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Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

WATCH ABOVE: Some Global News videos about the Trans Mountain pipeline.

A new report from the Canada Energy Regulator projects that if Canada strengthens its climate policies to cut more greenhouse-gas emissions, neither the Trans Mountain expansion nor the new Keystone XL pipeline will be needed.

Environment groups are hailing the report as evidence supporting their long-held view that the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., should be stopped immediately.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on schedule, on budget: CEO

Cam Fenton, Canada team lead at 350.org (named for a “safe” level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) pointed out the federal government’s own regulator twice recommended the government approve the Trans Mountain expansion, but is now projecting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s own actions on climate could make the pipeline he bought unnecessary.”

”The Canadian Energy Regulator’s new report makes it clear that if Canada acts on the climate crisis, even at a level far below what was promised in last week’s net-zero legislation, both the Trans Mountain and Keystone XL pipelines aren’t necessary,” said Fenton.

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READ MORE: What do Canada’s net-zero targets mean for Albertans? 

The Trudeau cabinet approved Trans Mountain first in 2016, then again in 2019. The second approval was required after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled Canada hadn’t properly consulted Indigenous communities or considered the impact the pipeline would have on marine life.

That second approval came more than a year after Ottawa had stepped in to buy the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.4 billion. Kinder Morgan was about to cancel the project because political opposition was delaying construction. Trudeau pledged Canada would buy the existing pipeline, expand it, and then sell it back to the private sector.

It’s currently estimated it will cost about $12.6 billion to expand the pipeline by building a nearly parallel version that will almost triple total capacity.

The annual Energy Futures report from the Canada Energy Regulator issued Tuesday projects Canada’s energy supply and production over the next 30 years. It concludes that all three pipelines under construction will be needed only if no more climate policies are implemented after this year.

READ MORE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants final federal Line 3 permit 

With some new environment policies, such as an expanded carbon tax, the report projects that crude oil production will continue to grow until 2039, but not by enough to warrant needing more than just the Enbridge Line 3 replacement, from Alberta to Wisconsin, which is almost finished.

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That means neither Trans Mountain nor the Keystone XL project would be necessary.

Tom Gunton, a resource and environmental planning professor at Simon Fraser University, said since the government itself just introduced legislation that enshrines more aggressive climate action into law, it’s pretty clear more climate policies are coming.

And he points out the report is clear that its own “evolving scenario” of more ambitious climate action doesn’t go far enough to see Canada hit zero net emissions by 2050. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson tabled legislation last week to set that as the goal.

“Net-zero” means either no emissions are produced, or any that are produced are absorbed by nature or technology so no more are added to the atmosphere, where they contribute to global warming.

Gunton said “under the most likely scenario you’re not going to need these pipelines, so you should at least defer or shelve construction.”

He said if the projections change, they can be revisited but at the moment we could be spending more than $22 billion to build pipelines that aren’t needed.

Keystone XL is already in jeopardy because U.S. president-elect Joe Biden promised to rescind Washington’s approval for the cross-border project. Trans Mountain restarted construction in 2019 after pausing in 2018 because of the court decision on federal approval.

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READ MORE: Biden’s Keystone XL decision could be ‘tough’ moment for Canada, U.S. ties: senator 

Watch below: Some Global News videos about the Keystone XL pipeline.

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.

“Really, our hope is that this information will help inform that policy process going forward,” she said.

The report concludes that even with its “evolving” scenario of greater climate action after 2020, Canada will still get almost two-thirds of its energy from fossil fuels in 2050.

READ MORE: Kenney fires back at May and Blanchet, calls comments about oil industry ‘un-Canadian’ 

It said to get to net zero, more has to be done to transition away from fossil fuels.

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