First Nations say 'justification has evaporated' for Trans Mountain pipeline

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative says the “justification has evaporated” for the Trans Mountain and Keystone pipelines, after a new report projected if Canada strengthened its climate policies, even just modestly, it could eliminate the need for the projects altogether.

The Canadian Energy Regulator report, Energy Futures 2020, issued Tuesday, estimated energy production and consumption through 2050, based on two scenarios: one in which no more climate policies are introduced after this year and an “evolving” one where more initiatives are added to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

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Under the status quo scenario, the regulator projects the three pipelines under construction — Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and Enbridge Line 3 — will be the last ones needed to handle future growth in crude oil production. Under the evolving scenario, crude production still grows about 18 per cent before peaking in 2039, but the report says Line 3 alone is enough added capacity to handle that increase.

The report notes to get to net zero, Canada will have to be more aggressive at moving away from fossil fuels than even what its “evolving” scenario lays out. It stated Canadians would still get almost two-thirds of their energy from fossil fuels by 2050 under the evolving scenario.

Groups are now calling on the federal government to listen to the analysis and change course while only a small percentage of the Trans Mountain pipeline has been built, saying the analysis undermines Prime Minister ’s position that the expansion of oil production and TMX and KXL are consistent with Canada’s climate policy.

“The CER and Trudeau have previously justified the infringement of Indigenous rights and threatening of endangered species with the so-called economic benefits,” Rueben George, of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative, said in a release.

“With this new analysis, that justification has evaporated. If we are serious about climate action and reconciliation in Canada, construction on TMX must stop now.”

Cam Fenton, Canada team lead at of 350.org, an international movement working to end the age of fossil fuels, said what many economists, environmental groups, First Nations and others have been saying has now been confirmed by Canada’s own energy regulator.

“Canada can’t build Trans Mountain or Keystone and meet its climate commitments,” he said.

However, Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said not going ahead with all three pipelines would be a mistake.

He said stopping pipeline capacity to handle total maximum annual production doesn’t take into account ebbs and flows of shipments, comparing it to only building freeways using the total number of cars travelling daily, rather than during peak periods.

The Trudeau cabinet had to approve the Trans Mountain expansion twice, after the Federal Court of Appeal said the first approval lacked sufficient Indigenous consultation and environmental review.

The estimated costs of the project have doubled from the original $5.5 billion to $12.6 billion and the date of completion has been delayed from 2017 to December 2022.

Ali Hounsell, Trans Mountain spokesperson, said the pipeline is needed more now than ever before, highlighting Canadian producers were seeking pipeline access to new and growing markets in the Pacific region and Trans Mountain is the only pipeline from Canada that can provide that optionality for producers.

Meanwhile, Tom Gunton, a resource and environmental planning professor at Simon Fraser University, said the status quo scenario in the Energy Futures report is not realistic, since the government just introduced legislation last week to make getting to net zero emissions by 2050 legally binding. He said the evolving scenario is the more likely situation in the report, and that scenario makes it pretty clear “you’re not going to need these pipelines, so you should at least defer or shelve construction.”

Energy giant BP forecasts that oil demand has peaked and will decline by 2050, while the International Energy Agency forecasts that oil demand will peak by 2030 and will have to decline by almost one-third by 2040 to meet climate change objectives.

Canada Energy Regulator CEO Gitane De Silva told The Canadian Press in an interview that the goal of the report isn’t to comment on existing policy but to paint a picture of where things could go using a variety of assumptions.

– with files from Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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