By Julie Gordon
VANCOUVER, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Environmental groups are stepping up efforts to convince Canadian authorities to reject a major new pipeline to the east coast, with one think tank saying on Thursday that filling the new line would generate up to 45 percent more carbon emissions than the controversial Keystone XL.
The estimate by the Pembina Institute, which has opposed oil sands development, is the latest salvo in the battle by some groups to block plans to build new pipelines from Canada's oil patch. Greenpeace, the Council of Canadians and other groups have previously spoken out against Energy East.
While most efforts have thus far focused on TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL line, Pembina's report may spur more debate over the impact of the company's other big project, Energy East, which would be Canada's biggest at 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), larger than Keystone.
Producing the crude oil that would flow through Energy East would generate 30 million to 32 millions tonnes of additional carbon emissions each year, on par with adding some 7 million cars to Canada's roads, Pembina said in the report.
That would be up to 45 percent more than the 22 million tonnes of increased greenhouse-gas emissions for filling Keystone XL, the group said, citing an earlier study.
TransCanada spokesman Davis Sheremata said in an email that the company is reviewing the Pembina report, but does not believe the Energy East pipeline will "substantially affect the development of Canada's oil sands or global greenhouse gas emissions."
He said that if the proposed 4,500 km (2,800 mile) pipeline is not built, oil will still be produced and transported by truck, rail and tanker.
Energy East was announced last year and would pump crude from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada and a deepwater export port at Saint John, New Brunswick.
TransCanada expects to file for regulatory approval of the project later this year. Pembina is asking that the impact of additional oil sands development be included in any review of the project.
"The oil sands are already Canada's fastest-growing source of carbon pollution and the Energy East pipeline would help to accelerate production," Clare Demerse, Pembina's federal policy director, said in a statement. "Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the impact of producing the crude that would flow through it."
The Pembina study looked at the potential upstream impact of oil flowing through Energy East. Pipelines themselves do not produce significant carbon emissions.
The U.S. State Department concluded last week that the Keystone XL pipeline would not hasten oil sands development or unduly worsen climate change, as foes of the project have contended. The project has awaited final approval from U.S. President Barack Obama for more than five years.
While Keystone XL would transport oil to existing markets in the United States, Energy East would carry crude to tidewater, opening up access to valuable new international markets for Canadian oil.
"By providing predictable access to desirable markets for oil sands products, a large-capacity pipeline like Energy East would make the economics of oil sands production more compelling - and thus help to unlock the GHG emissions that increased production would create," the Pembina report said.