Forget Keystone! TransCanada To Build Pipeline To Quebec’s Coast

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Environmentalists may be winning the battle against the Keystone XL pipeline, they are likely losing the war on stopping Canadian oil sands production.

TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company building Keystone, has filed an application to expand its Energy East pipeline to bring Albertan oil sands to the the east coast where it can be refined and exported.

Energy East is a massive and costly undertaking, but it will allow TransCanada to move oil sands to refineries without the approval of the Obama administration which has been delaying a decision on Keystone for more than six years.

The company’s planned eastward expansion is projected to cost about $12 billion, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Canadian history. In fact, TransCanada’s application for the pipeline came in at a whopping 30,000 pages and requires the attention of 50 National Energy Board officials to comb through.

The massive 1.1 million barrel a day pipeline project would convert nearly 1,900 miles of natural gas pipeline to carry oil while adding an additional thousand miles of new pipeline to bring oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries and export terminals in Quebec.

The decision to move oil to Canada’s east coast instead of through the American Midwest comes after TransCanada announced the costs of building the Keystone XL pipeline would likely increase to $8 billion from $5.4 billion. Company CEO Russ Girling said the costs could double by the time the U.S. State Department finishes its review of the project.

Keystone XL has been sitting in limbo for more than six years now, a victim of an environmentalist campaign to stop oil from being shipped through the U.S. Green groups charged that Keystone would result in spills that would harm water quality and also said the pipeline would exacerbate global warming.

The Obama administration has been put into a tough position on the pipeline. Energy state Democrats have been pushing for approval while left-wing environmentalists have been pushing for the White House to reject the pipeline.

While the administration has offered no decision, the State Department said in its final assessment of Keystone that the project would not harm the environment and would have little to no effect on the climate. The Department noted that oil sands would be brought to market regardless of whether or not Keystone was approved.

But eco-activists disagreed and have continued to oppose the pipeline on environment and climate grounds. These same groups have also risen up and vowed to block TransCanada’s new plans to ship oil eastward.

“By saying no to tar sands pipelines such as Energy East, we say yes to standing with indigenous communities who are being poisoned by toxic tar sands, yes to protecting the wild caribou herds of Alberta, yes to smarter investments in clean vehicles, and yes to the health and future of our children,” said the Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune who was arrested protesting the pipeline last year.

But even with such staunch opposition to seemingly all of TransCanada’s projects, the election Tuesday could have a profound impact on the pipeline’s future.

If Republicans are able to retake the Senate, they have already promised to push through legislation to approve Keystone. The bill would no doubt get support from energy state Democrats, but it’s unclear if President Obama would sign such a bill.

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