TransCanada Corp. plans to browbeat detractors of its ambitious Energy East pipeline with intense pressure so that they are distracted and forced to redirect their resources, according to documents obtained and released by Greenpeace on Tuesday.
These documents — dozens of pages — also describe the company’s public relations strategy, which includes detailed background research into environmental agencies that are opposing the pipeline and hiring “third parties” who will be able to do things when TransCanada cannot.
The documents also mention a meticulous “grassroots advocacy” campaign — TransCanada has already launched one.
Environmental agencies such as the David Suzuki Foundation, Equiterre, Avaaz, Ecology Ottawa and the Council for Canadians are specifically named in these documents.
TransCanada filed its Energy East application with the National Energy Board two weeks ago. These documents were prepared by Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, between May and August.
But Shawn Howard, a spokesperson for TransCanada, said the documents provided by Greenpeace contain recommendations and not all have been implemented.
The company has focused on ensuring that communities, landowners, First Nations and all Canadians “have the facts to make an informed decision about Energy East. Part of that includes ensuring that we understand what organized opponents are saying about our project.”
On its advocacy program, Howard said over 2,500 people joined it in two weeks and “nearly 100 have shared their personal stories … We’ve been open and transparent about all of these programs since they launched and will continue to do so.”
TransCanada is clearly worried about the growing opposition to the Energy East pipeline, said Stewart, the climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “These documents show that TransCanada is planning a secret dirty tricks campaign, using third parties to attack and smear their critics.”
TransCanada’s plan to hire “third parties” smacks of smear campaigns, he said. “That is what we are reading it as. That is what the experience has been in the U.S. … people who run smear campaigns are co-ordinated (by a company) but can disavow them if caught.”
Energy East, longer and larger than Keystone XL, has already seen opposition in parts of Quebec, including in Cacouna, a port town pegged as one of two export terminal sites for the pipeline project personal loan for poor credit.
In Ontario, the city of North Bay has been most vocal in its opposition.
TransCanada wants to convert its 40-year-old natural gas pipeline from Saskatchewan to Ontario to carry crude oil and to connect it with a new pipeline it plans to construct through Quebec and on to export terminals and refineries in New Brunswick. The 4,600-kilometre pipeline would run through six provinces and four time zones, carrying up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil every day. Tankers would carry the oil to Europe, India, China and the U.S.
The project will include construction of oil terminals in Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick.
TransCanada is still waiting for a final decision on Keystone XL, its better-known pipeline project, but Energy East is just as important to the company.
The company “is bringing in tea party tactics, the advertising has been crazy and yet opposition is growing,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue of Council of Canadians.
On being specifically named in the internal documents, she said everything about the Council of Canadians is on the website. “We could save them millions of dollars … we have nothing to hide.”
Quebec, expected to pose the most serious challenge to the pipeline, figures prominently in the leaked documents. A 46-page document titled “Strategic Plan: Quebec” highlights specific communities, organizations and community leaders that TransCanada says pose challenges for the pipeline project.
It also includes a “tactics to pressure” component.
One paragraph says: “In order to add layers of difficulty for opponents, we will work with third parties and arm them with information they need to pressure opponents and distract them from their mission.”