Environmental groups representing millions of North Americans are calling on the Joint Review Panel (JRP) for the Mackenzie Gas Project to consider, as an integral part of the project, how the gas carried by the pipeline would be used, as well as the resulting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
The project, backed with billions of dollars from big oil and federal and territorial governments, would trigger the petro-industrialization of the North, destroy parts of the region’s boreal forest, and power greenhouse gas intensive projects such as Alberta’s tar sands, which fuel North America’s cars and trucks.
Pipeline proponents have previously disputed the link between Mackenzie Gas and the tar sands. “New maps obtained by Sierra Club of Canada make it clear that Mackenzie Gas will fuel expansion of the Alberta tar sands” said Stephen Hazell of Sierra Club of Canada.
“The JRP must assess global warming and other impacts associated with using Mackenzie Gas to produce the most carbon intensive oil on the planet.”
With the U.S. as a major market for Canadian energy, U.S. groups have been closely following the hearings. “Increasingly, U.S. consumers do not want products, such as tar sands oil which destroy the environment and increase the risks of global warming, ” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the U.S.- based Natural Resources Defense Council. “NRDC’s 1.2 million members and activists want to ensure that our energy is renewable and clean; this is a growing concern across the country as we see in California’s new global warming legislation.”
The situation is even worse when the full capacity of the pipeline is considered. Currently, only one-third of the gas fields needed to provide gas for the pipeline have been included in the environmental assessment of the project. This exclusion is made even more shocking by the fact that the proponents and explorers have communicated the economic benefits associated with the development of natural gas reserves in the NWT that would not only fill the proposed pipeline, but would see its capacity increase. “If approved, it is inevitable that the pipeline would be used to full capacity, so two-thirds of the potential environmental impacts are blatantly being ignored,” said Ellen Francis of the Pembina Institute. “The additional gas fields that would be developed to support the project must be considered.”
“Assessing the impact of the pipeline without assessing the global warming impact of the gas it carries is like trying to pretend that cake doesn’t have calories, and the science tells us we need to be on a low fossil fuel pollution diet” said Julia Langer, director of WWFCanada’s global threats program. “Consideration of a massive project that will increase greenhouse gas emissions all the way from arctic wells to California wheels, without a rational, continental, sustainable energy strategy to guide it, is totally unacceptable”.
Because most hearings have been held in and focused on Northern communities and impacts, the Edmonton hearing provides an opportunity for the environmental organizations to present evidence regarding the far-reaching impacts of the massive energy project. Evidence has already been presented regarding devastating impacts to the pristine boreal forest – the largest unspoiled ecosystem on Earth and an important buffer against global warming; and how the project will commit Canada to energy exports through connections to existing pipeline systems in north-western Alberta.