On May 19, 2016, National Energy Board (NEB) approved Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain pipeline expansion. The news prompted some climate activists to call the approval “outrageous”. First Nations, municipalities, academics, scientists and the majority of British Columbians have come out against this pipeline.
If it proceeds the expanded Transmountain project will triple the capacity of heavy tar sands oil being transported by pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby. The volume of oil transported will increase from 300,000 to just under 900,000 barrels a day, there will also be a corresponding increase in oil tanker traffic in and out of Vancouver.
In the following video the NEB’s Chief Environment Officer, Dr.Robert Steedman announces the decision to recommend the approval of Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion on May 19, 2016. It is interesting to note that the announcement came on Friday right before a long holiday weekend.
The approval makes no sense, particularly when it is considered against the backdrop of global heat records, and in the context of the Paris Climate Agreement. We are in an existential battle to keep temperatures from rising more that 2 degrees Celsius (ideally 1.5 C). As the leading cause of global warming we must minimize the burning of fossil fuels. Expanding oil pipeline capacity at this juncture is irrational. Such an expansion is at odds with the science. If we were to proceed with the pipeline it would unleash global warming pollution 56 times the rate of the entire City of Vancouver, putting all our communities at greater risk of climate disasters.
Pipelines spill and the proposed Kinder Morgan project is no different. It is not a question of if these spills will happen it is a question of when. The Transmountain expansion threatens tens of thousands of jobs in the coastal economy with inevitable oil spills from pipelines and oil tankers. This Poses a direct risk to one of the most fragile and diverse coastal ecosystems in the world. The existing Transmountain pipeline has reported 82 spills to the NEB between 1961 and 2014 and there is every reason to believe that expanding the pipeline will at least double the number of spills. We need to examine the number of fossil fuel spills we have seen in 2015, the history of oil spills in Alberta, and the consequences of tanker spills. When this information is taken together it becomes clear that the record shows that fossil fuels cannot be safely transported.
NEB bereft of moral authority
The NEB is one of the last sad legacies of the oil obsessed Harper government. The conservative appointed members of the NEB are unelected and unaccountable. A recent report showed that the NEB is a farce that rubber stamps fossil fuel projects.
“Overall, we found that the National Energy Board’s tracking of company compliance with pipeline approval conditions was inadequate,” the report said.
In May 2015, economist and former ICBC president Robyn Allan withdrew from the NEB’s Review of Trans Mountain pipeline saying, “the game is rigged”. She went on to say that she can no longer “endorse a process that is not working.” In a letter addressed to Sherri Young, secretary of the NEB, Allan said the “review is not conducted on a level playing field” and that because the panel is “not an impartial referee…the game is rigged.” Allan said she began to seriously question the process when oral cross-examination was removed from the process.
As reported by Desmog, in August 2015 over 30 groups and individuals, including CPAWS, publicly withdrew from the Kinder Morgan review process, citing a lack of transparency, balance and accountability in the proceedings.
Liberal government in a difficult position
Canada’s Liberals have a daunting environmental challenge ahead of them as they assumed power after a decade of the Conservative’s fossil fuel focused government policies.
Before being elected the Liberals promised to review Canadian pipeline projects including the Kinder Morgan. However, the government is under intense pressure from what has been described as an army of oil industry lobbyists.
During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau said, “governments can grant permits, but only communities grant permission.” As Prime Minister Trudeau has added a step to the pipeline review process, he has promised to listen to communities and look at the climate impacts.
In January the new Liberal government claimed that they would do something about the NEB. In the following video Green Party leader Elizabeth May sympathizes with the Liberals as they have inherited a broken process from their predecessors. In January May delivered scorching oral arguments to the NEB panel reviewing the expansion. She accused Kinder Morgan of discouraging people from getting involved by producing 22,000 pages of “repetitive, useless garbage.” She says that if the Liberals were to approve the project it would be “outrageous”
Here is Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson’s reaction to the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline by the NEB. He was “outraged” by the decision and he calls on the federal government to reject the pipeline and pledges to continue his focus on clean energy development.
The complexity of the situation is compounded by the provincial government of B.C. that has not been clear about its position on the pipeline. Initially they appeared to reject the project but they may have simply been jockeying for position to maximize the province’s remuneration. Previously, B.C.’s Ministry of Environment found the Transmountain project did not meet conditions set out by the province in 2012. The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, pledged to deny provincial operating permits to the TransMountain expansion unless it met five conditions including profit sharing.
Upon the request of Kinder Morgan, the B.C. government recently made changes to the boundaries of Finn Creek Provincial Park, to facilitate the expansion of the pipeline. The park is home to a diverse ecology that includes grizzly bears and moose. It also is a spawning habitat for bull trout, Coho and Chinook salmon.
The city of Burnaby issued a stop work order saying Kinder Morgan does not have the right to do damage to property protected by city bylaws. They have also launched a lawsuit. They succeeded in stopping crews with chainsaws from removing trees and brush along the proposed route for the Transmountain pipeline. They also delayed the building of a helipad for the delivery of equipment. Citizens protested and dozens were arrested.
“I think it’s unfortunate that it has come to this,” city Mayor Derek Corrigan said in a press release, “but we can’t let Kinder Morgan cut down trees and do irreparable damage in a conservation area protected by our City’s bylaws.”
Corrigan added those bylaws are in place to protect the “rights and values” of local residents. “It’s astonishing that, as a private corporation, Kinder Morgan thinks they have the right to override our citizens’ wishes and the laws that have been put in place to reflect the value our citizens place on these sensitive, irreplaceable ecosystems.”
In 2014 more than 50 people were arrested while protesting at Burnaby Mountain, while Kinder Morgan was drilling and surveying to expand the Transmountain pipeline.
In the following speeches activists protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline project speak to aboriginal rights, the false flag of economic necessity and the need for clean sources of energy. They explain that expanding fossil fuels in the midst of the climate crisis makes no sense. As David Suzuki’s grandson stated, “why are we putting the market ahead of our ecology that we all depend on, we have to stand up against unjust laws.”
SFU professor Lynne Quarmby on the Kinder Morgan pipeline
Lynne Quarmby’s speech and arrest for protesting Kinder Morgan
Environmentalist David Suzuki
David Suzuki’s grandson Tamo Campos
Letter to Rich Kinder by 16-yr-old Jacqueline Lee Tam at Burnaby Mountain protest
As reported by the Huffington Post, if Prime Minister Trudeau does not stop the Transmountain project he will break three promises:
Promise #1 – Implement the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples
Promise #2 – Climate action
Promise #3 – Allowing communities to grant permission
A Leadnow petition is circulating calling on PM Trudeau and Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It reads as follows:
Dear PM Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Carr,
The Kinder Morgan pipeline threatens our communities, coast and climate with devastating oil spills and spiraling global warming pollution. I call on you to stand with us and defend our community safety by rejecting the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline.
Now the decision rests with PM Trudeau and his MPs, and we believe they will build this pipeline unless they hear from you.