largest intact temperate forest, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had previously promised to protect from fossil development.
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“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline,” he tweeted December 19, 2013, with a hashtag referring to the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline. “Too many communities and too many jobs would be put at risk.”
“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a crude oil pipeline, and I haven’t changed my opinion on that,” he said last week, in response to a question about Northern Gateway.
“In opposition, his comments about pipelines moving through this part of the province were less precise,” CBC notes. “Trudeau did not include the words ‘crude oil’ in earlier declarations, as he did twice on Tuesday.”
That difference “would suggest Trudeau isn’t necessarily opposed to all pipelines” through the Great Bear, “just those carrying diluted bitumen from the oilsands,” writes Parliamentary reporter J.P. Tasker.
The pipeline in question, proposed by TransCanada Corporation, would move natural gas to Port Edward, on the B.C. coast, for transshipment to Asia. The federal Cabinet is due to decide on the project by October 2.
With this and other pending decisions on the government’s fall agenda, analysts are buzzing about the mounting pressure on Trudeau to make some tough choices between climate policy and fossil pipelines.
“Canada’s PM cannot lead on climate change and support the expansion of oil sands pipelines at the same time,” writes digital marketer and communications strategist Kevin Grandia, citing Oil Change International’s blockbuster report on the very limited atmospheric space available for further fossil fuel extraction.
“Canada is fifth behind only Qatar, the United States, Russia, and Iran when it comes to the highest emissions from proposed new oil and gas developments,” he notes. Approving those projects could not be called climate leadership, “no matter how ‘bold’ your climate action plan might sound.”
For starters, Grandia calls on Trudeau to demonstrate his commitment to climate leadership by turning down Kinder Morgan’s proposed 590,000-barrel-per day Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
At the Toronto Star, meanwhile, veteran reporter Paul Wells notes that the “social license” Trudeau has promised to seek out for new fossil fuel projects has been slow to materialize. The latest evidence: The landmark Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, in which 50 Aboriginal groups from Canada and U.S. promised mutual support against tar sands/oil sands development in their territories.
“These groups, like every environmental lobby worth the name, seem unswayed by the prospect of a national Canadian carbon price at some not-too-distant point in the future,” Wells writes. “They seem unconvinced, and it’s no wonder, by the very mixed results the Trudeau government has had in attempting to reform the National Energy Board.”
He adds that “whether you feel good or bad about the near-total collapse of any chance that oil will find its way to market through new pipelines anytime soon will depend on your feelings about oilsands oil and climate change.” But if Trudeau is still committed to fossil exports, Wells says, it’s “his move now—if he has one.”