Death of Energy East pipeline draws mixed reaction in Sask.

The death of the Energy East pipeline has prompted strong reaction in Saskatchewan on multiple fronts.

Pipeline would have carried 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta and Sask. to New Brunswick

The Energy East pipeline project was cancelled Thursday by TransCanada. (CBC)

The death of the Energy East pipeline has prompted strong reaction on multiple fronts across Saskatchewan.

Premier Brad Wall, the construction industry and municipal leaders in oil-producing regions blasted the federal government, accusing it of causing the pipeline's demise.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, environmentalists and others applauded the project's cancellation.

TransCanada announced the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline project, which would have carried oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick, on Thursday.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron welcomed the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline. (Jason Warick)
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said TransCanada didn't do nearly enough to involve First Nations in a meaningful way in the pipeline project.

He said the same is true of most other resource companies.

"It's common sense. It's not rocket science. You come and meet our First Nations leaders and ask them, 'How can we work together?'" Cameron said.

Cameron said the project had other problems, including a lack of environmental safeguards for the pipeline which would have crossed through "many sacred sites" and traditional Indigenous territory.

Ninety per cent of the converted pipeline in Saskatchewan would have been on private land, with the remaining 10 per cent on Crown land.

In reports, TransCanada said the Saskatchewan aspect of the project included consultations with about 575 landowners, 125 municipalities and regional authorities, and 23 First Nations within the southern portion of the province. 

Mark Bigland-Pritchard of the environmental group Climate Justice Saskatoon said he was "very relieved" by the cancellation of the pipeline. He said it would have accelerated development of the Alberta oilsands and made climate change even worse.

"Let's get our act together and make preparations for a wholesale shift to renewables," Bigland-Pritchard said.

Demand for oil remains: economist

Thursday's victory for environmentalists won't come without a cost, however, says Jason Childs, an associate professor in economics at the University of Regina.

"Those costs shouldn't be ignored," said Childs. "This is not going to reduce demand for oil. Let's be very clear about this. People in Quebec, Halifax are not going to drive less because Energy East didn't get built."

U of R economics prof Jason Childs on Energy East halt


4 years ago
U of R economics prof Jason Childs on Energy East halt 3:21

Demand won't change, only the source of supply will, he added.

"What they're going to do is they're going to be using oil from other jurisdictions, from other places, they're going to be refining the dirty oil that comes out of Venezuela, the oil that comes out of Saudi Arabia and other places."

Without a way to carry oil to market, activity in Saskatchewan's oil fields will decline, he added. 

Disappointment, but not surprise

The Energy East project would have seen 612 kilometres of natural-gas pipeline in the province converted to transport 1.1 million barrels of crude oil a day to the Maritimes. 

TransCanada first proposed the project in 2013, when oil prices neared $100 a barrel. But the project's future had come into doubt since then as the economics changed, and regulatory and environmental hurdles started piling up.

Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwing says moving oil by pipeline would help the economy, but it's also far safer than moving it by rail. 'This is another opportunity wasted,' he said.

Civic leaders in oil-producing regions say they're disappointed, but not surprised, by the decision.

Kerrobert, Sask., town councillor Brad Murphy said TransCanada's decision to cancel construction of the multi-billion dollar pipeline won't have a huge impact on his community. He said the greater concern is the federal government's reluctance to support Canada's resource sector.

"We're naturally concerned with the fact that we don't seem too interested in moving product from one side of the country to another," Murphy said.

Weyburn Mayor Marcel Roy and Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig agreed. Ludwig said moving oil by pipeline would help the economy, but it's also far safer than moving it by rail.

"This is another opportunity wasted," Ludwig said.

The Energy East project would have seen 612 kilometres of natural gas pipeline in Saskatchewan converted. (TransCanada Project Overview)

Saskatchewan Construction Association CEO Mark Cooper said building the pipeline would have given the construction industry a big boost.

"This project would have been good for jobs across the country, particularly in construction, but it would also have led us further towards energy independence," Cooper said.

Premier Wall blasts Prime Minister Trudeau

​Premier Brad Wall issued a scathing statement blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the pipeline's cancellation.

"TransCanada made the decision to cancel Energy East — but make no mistake, the reasons for it fall at the feet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government," Wall said in the statement. 

'Today is not a good day for Canada. It is not a good day for the federation. It is a very bad day for the west,' Premier Brad Wall tweeted Thursday. (Mark Taylor/Canadian Press)

Wall then accused the feds of being "at best, ambivalent about the project" and said they "moved the goalposts" at the last minute by asking the regulator to consider the impact of upstream greenhouse gas emissions.

Wall also attacked former Liberal cabinet minister and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre for applauding the pipeline's cancellation.

"It is a good thing that Mr. Coderre's hypocrisy needs no pipeline for conveyance, for it would need to be very large and could never get approved for construction," he said.

He said Coderre leads a city that used to use a pipeline to dump raw sewage into the St. Lawrence Seaway, and added, "When Coderre cheers for the end of this pipeline, he cheers for the imported oil we buy from Saudi Arabia, where women can now drive but the public beheadings continue."

The NDP released a statement on Thursday morning saying it was disappointed the pipeline would not go forward. 

The Opposition criticized the Sask. Party, saying its "unbalanced approach, rhetoric, and grandstanding have failed to get pipelines to tidewater built."

With files from the CBC's Creeden Martell