Union leader upset that pipeline claim rejected
The president of Canada's largest energy workers union is upset that the National Energy Board (NEB) has rejected his claim that TransCanada Corp. violated its approval for the $7-billion Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“The construction of this pipeline is two years behind schedule and nothing has been done that would meet any ordinary definition of construction, yet the NEB has declared it is proceeding in a timely manner,” said Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) president Dave Coles. “It is an incredible decision and a blatant cover up for TCPL (TransCanada Pipeline Ltd).”
The CEP filed a letter with the NEB in September that said the certificate authorizing construction of the Canadian portion of the Keystone XL project expired on March 11, 2011, because it had not started construction.
NEB secretary of the board, Anne-Marie Erickson, responded to this claim.
“The board finds that TransCanada’s construction is proceeding in a timely manner,” she said in a letter. “The board bases this finding on the filings and ongoing actions of TransCanada, and the board’s ongoing monitoring of the project. This finding is supported by the information filed by TransCanada in this process. Therefore, the certificate remains in effect.”
The board also denied the CEP’s request to hold a new hearing.
“The concerns about condition compliance may stem from a misunderstanding of how the project is being constructed,” explained Erickson.
“The project is being undertaken in a phased approach, not unlike many large infrastructure projects. As a result, the board allows companies to file information to satisfy conditions on a certificate in a phased approach as well.”
The CEP hired Steven Shrybman, a lawyer with the Toronto-based firm Sach Goldblatt Mitchell, to undertake an investigation of the construction site of a tank farm in Hardisty, Alberta.
Shrybman found that no construction activity had taken place. He argued that earth moving activity cannot be considered as constituting construction within the meaning of the NEB criteria.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, also argued that earthmoving does not constitute construction activity, so the construction certificate for the pipeline had expired.
However, TransCanada defines the term construction activity to include clearing and groundbreaking. The NEB found that TransCanada had gone beyond clearing and groundbreaking at the Hardisty B Terminal. Coles said the ruling highlights the glaring discrepancies between the U.S and Canadian regulatory process.
“Whereas the U.S. regime requires an account of the impacts the pipeline will have on jobs, Canada’s does not,” said Coles. “The U.S. process also requires an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from upstream and downstream facilities, but the NEB has completely ignored the impact of greenhouse gasses. Our NEB is a cheerleader for this pipeline...”
Coles said the CEP opposes the pipeline because it will cost the Canadian economy an estimated 40,500 potential direct and indirect jobs. A study by Infometrica in 2006 found that 18,000 jobs would be lost with the export of unprocessed bitumen at a rate of 400,000 barrels per day.
The Perryman Group estimates that Keystone will create between 250,348 and 553,235 jobs in the US. Protestors gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 26 to protest the federal government’s support for the proposed pipeline.
The rally was inspired by a two-week protest in Washington, D.C. that was endorsed by 26 environmental and Aboriginal groups.
Coles will travel to Washington on Nov. 6 to join a large march and rally at the White House.
The Department of State (DOS) is in the final stages of the approval process and is currently in a 90-day review period. The final Environmental Impact Statement was issued in August and found that Keystone XL would have no significant impacts.
A final decision on a Presidential Permit for the U.S. portion of pipeline will be made in December 2011.
The pipeline expansion is a 3,200-kilometre, 36-inch crude oil pipeline stretching from Hardisty, Alberta to Nederland, Texas.