Canadian government spends $4.5 billion taxpayers’ dollars to buy Trans Mountain pipeline project and push expansion ahead

justin-trudeauDespite strenuous and prolonged opposition from environmental and Indigenous activists in Canada and internationally, and two days before a deadline imposed by Texas corporation Kinder Morgan, Canada’s Liberal government announced on May 29  that it will  spend $4.5 billion to buy the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and its associated infrastructure, so that a pipeline expansion can proceed under the ownership of a Crown corporation.  The press release is here  ; details of the transaction are here in a Backgrounder  ;  the text of the speech by Finance Minister Bill Morneau is here . Repeating the mantra of the Trudeau government, Morneau claims that the project is in the national interest, will preserve jobs,  will reassure investors and improve the price for Canadian oil by expanding its market  beyond the U.S.  Morneau says the federal government does not plan to be a long-term owner and is in negotiations with interested investors, including Indigenous communities, pension funds (notably the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board)  and the Alberta government.

trans-mountain-pipelineIn fact, the expansion pipeline, if built, would almost triple the amount of dilbit transported from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day, and increase tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast from approximately five to 34 tankers a month.  As recently as May 24, an Open Letter coordinated by Oil Change International  and signed by over 200 groups  summed up the situation, stating there is a “….  clear contradiction between Prime Minister Trudeau’s unchecked support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline project and his commitments to Indigenous reconciliation through the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and his obligation to address climate change through the Paris Agreement.”  The letter notes that currently planned Canadian oil production would use up 16% of the world’s carbon budget to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees, or 7% of the budget for 2 degrees.  Canada has less than 0.5% of the world’s population.

Today’s initial reaction to the government’s decision  has called it “astounding”, “shameful”, and an “historic  blunder”.  From the CBC: “Liberals to buy Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5B to ensure expansion is built”   and “ Bill Morneau’s Kinder Morgan surprise comes with huge price tag, lots of political risk: Chris Hall”.  From  The National Observer   “Trudeau government to buy troubled Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion”   ; “BC Will Continue Legal Strategy to Oppose Pipeline After Federal Purchase, Premier Says”  in The Tyee  .  Toronto’s Globe and Mail posted at least 6 items on the decision , including  an Explainer , and Jeff Rubin’s Opinion: “Morneau had better options for Canada’s Energy sector” .

From  Greenpeace Canada: “Federal government volunteers to “captain the Titanic of tar sands oil pipelines” and risks $4.5B of Canadians’ money in the process” ; and  West Coast Environmental Law reaction points out that “There are currently 14 legal challenges before the Federal Court of Appeal, alleging that the government failed in its constitutional duty to consult First Nations about the Trans Mountain project, and that the federal review had other regulatory flaws. Success in just one of those challenges could derail the underlying federal approvals.”

In the Victoria Times Colonist, “Green Party Leader May calls pipeline decision ‘historic blunder’” ; John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia, released an official statement  , and a jubilant Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is profiled in the CBC story, ” ‘Pick up those tools, folks, we have a pipeline to build,’ Alberta premier says  “.  Reaction from B.C. First Nations leaders is compiled in this CBC story.

Social media reaction, as compiled by CBC , is here  .  The Dogwood Initiative has mounted a  “Time for Bill Morneau to go” online petition here ; SumofUs has an online petition  here,  to urge the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board not to invest in Kinder Morgan.   Direct emails can be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca .   Opposition continues and the story is not over.

NDP-Green alliance promises a new chapter for B.C. government and climate change policies

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B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan  (photo by The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito)

According to a June 12 press release, the Legislature of British Columbia will be recalled on June 22, when a confidence motion will determine who will lead the government  after the cliff-hanger election of May 9.  Read “Greens to prop up NDP’s Horgan in minority BC government” in the National Observer (May 29) for an overview of the alliance reached between the Green Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) as they prepare to form the new provincial  government.  What have they agreed on?  The text of the “Supply and Confidence” agreement, “founded on the principles of good faith and no surprises”,  is available at the B.C. NDP website . Major points of agreement on climate change issues are:  implacable opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline;  an increase in the province’s carbon tax by $5 a tonne each year from April 2018, rising to the nationally required $50 a tonne by 2021;  a six-month, independent review of the unpopular  Site C hydroelectric project (a concession by the Greens, who had wanted to axe it outright); revival of  the province’s Climate Leadership Team; and  an investigation into  the safety of fracking. Read also “What does a NDP- Green Alliance mean for Climate Change?” in the Climate Examiner (June 8), and for the larger picture beyond climate change-related issues, see “ BC NDP-Green agreement offers historic opportunity for game-changing new policies” by Seth Klein and Shannon Daub of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. , or  “NDP and Greens Promise Electoral Reform Referendum, Big Money Ban and Higher Carbon Tax”  in The Tyee (May 30).

