The death of the Energy East pipeline proves that people can change our world for the better. While it is easy to feel overwhelmed and impotent recent events prove once again that protest works. Last year around this time we saw how a people-powered protest managed to kill the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). On October 5th the Energy East died when TransCanada announced that it was withdrawing its application for the pipeline.
Upon hearing the news about the Energy East 350.org organizer Aurore Fauret said this in a group email, “Today, two things are clear. Firstly, climate action and pipelines don’t mix. Secondly, people-powered organizing and resistance works.”
The years of protest and legal challenges culminated in TransCanada’s decision to withdraw the application on October 5th, 2017. This was part of a wider effort opposing former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s efforts to open the regulatory spigot on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. In 2015 Canadians across the country voted the Conservatives out of power and applied pressure to the new Liberal government to make sure they would honor their campaign promises. Together these efforts culminated in TransCanada’s decision to abandon the Energy East.
A vast coalition succeeded in pushing the Canadian government to include a climate assessment in the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review process. This ultimately led TransCanada to withdraw its application. Killing the Energy East pipeline project took years. People began to protest shortly after the pipeline was proposed. A wide range of groups supported a campaign called the People’s Intervention which specifically called for climate change assessment. More than 100,000 people signed a petition specifically demanding a climate assessment and almost 2,000 people actually applied to formally offer testimony to the NEB.
All across the country hearings and open houses were held. Along the route of the pipeline, communities came out to say “NO” to the project. In Quebec, there were major actions in 2014. This led to a review of the impact on drinking water for 49 municipalities and a study on the health of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River. Actions in Quebec helped to stop the proposed oil port project in Cacouna. Quebecers also helped to organize two major climate marches in Quebec City and Ottawa. They published a study on the risks of oil transportation in the St. Lawrence River and they resisted oil industry attacks while standing-up to Conservative efforts to muzzle scientists.
The fossil fuel advocacy of Harper’s Conservative government became an election issue as did their war on science. These are a couple of reasons why Canadians opted to get rid of the Conservatives after almost ten years in government. Immediately after the Liberal party was elected, the “People’s Injunction” called the new Prime Minister to fix the NEB. Two years later the NEB announced that they were including climate accountability as part of their decision-making process. This directly killed any hope that the Energy East could be built. People and organizations came together from across the country and around the world to make this outcome possible. This network of students, faith groups, Indigenous leaders, environmental NGOs, grassroots associations, local businesses, farmers, workers, and mayors demonstrates what can be accomplished when people come together.
“This is a victory for all people in Canada!” Said Karel Mayrand, the Director-General, of the David Suzuki Foundation in Quebec. “Tens of thousands came together in an unprecedented mobilization of environmental groups, citizens, scientists, elected municipal officials, and Indigenous communities. When we work together, we can win!”
While we should celebrate this victory we must realize that there is still so much to be done. “This is certainly a day for celebration. But it’s also a day to build on this win and demand better. Prime Minister Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline without any sort of a climate test. If Energy East needs a climate test — so does Kinder Morgan,” Fauret said.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline should have to submit to the same climate review process that killed the Energy East. We must also remember that pipelines can be revived. In the US, the election of Trump revived both DAPL and the Keystone XL (KXL) pipelines. We must work to make sure they die and stay dead because the only acceptable fossil fuel pipeline is the one that doesn’t get built.
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