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The Energy East Pipeline

TransCanada Corp wants to convert an existing gas pipeline to bring tar sands crude to Cornwall, Ontario and build a new one from Cornwall to Montreal, Levis and St. John, New Brunswick to increase export capacity. At 1.1 million barrels per day capacity, it would be the largest of all the tar sands pipelines and a threat to the environment, local communities and the world’s climate. Existing portions of the Energy East pipeline were built in the 1950’s and designed to carry gas, not tar sands crude.

Route Map


Energy East proposed pipeline map, courtesy TransCanada

The proposal

In August 2013, TransCanada unveiled its Energy East pipeline proposal to bring 1.1 million barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta to eastern Canadian ports. The project requires converting an existing natural gas line to carry crude oil as well as building 1,400 kilometers of new pipeline across Quebec and New Brunswick.

Altogether, the 4,500 km pipeline would stretch across five provinces, delivering oil to a new export facility in Saint John, New Brunswick.

What would the pipeline carry?

Reuters news service has described the proposed project as “one of the world’s longest oil pipelines”. Energy East would be longer, wider, and have a much larger capacity for carrying tar sands oil than even the enormous Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Energy East would carry three types of crude oil: diluted bitumen, synthetic crude (both produced from tar sands), and conventional crude.   

Where would the crude go?

Most of the crude transported on Energy East will be exported.  

The pipeline would deliver oil to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, NB, where the plant manager has said, “it’s way more than we would ever use at this refinery, so the bulk of it would all be exported.”

Key numbers about Energy East

  • 3000 kilometers – the approximate length of the segment that will be converted from gas to crude oil (from Saskatchewan to eastern Ontario).

  • 1,400 kilometers – the approximate length of the new pipeline that would be built across Quebec and New Brunswick.

  • 65-70 new pumping stations – along the entire length of the pipeline.

  • 1 new export terminal at ports in eastern Canada – Saint John, New Brunswick, and possibly one in the province of Quebec.

Why oppose the Energy East pipeline?

Climate change.  The pipeline is a serious risk for us and future generations as it would fan the flames of climate change by increasing the production of high-carbon fuel sources.  Energy East’s massive 1.1 million bpd capacity would expand tar sands extraction, adding huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when we desperately need to cut back.

Drinking water.  Clean water for millions of people would be at risk of contamination if the Energy East pipeline ruptured.  The pipeline would cross countless bodies of fresh water and put at risk the fresh water that much of Québec depends on for drinking water, including the Saint Lawrence River.

Air quality.  Diluents needed to make tar sands crude liquid enough to flow through pipelines contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including benzene, a known carcinogen. Residents of Kalamazoo, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas have experienced the effects of tar sands spills first-hand and have reported a wide-range of health problems, including respiratory illnesses.  Also, communities near refineries that process tar sands crude will likely see their air quality deteriorate.

Soil and food safety. All pipelines leak, contaminating the soil and potentially any food grown in the area around the spill. Energy East’s 1,400 km of new pipeline will put in jeopardy farmland currently unaffected by the oil development.

First Nations.  Energy East would affect an estimated 155 First Nation communities, from Alberta to New Brunswick and is opposed by numerous aboriginal groups, including the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL)  and more than 85 nations who have signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, who are worried about the risks of oil spills and the loss of traditional culture.

Plants and animalsHabitat disturbance and destruction during pipeline construction and the effects of oil spills would put the environment and the creatures that live in it at risk. Posted signs warning about contaminated land or water will not help birds, fish and other wildlife. The Saint Lawrence River and its estuary are home to an endangered population of beluga whales and ten other dolphin and whale species, including the largest animal on earth: the blue whale. The world population of blue whales is now estimated to be less than 5,000.

Who benefits?

It’s all about higher profits for the oil industry. Building Energy East from Alberta to export facilities would raise the price of oil for producers, bringing higher profits to them and facilitating even faster expansion of the tar sands.

Unless you’re a shareholder, you’re unlikely to benefit!   While some small amount of crude would be processed in Quebec and New Brunswick, most will be for export.

Unless you think the Big Oil companies need our help with their bottom line, do NOT let them worsen climate change and put our air, land and water at risk just so they can reap even higher profits in exploiting this unsustainable dirty energy.