Texas-based multinational Kinder Morgan is proposing to expand its oilsands pipeline system to B.C.'s West Coast by building the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Upon completion, the Trans Mountain pipeline system would transport more than 890,000 barrels a day of primarily diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to B.C.’s west coast. Most of this heavy oil is destined for Westridge dock in Burnaby, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers that would navigate past Vancouver, the Gulf Islands and Victoria before reaching open ocean.
The expansion would increase oil tanker traffic from around 60 per year to more than 400 per year. The Trans Mountain pipeline project is under review by the National Energy Board — a process that has been criticized for its lack of oral cross-examination, its failure to consider climate change, the rights of First Nations and its failure to compel answers from Kinder Morgan on key questions such as oil spill response capability.
In November 2014, dozens of citizens were arrested on Burnaby Mountain while protesting engineering work by Kinder Morgan on the Trans Mountain pipeline project. Trans Mountain expansion is opposed by the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby. In May of 2014 the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation launched a legal challenge against the pipeline, saying the National Energy Board and the Canadian government failed to meet their legal obligation to consult the band during the pipeline review process.
Former energy executive Marc Eliesen, who was an intervener in the hearings, dropped out of the process in late 2014, calling it “fraudulent.” Eliesen called for the province of B.C. to cancel the equivalency agreement with the federal government, effectively rendering the National Energy Board review meaningless. His call has been echoed by the B.C. NDP party and the Green party.
In his 2015 federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to overhauling the National Energy Board and review process of major pipeline proposals. Speaking to Kai Nagata of the Dogwood Initiative while on the campaign trail, he confirmed that yes, the overhaul would apply to existing proposals including Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain — but that never happened.
On May 19, 2016, the National Energy Board issued a report recommending that the government approve the Trans Mountain pipeline, subject to 157 conditions. At the same time, the federal government appointed a three-person panel to conduct an additional review of the project to help restore public trust. Hearings occurred over the summer of 2016. Critics said there was inadequate or nonexistent notice to affected First Nations and communities and municipalities ahead of the hearings. In Victoria B.C., hundreds of people couldn’t fit into the hotel ballroom where the consultation occurred.
The additional hearings were largely regarded as a failure, further deteriorating public trust. It was unclear how the information gathered at these hearings would influence the final decision and no formal record of proceedings was kept.
The panel will deliver its report to the federal cabinet by November 2016 and Turdeau is expected to make a decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline before Christmas 2016.
Image credit: Roy Luck on Flickr.
For years, the Canadian public has been besieged with the same message: Alberta’s pipeline network is completely maxed out, meaning the oilsands are landlocked and new pipelines must be constructed to allow producers to ship their product to new markets and eliminate the discount imposed on exports.
It’s a notion that’s been repeated by politicians of all stripes, including Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
But there’s no merit to that argument, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Oil Change International.
On June 23, the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the Harper government’s approval of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on account of failing to properly consult with adversely affected First Nations.
Many environmental and Indigenous groups cited the ruling as a win, but buried in the decision is a legal interpretation that upholds former Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s changes to environmental assessment law in the country.
Some argue this interpretation of the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) will undermine the ability for the public to challenge the legality of environmental assessment reports for future projects, such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.
Economist Robyn Allan has a penchant for details. The former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia also sees the benefits of informed decision-making, which is why Allan recently wrote a myth-busting letter to federal minister of natural resources, Jim Carr, on the issue of oil pipelines.
The minister, Allan said, had been “dangerously misled” by senior ministerial staff about the economic benefits of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project. An internal document provided to Minister Carr, and subsequently released through Freedom of Information legislation, was “riddled with factual and analytical mistakes and displays a lack of attention to detail” Allan wrote in her letter.
Among her findings, Allan stated the minister had been misinformed about the need for increased oil pipeline capacity in Canada especially when considering Canada’s pipelines — despite claims to the contrary — are not operating at full capacity and market conditions have substantially altered the oil production landscape in recent years (see Allan's evidence in the full letter below).
Allowing wealthy corporations or powerful government agencies to launch baseless court cases against citizens who speak out against them is putting a chill on free expression in B.C. and there is a growing need for legislation against SLAPP suits, says the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
It is time to fight back against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), which aim to intimidate and silence critics by landing them with the often-unmanageable cost of defending themselves against an unwarranted lawsuit, said Micheal Vonn, BCCLA policy director, who believes SLAPP suits are undermining B.C.’s democratic health.
