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.
On Nov. 29, the federal government granted conditional approvals for the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
If built, the two pipelines will add just over one million barrels per day of export capacity from Alberta’s oilsands. Expectedly, many Canadians cried climate foul.
And, equally as predictably, there’s been a litany of arguments criticizing people for protesting the approvals.
Most Canadians weren’t surprised to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline this week.
Yet Trudeau’s announcement was so thoroughly cut through with political spin and misinformation some have described it as “Orwellian.”
So where did the Prime Minister rank highest on the spin-master index?
Here are our top five myth and misinformation moments from Trudeau’s Kinder Morgan announcement.
Under the waves of Haro Strait, hydrophones record the noise made by passing vessels and, if you happen to be a whale, the din is already disorienting and disturbing, making it difficult to echo-locate food or communicate with other members of the pod.
“It’s a thunder. Thump, thump, thump, accompanied by squeals and engine noise. It’s like being under the hood of a hot-rod,” said Howard Garrett, president of Orca Network, the Washington State group that tracks the comings and goings of the 80 remaining members of the endangered southern resident killer whales.
All recent studies of the resident pods have identified marine noise around the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait as one of the stressors threatening their survival, in addition to lack of Chinook salmon — the whales’ favourite prey — contaminants accumulating in their blubber and degradation of their critical habitat.
Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline Tuesday, saying the project is integral to meeting Canada’s climate commitments.
“Today’s decision is an integral part of our plan to uphold the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions while creating jobs and protecting the environment,” Trudeau told reporters at a press conference.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will twin an existing pipeline running from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. increasing transport capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 890,000 barrels per day. Trudeau also approved an application to increase capacity of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline from 390,000 to 915,000 barrels per day.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the two pipelines combined represent an increase of 23 to 28 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent released into the atmosphere.
Under the Paris Agreement Canada pledged to reduce emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada’s current policies aren’t expected to meet those targets. According to a recent analysis by Climate Action Network, Canada is expected to miss those targets by 91 megatonnes.
Trans Mountain and Line 3 put Canada at a further disadvantage when it comes to meeting those targets.
And it completely undermines any alleged commitment to “reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples.
It’s not as if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t understand the stakes. In mandate letters sent to each of his ministers in November 2015, he emphasized a renewed “nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”
Trudeau also pledged that his government would “fully adopt and work to implement” the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which included the provision that “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.”
That dream has been slowly dying ever since.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the federal government holds the constitutional power to force through the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline but that doing so would follow the “misguided position of the Conservatives.”
The comments, released Tuesday in a 2015 letter submitted by Wilson-Raybould to the democracy advocacy organization, Dogwood Initiative, comes as Canadians await the federal government’s decision on the Trans Mountain and other pipelines expected this afternoon.
In her letter Wilson-Raybould argues Canada needs “greater citizen engagement in decision making.”
“In some ways Kinder Morgan is more complicated that Northern Gateway as it is a proposed expansion of an existing line,” Wilson-Raybould wrote. “I wonder if the Trans Mountain pipeline would ever have been approved in the first place if it was being proposed today?”
If you feel exhausted by Canada’s fevered debates about oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, renewable energy projects and mines, there just might be relief in sight.
Right now, the federal government is reviewing its environmental assessment (EA) process. Yes, it’s reviewing its reviews. And while that might sound kinda boring, it could actually revolutionize the way Canada makes decisions about energy projects.
“My highest hope is that Canada will take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity … and take a really visionary approach to environmental assessment,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.
That could include implementing something called “strategic environmental assessment,” which creates a forum for the larger discussions about things like oil exports, LNG development or all mining in an area.
So instead of the current environmental assessment process, in which pipeline reviews have become proxy battles for issues such as climate change and cumulative effects, there’d actually be a higher-level review designed specifically to examine those big-picture questions.
The B.C. government has refused to exercise its authority to order a provincial environmental assessment of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, instead opting to rely on a report produced by the federal National Energy Board (NEB) that recommended approval of the project.
This means the province’s decision on the project — which would triple the amount of oil shipped through Vancouver — will be made using a Harper-era assessment heavily criticized for having no cross-examination of evidence and failing to assess cumulative effects, marine oil spills and greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a government that say they’re standing up for British Columbians and when they had a chance legally to protect British Columbians with a made-in-B.C. environmental assessment they passed the buck, accepted Stephen Harper’s process and let down British Columbians,” said George Heyman, the NDP’s environment critic.
The federal government has to decide whether to approve the project by Dec. 19 — but the province also has to make its own decision on whether to grant an environmental assessment certificate.
Implement an economy-wide carbon tax, attain “social licence,” score a federal approval for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
But for some, the Alberta NDP’s rhetoric represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of social licence, with the government assuming that moderate emissions reduction policies allows it to ignore serious concerns about Indigenous rights and international climate commitments.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s performance at the UN Climate Summit in Paris last December wooed and amazed the international community.
Fresh off the election circuit, Trudeau proudly proclaimed, “Canada is back,” to a cheering crowd of global delegates.
Just days later Canada, along with the rest of the international community, signed the Paris Agreement, a historic treaty designed to limit global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius (or as close to 1.5 degrees as possible) that came into effect Friday, November 4.
But A LOT has happened in the interim in Canada, between signing the document and its coming into force.
Much of that does not bode well at all for climate action.