Social movements and First Nations played a “huge part” in the cancellation of TransCanada Corporation’s Energy East pipeline, community organizer and climate policy researcher Bronwen Tucker argues in an opinion piece for CBC News.
In a separate post, Équiterre Senior Director Steven Guilbeault attributes the landmark decision to a mix of protest, project economics, and regulatory changes.
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Tucker, currently a graduate student at the University of Oxford, notes the “familiar chorus of politicians” seeking to assign responsibility for the cancellation. “This blame game, however, has largely ignored the significant role social movements played in derailing the pipeline,” she says. Over the five years since Energy East was first proposed, “delays won by Indigenous communities, grassroots groups, labour unions, and NGOs prevented Energy East from being built when it was still economically and politically feasible, back when the price of oil was well north of $80 per barrel.”
Those delays “also created space for Energy East opponents to carve out new expectations of the environmental and social burdens of proof needed for an energy project’s approval, making it even harder to build.”
Tucker cites two events—the community-funded legal challenge to a marine terminal at Cacouna, and the forced recusal of a National Energy Board review panel after improper lobbying by Energy East consultant and former Quebec premier Jean Charest—that “each drove about two years of delay.” But “neither Cacouna nor Charest would have translated into long-term suspensions if not for the public’s ability to run with them,” she notes. “As with Standing Rock and Northern Gateway before it, Indigenous communities led this charge.”
Guilbeault’s blog post on the cancellation is part (well-deserved) victory lap, part acknowledgement of the community mobilization that stopped a C$15.7-billion diluted bitumen pipeline.
“Ultimately, I agree with experts like economist and energy expert Andrew Leach from the University of Alberta” that “TransCanada couldn’t support two massive pipeline projects and chose to put all its eggs in the Keystone basket,” he writes.
“However, I’d like to point out to them that if the public hadn’t taken action, the pipeline would have been under construction by now, and next year it would have been using Quebec as a conduit for exporting over one million barrels of oil a day.”