The Dakota Access Pipeline may be the latest high-profile example of a U.S. fossil megaproject delayed or rejected as a result of public opposition, poor market conditions, or a combination of both. But a running inventory maintained by InsideClimate News shows that the trend extends far beyond DAPL.
ICN’s December 5 update lists a Shell refinery expansion and a Targa Resources oil terminal on Puget Sound, as well as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project and pipeline in Oregon and two previously-delayed oil by rail projects by Valero and Phillips 66, all of which have been cancelled. “An additional project, the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, was effectively rejected when city officials passed a ban on all new coal infrastructure,” writes correspondent Zahra Hirji. “Also added to the list is the delayed Contanda Gray Harbor Terminal.”
Earlier updates listed more than 30 projects that had been curtailed as of early June. “Sustained grassroots resistance and public opposition have played a role in at least some of these decisions,” ICN notes. “Other influential factors include unfavourable economic conditions such as low oil prices, as well as governments’ environmental concerns and project siting issues.”
The Financial Post, meanwhile, is tracking a similar trend on the Canadian side of the border. “Resistance to infrastructure projects has become the norm in Canada’s resource sectors,” the paper reports. “As part of a four-month investigation, the Financial Post identified 35 projects worth $129 billion in direct investment—mostly private money—that are struggling to move forward or have been sidelined altogether because of opposition from environmental, Aboriginal, and/or community groups.”
Although bitumen pipelines from Alberta have caught the biggest headlines, the Post notes, “other projects have also come under attack, including the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Newfoundland, a uranium mine in Quebec, a wind power project in Ontario, liquefied natural gas development in B.C., and fracking in New Brunswick. The list goes on.”
While ICN’s account of failed fossil projects was purely descriptive, the Post’s crack investigative team was clearly not amused by what it found out. “The downside is adding up: slower growth, lower Canadian oil prices, investment chill, less control over domestic resources, over-reliance on the U.S. market, regulatory gridlock.”
The article captures the impact on fossil and other megaproject developers that can no longer take “social licence” for their efforts for granted, while giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau credit for pushing some projects through to final approval.
“Natural resources developers welcomed Trudeau’s efforts to take back the natural resources agenda. Many have been left empty-handed and with their reputations in tatters after spending large sums of money to win regulatory approvals,” the paper states.
“The anti campaigns have also demolished trust in agencies such as the National Energy Board (NEB) and environmental review processes, and forced politicians to change the rules of economic development, promoting the perception that Canada is a can’t do nation.”