This timeline tells the story of the movement that defeated Energy East. It includes many actions taken by different organizations, grassroots groups, Indigenous leaders and individuals to showcase the impressive breadth of resistance. All the credit goes to each and every one of you who took action!
In 2013, TransCanada filed its application for the Energy East tar sands pipeline and, right away, people across Canada responded by demonstrating their resistance. Communities along the proposed route protested the project creatively and began to seed a massive groundswell of local but interconnected opposition. TransCanada’s proposal was for 4,600 km of pipe carrying 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil per day to the East coast of Canada for global exports. The movement for climate justice also united against the mega project, recognizing that Energy East would be devastating for the climate.
In 2014, opposition to Energy East started to gain momentum. Communities all along the proposed route of the pipeline built coalitions, educated the public on the risks associated with the project, and demonstrated their opposition. In the end, a combination of successful public uprising and a string of controversies in the media began to hinder TransCanada’s plans for pushing the project through. Most notably in 2014. the movement identified their best target: the National Energy Board — the independent regulator responsible for reviewing the project.
In 2015, tens of thousands of people across the country engaged in the review process of the Energy East pipeline to demand that the government consider climate impacts in its assessment. In the lead up to and during the federal election, the movement made sure party leaders were constantly confronted on climate change and pipeline issues. Meanwhile, TransCanada took a hit when it delayed its pipeline by 2 years by abandoning the Cacouna port, following a year of intensive protest against the terminal in Quebec.
In 2016, the Energy East pipeline faced delay after delay. People across the country organized and mobilized to hold newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accountable to his promises on climate action, building a nation to nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, and reforming the review process for pipelines. All of these promises were simply incompatible with moving forward with Energy East. The year kicked off with the government announcing it would modify the review process for pipelines — resulting in minor delays for Energy East. Later in the summer, the Energy East review faced massive delays after public controversy and protests in Quebec shut down public hearings for the pipeline.
In 2017, TransCanada finally pulled the plug on the project — but the decision didn’t come out of nowhere. It fell promptly after the federal government announced that the pipeline would have to pass a climate test. Click here to read more about how climate concerns killed Energy East.
This victory against Energy East has shown us that organizing and mobilizing in our communities works. We’ve also learned that even Big Oil realizes that climate action and pipelines don’t mix.
But if one pipeline needs a climate test — so do the others.
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Background photo by Robert van Waarden (Survival Media)