BCCLA is aiming to put pressure on the provincial government to bring in anti-SLAPP legislation, similar to changes introduced last year in Ontario, to help those threatened with legal action to defend themselves against those with powerful financial interests and deep pockets.
Dear Will and Kate,
Welcome to beautiful British Columbia!
You are getting a pretty epic tour this week — from Victoria and Vancouver to Bella Bella (sorry about the rain) and Haida Gwaii. All of us watching the photo-ops are pretty jelly to be honest.
Here’s the thing though: I’ve noticed you’re hearing plenty of platitudes about “protecting the environment” from our good-looking leaders, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
I know you’re smart people, so I don’t want you to be fooled by their looks — or their words.
Don’t get me wrong: B.C. truly is a glorious place — the type of place you can fly over in a seaplane and easily think the wilderness will never end.
But it’s also one of the world’s last frontiers and the race is on to cut down our old-growth forests, to send more oil tankers into our ports, to build natural gas plants in our salmon estuaries and to flood our rivers for megadams.
Here are a few things I thought you ought to know about B.C. (and which I’m doubtful you’ll hear from Justin or Christy).
So far, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a lot of the right moves when it comes to climate change, but a new report this week makes it clear that Canada's PM cannot lead on climate change and support the expansion of oilsands pipelines at the same time.
Yet, there was a rumor circling earlier this month that the Trudeau government would approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in the name of the “national interest”. If approved, the pipeline will increase the amount of oil produced and shipped to Vancouver's coast for export by a whopping 590,000 barrels a day — nearly triple what is currently transported.
At the same time, the Trudeau government is expected to roll out a plan this fall to fulfill its election promise to take “bold action” on climate change.
These two positions are irreconcilable.
This op-ed originally appeared on the National Observer.
After more than a year I decided to withdraw as an expert Intervenor at the National Energy Board hearing into Trans Mountain’s Expansion Project. I came to the discouraging conclusion that the Board was on a predetermined course of action to recommend approval of the Project. The Board did this by narrowly scoping its list of issues, removing cross-examination, and refusing to compel answers to information requests made by myself and most other Intervenors.
Corporations cannot regulate themselves. Their first priority is to maximize returns for their shareholders. Regulation is an accepted method in Canada to ensure private interest is not achieved at the expense of the public interest. Government steps in and establishes a regulatory framework to protect public health, safety and the environment as well as to attain objectives related to the nation’s economic and social goals.
Regulatory capture takes place when the regulator ceases to be independent and advances the commercial interests of the industry it is charged with regulating. The Board’s behaviour during the Trans Mountain hearing not only turned the process into a farce, it exposed the Board as a captured regulator.
The National Energy Board is fundamentally broken.
That was a point repeatedly highlighted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election — and one confirmed for many with recent revelations that former Quebec premier Jean Charest had privately met with senior NEB officials while on the payroll of TransCanada.
Trudeau and his federal cabinet have the chance to change that: in June, the government announced dual review panels to assess the mandates and operations of the NEB and the country’s oft-criticized post-2012 environmental assessment processes (it also announced five interim principles until those reviews are completed, including a requirement to assess upstream greenhouse gas emissions although it’s unclear how that information is being used).
Restoring oversight. Meaningful participation. Rebuilding trust.
Such phrases sounded just so good when the federal Liberal Party first detailed its plan to address the environmental assessment and consultation process for major projects like interprovincial pipelines and LNG export terminals.
But such rhetoric may already be critically undermined thanks to way the government has approached public consultations in its environmental review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, which would almost triple the Edmonton-to-Burnaby pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels/day.
Such missteps include but are certainly not limited to: appointing a former LNG lobbyist and partner with Kinder Morgan to sit on the panel, providing inadequate notice to the public and First Nations of the actual hearings, and failing to mandate that the consultations actually have any bearing on the final decision by cabinet.
By Chris Tollefson for IRPP.
The Trudeau government has recently announced a sweeping review process that could culminate in what has been described as “the most fundamental transformation of federal environmental law in a generation.” This review, among other things, will determine the fate of the controversial law that governs federal environmental assessments, known as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA, 2012).
Ironically, CEAA, 2012, a statute that the Harper government radically revamped to be industry-friendly, nowadays has very few friends. Even key industry insiders admit that the legislation, aimed primarily at expediting the approval of major new resource development projects, has been a spectacular failure. Not only are many major environment assessments (EAs) that are underway under CEAA, 2012 stalled, mired in controversy, tied up in litigation (or all of the above), but more importantly, Canadians have lost trust in the way we assess and make decisions about these projects.