TransCanada Corporation is asking the National Energy Board (NEB) to suspend its hearings on the C$15.7-billion Energy East pipeline for 30 days, giving the company time for a “careful review” of the regulator’s decision last month to assess the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions the project would enable.
TransCanada’s request late Thursday, reported this morning in the Globe and Mail, raises “the possibility the project could get scrapped,” the paper reports, “in a move that would spare Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from having to make a politically-charged decision on the project’s fate.”
“Should TransCanada decide not to proceed with the projects after a thorough review of the impact of the NEB’s amendments, the carrying value of its investment in the projects as well as its ability to recover development costs incurred to date would be negatively impacted,” the pipeliner said in a statement.
Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said the announcement “echoed concerns we’ve raised previously about the NEB’s recent change to the scope of assessment for Energy East,” adding that the focus on GHGs “would be a historic overreach and has potential to impact the future of energy development across Canada.” New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said the suspension “is not good news for those who want to see that pipeline built. Our government falls in that camp.”
The Globe says TransCanada’s announcement “could signal the death knell for a project that has drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists and stoked regional tensions along the cross-Canada route.”
But while the NEB’s long-awaited decision to recognize the climate implications of fossil megaprojects may have precipitated TransCanada’s move, it isn’t the only factor: TransCanada recently extended the deadline for customers to sign up for its Keystone XL pipeline due to Hurricane Harvey (and was already having trouble filling the available capacity on the line). And “oil’s collapse from more than $100 a barrel in mid-2014 to about half that level has also raised questions about its viability, and how much new pipeline capacity the energy industry needs,” the Globe notes.
Alexandre Deslongchamps, press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, said it’s “ultimately a private-sector decision” whether TransCanada proceeds with the Energy East review.