Ignoring Oil Sands Impacts Undermines Pipeline Review

Vancouver – The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would result in a 30% increase in average daily oil sands output, with major environmental consequences, according to a new report by the Pembina Institute. However, the environmental assessment of the project will ignore the environmental impacts and increased greenhouse gas emissions associated with this increased oil sands production, according to the final Terms of Reference for the Joint Review Panel released in December.

“The Panel has deliberately turned a blind eye toward the bigger picture environmental impacts of new oil sands production that would be required to fill this pipeline,” said Simon Dyer, Oil Sands Program Director at the Pembina Institute. “In the face of growing public concern about oil sands development, they are ducking their responsibility and damaging the credibility of the review process before it even starts – and therefore we are not going to participate.”

The proposed project would transport petroleum products from the Alberta oil sands to the British Columbia coast via a 1,200-kilometre pipeline. The Pembina Institute report, Opening the Door for Oil Sands Expansion: The Hidden Environmental Impacts of the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline, found that the new pipeline capacity would result in the production of an additional 367,500 barrels of oil each day.

The oil sands are already Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution. Oil sands production related to the Enbridge pipeline would produce an estimated 6.5 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, equivalent to putting another 1.6 million cars on the road.

“At a time when significant reductions in emissions are needed, it is irresponsible to ignore the 6.5 megatonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions that would result from this project,” said Karen Campbell, Staff Counsel with the Pembina Institute. “It is nonsensical to consider whether a pipeline project is in the interest of Canadians while ignoring the impacts of the oil filling the pipeline.”

In addition to increasing greenhouse gas pollution, during the course of a year, increased oil sands development related to the proposed Enbridge pipeline would:

  • Produce 25 million barrels of toxic tailings, enough to fill BC Place stadium 1.5 times
  • Disturb 11.5 square kilometres of forest, an area nearly three times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park
  • Consume the amount of natural gas used by 1.3 million households in Canada each year
  • Use the amount of water consumed annually by a city of 250,000
  • Result in enough tailings leakage to fill 182 Olympic-size swimming pools

The Pembina Institute recommends that no further steps be taken to develop the Enbridge oil sands pipelines until policies are in place to fully address the environmental issues associated with oil sands development. The Pembina Institute also supports a moratorium on the transportation of oil from Alberta’s oil sands across British Columbia until a public inquiry fully addresses concerns about the environmental impacts.

Download Pembina’s fact sheet for information on key impacts.

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