The national implications of the coming changes to B.C. energy policy are raised by Kathryn Harris  in “A Historic moment for B.C. Politics and our Environment”  in the Globe and Mail (updated June 1), who states: “At the heart of the Trudeau government’s 2016 climate plan lies a political compromise: a commitment to pursue reductions in Canada’s own greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for expansion of fossil-fuel exports to other countries via new pipelines. The looming NDP-Green partnership in British Columbia reveals both the political fragility of that compromise and the contradiction of climate leadership funded by fossil-fuel development.”

In that controversial pipeline debate: new, required reading from the Parkland Institute: Will the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Tidewater Access Boost Prices and Save Canada’s Oil Industry?.  Author David Hughes  challenges the contention by pipeline proponents (for example, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley)  that Alberta would benefit from a “tidewater premium” by reaching global markets, and concludes that “The new BC government would be wise to withdraw the Province’s approval for this project.”  And “Showdown looms for LNG project”,  an overview article  in The Globe and Mail indicates the changes likely to come on that file, although the NDP-Green agreement doesn’t explicitly address the LNG issue.

The Pembina Institute offers an alternative to the Clark fossil fuel economy,  in their Vision for Clean Growth Economy  for B.C., released in May.  It outlines  five key priorities and makes specific recommendations for their achievement: 1. Build a strong clean tech sector 2. Position B.C. to be competitive in the changing global economy 3. Make clean choices more affordable 4. Stand up for healthy and safe communities, and 5. Grow sustainable resource jobs.

Kinder Morgan, Keystone pipelines move closer to reality as Canada is warned about its carbon budget

Prime Minister Trudeau set off an outcry in Alberta with these comments at the start of his cross-country tour in Peterborough, Ontario : “You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy. We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.”  In Calgary on January 24,  Trudeau defended his remarks in a town hall meeting in Calgary, summarized in “Calgary crowd cheers and boos Trudeau in showdown with oilsands supporters”   in the National Observer (Jan. 25) .

On January 11, British Columbia’s Premier Clark waived B.C.’s original five objections and approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline project (albeit with 37 provincial conditions) . Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley responded with:  “Working families shouldn’t have to choose between good jobs and the environment. World-class environmental standards and a strong economy that benefits working people must go hand-in-hand. The Kinder Morgan pipeline offers us an historic opportunity to demonstrate that these values can – and must – go hand in hand.”   Reaction to B.C.’s decision from West Coast Environmental Law is here ; or read “Did Christy Clark just betray British Columbia?” from Stand.earth, which continues to organize resistance to Kinder Morgan.

As anticipated, President Donald Trump wasted no time in approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, signing  Executive Orders on January 24.  Negotiations and further state-level approvals are still ahead, but Canada’s Trudeau government welcomed the news, according to a CBC report which quotes Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr : “it would be very positive for Canada — 4,500 construction jobs and a deepening of the relationship across the border on the energy file.”   In a joint response by Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace Canada, Mike Hudema of Canada stated:   “The question for Canadians is: will the Prime Minister continue to align himself with a climate denying Trump administration, or will he stand with the people and with science and start living up to his own commitments to the climate and Indigenous rights?”

According to a January report by Oil Change International (OCI), “Ultimately, the carbon mathematics is such that the Canadian government simply cannot have it both ways . There is no scenario in which tar sands production increases and the world achieves the Paris goals.”  Climate on the Line: Why new tar sands pipelines are incompatible with the Paris goals  continues with: “Cumulative emissions from producing and burning Canadian oil would use up 16% of the world’s carbon budget to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees, or 7% of the budget for 2 degrees. Canada has less than 0.5% of the world’s population.” ” There is no future in expanding tar sands production. Instead, the government should begin serious efforts now to diversify the economy, supporting a just transition for workers and communities.”  Andrew Nikoforuk summarized the report in The Tyee (Jan. 10); CBC Calgary interviewed experts in its analysis, “Could the oilsands really be phased out? Here are the possibilities” (January 21).

Kinder Morgan Pipeline approval: a new chapter in the struggle against pipelines

On November 29, the government of Canada announced  the highly anticipated decision   to approve the expansion of  two pipeline projects:   Line 3 (with 37 conditions) and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project (with 157 conditions). The Northern Gateway project was finally, officially dismissed.

