Why People Oppose the Energy East & Keystone XL Pipeline (and Why they Probably Shouldn't)
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why People Oppose the Energy East & Keystone XL Pipeline (and Why they Probably Shouldn't)

A politician recently stated: "If we had to build the Trans-Canada highway, or either of the national railroads today, we probably would not have been able to build them." Russell NDE wonders why that is, and why people oppose the building of pipelines. The construction of a pipeline has become a complex process that involves stakeholders in business, government, and the people who will be living along any proposed pipeline route. Similar to the Keystone XL pipeline, the Energy East Pipeline is receiving a large amount of attention in the media and from people in Quebec. A large majority oppose the building of the pipeline for the following reasons:

  • The Pipeline Will be Near an Urban Area: The planned route of the Energy East pipeline will be built fairly close to Montreal, Canada's second largest city. Montreal proper is home to 1.68 million people and the greater metropolitan area surrounding Montreal brings that population up to 4.2 million. There are a lot of people whose lives and livelihoods would be disrupted if a spill should occur from the pipeline.
  • The Environmental Risks to the Environment: People also oppose pipelines because of environmental concerns. The Energy East pipeline route would cross several major rivers: the Ottawa River, riviere des Mille Îles, riviere des Prairies, and the riviere L’Assomption. If the Energy East pipeline were to rupture, the drinking water for several municipalities and the land and wildlife in the area would be severely threatened.
  • The Hefty Price Tag if a Spill Occurs: Oil pipelines fail due to a lot of factors. Ruptures can be caused by corrosion, welding issues, or heavy equipment hitting the line and causing a breach. Even natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, and heavy flooding can lead to pipeline failures. Although pipelines are shown to be the most dependable way to transport oil, when a pipeline does fail, the consequences can be catastrophic in financial and environmental terms. The deadliest accidents garner media attention and sometimes lead to federal investigations. Similarly, car accidents are far more prevalent and kill more people in a year, but an airplane crash would garner much more media coverage (but we don't ban air travel). The cost of cleaning up an oil spill from the Energy East pipeline is estimated at an enormous $10 Billion. People are concerned about who will be held financially responsible for the cleanup of an oil spill should it occur. Will the pipeline builders be held accountable, is it fair to expect the government to come to the rescue with public funds?
  • It Doesn't Show Canada's Commitment to Leaving Oil and Fossil Fuels Behind: Many Canadians feel that our country should be leading the way in reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. The burning of hydrocarbons is pointed to as a main contributor to global warming and pollution on our planet. People are becoming more sensitive to the need to protect the environment for future generations. They are also increasingly disenchanted with the damage that pipeline failures are causing.

Russell NDE understands why people oppose the Keystone XL and the Energy East project. Some of these concerns are valid and not to be discounted lightly. We agree with Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama that the environment needs to be cared for, have responsible stewardship, and we need to reduce atmospheric pollution by burning cleaner fuels and investing in alternative energy. For now, our reality is that when the oil industry suffers, people lose their jobs, service industries feel the pinch, and governments across the entire country run deficits. Russell NDE believes the aversion to building pipelines is largely based on misconceptions and false impressions about the safety of pipelines. Here's why we believe the Keystone XL and Energy East pipeline should be approved.

  • Pipelines Are the Safest Way to Transport Oil: Pipelines are shown to be the safest way to move oil and this is backed up by statistical information released by the Government of Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
    • Using data from a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation between 2005 and 2009, it found the "rates of injury requiring hospitalization in the U.S. were 30 times lower among pipeline workers than rail workers involved in shipping oil."
    • For truck transport, the injury rate is 37 times higher than oil transport by pipelines.
    • When it comes to spills, road transport has the worst record of incidents; nearly 20 incidents per billion tons moved.
    • Rail had just over two incidents per billion tons of oil moved.
    • Pipelines had less than 0.6 accidents per billion tons of oil moved
  • Pipelines Can Transport a Much Higher Volume of Oil Than Other Risky Alternatives: According to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association 3 million barrels of oil would require 15, 000 tanker trucks, or 4, 200 rail cars to transport. With the statistics we see above we can see that pipelines are the most efficient and safe way to move oil around.
  • The Keystone XL and Energy East Pipelines Would Be New: The Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines would be brand new materials and would be built to very high standards; the strictest standards available today. Any potential failures on this pipeline will be detected very quickly and will be controlled by automatic operation of emergency shut-off valves at regular intervals.


  • Canada Imports a Staggering Amount of Oil: The National Energy Board has data that shows that Canada imports 736,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Most of this is to satisfy the energy needs of the Eastern seaboard. This accounts for nearly 63% of Canada's imports. Why are we importing such a staggering amount of oil and spending it in foreign markets when we can keep this money in Canadian hands?
  • Pipelines Provide Canadians With Jobs: For the government to enact emission reductions is indeed a positive thing for the health of people and the environment. In the meantime, we have to eat; house and clothe our families; and provide revenue through jobs and personal taxes. So far, the public hasn't heard a reliable plan as to how the U.S. and Canadian governments plan to replace the revenue lost through low oil royalties and revenues, but, it has to come from somewhere, and fast! The unemployment in Alberta (a major oil producer) is approaching 8%, which is unheard of in decades.
  • The Concerns over Pipelines Can Be Alleviated through Diligent Pipeline Monitoring and Repair: The costs of pipeline failures are quite high; however, pipeline incidents can be reduced or prevented altogether with proper regulation from government agencies. Increased safety measures by the industry to hold pipeline builders to stringent standards, which include routine inspections and monitoring, will also mitigate failures. The winding infrastructure of oil pipelines in North America suffers hundreds of small leaks and ruptures every year; often with significant penalties. As existing lines grow older, critics warn that the risk of accidents on those lines will only increase.

Russell NDE is in the business of pipeline inspections and monitoring for the oil and gas industry. We conduct a through analysis of pipelines, through the use of smart pigs, to detect pits, erosion, SCC and local stress-strain. We can even inspect pipelines through internal coatings and liners without damaging them. We ensure that pipeline owners know where any weak spots are on their pipelines so they can ensure repairs are completed. Contact us at (780) 468-6800 or by e-mail at to find out how Russell's unique capabilities can help you look after your pipelines.