Ecojustice Case – Climate change Case Status: Victory

Challenging TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline

Ecojustice lawyer Charles HattCharles HattEcojustice Alumni
Dyna TuytelLawyer
Transition Initiative KenoraClient
Thursday Culloden outside Kenora, Ontario is in the area Energy East will pass through.
Photo by Steve Conger via Flickr

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline would have seen millions of litres of toxic diluted bitumen pumped under major waterways from the Prairies to the Atlantic coast. It would have passed directly through hundreds of communities, like Kenora, ON, putting their drinking water, land, and local ecosystems at risk from spills.

Ecojustice represented grassroots community group, Transition Initiative Kenora on this file. What began as an effort to show the risks this pipeline would bring to just one small community became a chance to counter bias at the National Energy Board (NEB) and ultimately play a role in toppling Canada’s largest ever pipeline proposal.

Timeline of our efforts:

  • In August 2016, the National Observer reported that two members of the Energy East review panel met privately and discussed Energy East with interested stakeholders, including Jean Charest who was then a consultant for TransCanada.
  • We successfully filed a motion for our client, Transition Initiative Kenora, shortly after urging the compromised National Energy Board (NEB) panel members to recuse themselves from the Energy East review.
  • The panel members stepped down but in their wake they left the process in disarray — their recusals meant the review was tainted by a reasonable apprehension of bias.
  • To ensure that the review process would be fair and impartial, we successfully filed another motion once new panel members were appointed demanding that the NEB declare the dozens of decisions made by the former Energy East panel void.
  • With the reset button hit on Energy East’s review process, the new panel invited submissions on whether to consider Energy East’s potential to cause huge increases in upstream and downstream GHG emissions in its upcoming hearing on the project. We argued yes, and the new panel agreed!
  • In early October 2017, TransCanada announced it will be cancelling the Energy East pipeline project.

Why was Ecojustice involved?

A leak of diluted bitumen or other crude oil products from TransCanada’s decades-old pipeline would have been disastrous to any community that was along the project’s path, including Kenora. A spill could have polluted their drinking water, degraded their environment, and impacted their livelihoods.

We also support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Canada and believe that it is important to be involved in cases related to projects that will accelerate demand for tar sands development.

What does this victory mean?

What the fall of the Energy East pipeline tells us is that these fossil fuel mega-projects are less economically viable and will only become a tougher sell as the world keeps moving toward low-carbon energy.

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