Sask. Environment Minister “tremendously” disappointed in Energy East cancellation

Years of work and investment gone today after Trans Canada withdraws their application for the Energy East pipeline. It was a mega-project that promised thousands of jobs and a home-grown source of energy for eastern Canada. The line would have carried bitumen from Alberta to New Brunswick, and in doing so, provide Saskatchewan with major economic spinoffs. David Baxter reports.

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline would have converted a line of some existing pipeline in Saskatchewan into an oil pipeline. With the mega-project’s cancellation, Environment Minister Dustin Duncan now worries it will trigger a different conversion.

“The problems that we’re having in moving these projects forward to completion I worry that’s signaling to the world that maybe Canada isn’t as reliable as we once were in terms of doing business with,” Duncan said.

The former energy and resource minister described TransCanada’s decision to withdraw their application to the National Energy Board (NEB) as “tremendously disappointing”. However, he wasn’t surprised after the oil company put a 30 day pause on the application.

“It seemed the writing was on the wall for the project,” he said.

READ MORE: TransCanada kills plan for Energy East pipeline

TransCanada said they decided to withdraw the application and cancel the project for business reasons.

Story continues below advertisement

“After careful review of changed circumstances, we will be informing the National Energy Board that we will no longer be proceeding with our Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications,” chief executive officer Russ Girling said in a statement Thursday.

Both Duncan and Premier Brad Wall said they believe the decision is rooted in the NEB announcing they would be measuring both the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions for pipeline projects. Energy East was already in the application phase.

“[The federal government] have been, at best, ambivalent about the project and then moved the goalposts at the last moment by asking the regulator to consider the impact of upstream greenhouse gas emissions,” Wall said in a Facebook post.

Wall also lashed out at Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre in the lengthy Facebook post.

READ MORE: Brad Wall slams federal government over cancellation of Energy East pipeline

In a 2015 report, the Conference Board of Canada estimated Energy East would have created 963 direct and indirect jobs during the first nine years of construction. Once complete, the board predicted 229 full time jobs over the next 20 years.

On the revenue side, the Conference Board anticipated $539 million in tax revenue over the project’s lifespan and just under $4.3 billion in GDP growth for Saskatchewan.

With the cancellation of the pipeline, Duncan says Saskatchewan will continue to rely on the United States as our only oil customer.

Story continues below advertisement

“When you only have one customer, when you’re basically a captive market, you’re not going to demand as high of a price as you should or as you deserve,” Duncan said.

“It’s costing millions of dollars each year, not just to the companies that are extracting and selling the resource, but to the people that own the resource, the people of Saskatchewan.”

However, the disappointment is not universal in Saskatchewan. For certain environmental groups, like the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and Climate Justice Saskatoon, Thursday’s announcement created a very good day.

“Obviously we’re greatly relieved that that risk is not there any longer for either communities along the route or for the climate, and therefore the world in general,” Mark Bigland-Pritchard of Climate Justice Saskatoon said.

Editor’s note: This article originally identified Dustin Duncan as Energy & Resource Minister. We served in that position until the cabinet shuffle on August 30, 2017. The current Energy & Resource Minister is Nancy Heppner.