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Where are they now: the status of Canada’s major pipelines

The approval of pipelines is slow and arduous, but some are closer to getting the green light than others

Nov 29, 2016

by Jenn Mentanko



Northern Gateway

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would have been a twin pipeline in which one pipeline would carry natural gas condensate, and the other would export diluted bitumen. Northern Gateway would have run 1,177 kilometres from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. The pipeline was launched in 2004, and in 2013, the Joint Review Panel of the NEB and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency concluded the pipeline could be built in an environmentally responsible way. They also provided 209 conditions Enbridge would have to meet before developing the pipeline. In June 2016, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned approval of the pipeline, stating the former Harper government failed to adequately consult with First Nations. Northern Gateway did not appeal the decision, and worked with First Nations in a new consultation process. On Nov. 29, 2016 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline, stating it was not in the best interest for nearby communities, and Canadians.

Line 3

Enbridge’s Line 3 is a $7.5 billion replacement project, the most expensive in Enbridge’s history. The project would replace aging pipeline and bring capacity to 760,000 barrels of oil per day. In April, the NEB recommended approval of the project with 89 conditions. On Nov. 29, 2016  Trudeau announced the approval of the pipeline project.

Trans Mountain Expansion

Kinder Morgan proposed the twin pipeline expansion in 2013 with approximately 980 kilometres of new pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast. In May 2016, the NEB approved the pipeline with 157 conditions. There has been major opposition to the pipeline from the City of Vancouver, but on November 29, Ottawa gave the project the green light.  Trudeau says the pipeline is “a major win for Canadian workers, Canadian families and the Canadian economy.” According to Trudeau, the pipelines “meets the strictest environmental standards and fits with the national climate plan.” With the approval comes 157 binding conditions set out by the NEB. On Jan. 11, 2017 the B.C. government announced its approval of the expansion, subject to 37 conditions. Kinder Morgan has agreed to contribute up to $1 billion over the next 20 years to the BC Clean Communities Program. Premier Rachel Notley welcomed the decision, calling it an important step forward in the pipeline’s completion. “We are now closer than ever to breaking Alberta’s landlock and fixing a problem that has dogged our province for decades.”

Energy East

TransCanada’s 4,500 kilometre Energy East pipeline would transport 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, N.B. It was first proposed in 2013, and TransCanada applied for NEB approval in 2014. In August 2016, public hearings began in Montreal, but were quickly postponed due to “violent disruptions” from protesters. It was also found that two members met with Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who was then a consultant for TransCanada. Following the controversy, the panel members stepped down, to “preserve the integrity” of the pipeline’s review. On January 10, 2017, the NEB officially appointed three new members to the panel: Don Ferguson, a former senior civil servant in New Brunswick, Carole Malo, a former vice-president at SNC-Lavalin and Marc Paquin, a Quebec-based lawyer focused on environmental law. On January 27, 2017, the NEB announced the new hearing panel voided all decisions made by the previous panel, and the review would begin from scratch. If Energy East is approved, TransCanada says the goal is to ship oil by 2021.



The new Hearing Panel assigned to review the Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications has voided all decisions made by the previous Hearing Panel. These decisions will be removed from the official hearing record.

Keystone XL

TransCanada proposed the 1,897-kilometre-long crude oil pipeline back in 2008. Keystone XL was to begin in Hardisty, Alberta, and extend to Steele City, Nebraska. After seven years and 17,000 pages of scientific analysis, on November 6, 2015, President Barack Obama denied the pipeline project. On January 6, 2016, TransCanada announced it would challenge Obama’s denial and took legal action under the North American Free Trade Agreement. TransCanada says the denial reflected “unprecedented assertion of presidential power and it intruded on the power of the United States congress.” TransCanada is seeking more than $15 billion in damages.

On Jan. 24, 2017, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to move forward on construction of the Keystone XL, but will “renegotiate some of the terms.” Premier Rachel Notley welcomed the news calling it “an important step toward moving forward with the Keystone XL pipeline.” “This project is going to create good jobs here in Alberta and that is my focus – support our workers, create good jobs and diversify our economy,” Notley says. There’s no word yet on what the renegotiated terms would be.




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