Reaction, focused on Kinder Morgan,  was swift and strong and very critical on many grounds: economic, environmental, and as a betrayal of the rights of First Nations.  The Globe and Mail summarized reaction and quoted a Stand.earth representative that the decision “signals the beginning of a new phase in the struggle against pipelines” – which will include protests, the courts, and the ballot box.  And immediately, on December 1, a rally to support the Dakota Access Pipeline protests expanded to include Kinder Morgan protest, with over 1000 people on the streets of Victoria, B.C., according to the National Observer.  See also “Trudeau’s pipeline approvals spark protests” , which quotes the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers: “”You can either be serious about climate change, or you can expand the tarsands. But you cannot do both.”  Others have written with the same message: UBC Professor Kathryn Harrison in the Globe and Mail   ; Simon Donner  in  “Blowing the Budget on Pipelines”  (Nov. 30) in Policy Options;  Seth Klein and Shannon Daub of the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis (CCPA) in a Policy Note article, “The New Climate Denialism“;  Tzeporah Berman, “Pipelines of Paris: Can Canada have its cake and eat it too? “. David Hughes’June 2016 report, Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments? is again being widely cited.

The same message comes from a a Dec. 13 article, “ With Oil Sands Ambitions on a Collision Course With Climate Change, Exxon Still Stepping on the Gas”  by Inside Climate News (the Pulitizer Prize winning news organization whose reporting has sparked the current U.S. investigations into Exxon).  This highly detailed historical look at Imperial Oil investments and operations in Canada (complete with photos of Murray Westgate), concludes by noting the recent pipelines approvals, and states:  “Canadian officials, who have committed the nation to emissions cuts, continue to promote growth, even though environmentalists say the two are incompatible….Politicans are not being honest with Canadians.”

orcas-against-vancouver-skylineOpposition in the courts – with seven cases already underway – is being led by First Nations.  In an OpEd in the Globe and Mail, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs wrote: “ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to protect the health and safety of Canadians or uphold his government’s vaunted new relationship with First Peoples when he announced approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.”  He stated that there are  more than 10,000 “Coastal Protectors”   who are ready “to do what needs to be done to stop Kinder Morgan”. This is in addition to  the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion  formed  by 50 First Nations and tribes from all over Canada  and the Northern U.S. in in September 2016 – now over 100 –   to work together to stop all proposed tar sands pipeline , tanker and rail projects in their respective territorial lands and waters. And see  DeSmog blog,  “ Federal Liberals Approval of Kinder Morgan Is Final Nail in the Coffin of ‘Reconciliation’ . For a first-person account of First Nations reactions and mobilization, see “Field notes: A week of pipeline action and cross-Canada solidarity” from West Coast Environmental Law.

From Greenpeace :  “With this announcement, Prime Minister Trudeau has broken his climate commitments, broken his commitments to Indigenous rights, and has declared war on B.C. If Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to bring Standing Rock-like protests to Canada, he succeeded.”    Similarly, Common Dreams published  “Kinder Morgan Pipeline Might Be Canada’s DAPL ” (Dec. 4) , and  from ThinkProgress  , ” The next Standing Rock: Fossil fuel battles loom across North America“.

Representing reaction from ground zero, British Columbia:  The B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives blogged: “Trudeau disappoints a generation, betrays rights and title of Indigenous people with Kinder Morgan decision” .  Andrew Nikoforuk wrote in  The Tyee , “Kinder Morgan Approval Insults Democracy, Science and Economic Logic”   (Nov. 30) , that the decision “put his government on a collision course with First Nations and British Columbia’s coastal communities.” Robyn Allan, quoted by Nikoforuk, states:  “Trudeau has out-trumped Stephen Harper.”

 

Decision approaches for the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline Expansion

kmpipeline_tanker_route_salish_sea_map_smallThe Liberal government announced a national Ocean Protection Plan  on November 8, investing $1.5  billion over five years,  “to ensure that our coasts are protected in a modern and advanced way that ensures environmental sustainability, safe and responsible commercial use, and collaboration with coastal and Indigenous communities.” Although one of  the goals is “restoring and protecting the marine ecosystems and habitats”, the main thrust appears to emphasize commercial shipping,  maritime traffic, and improved response to tanker oil spills.   A sample of reaction:  An Editorial from the  National Observer “’Ocean protection’ is now code for oilsands pipelines and tanker traffic ” (Nov. 8); “No tanker ban in Trudeau’s $1.5-Billion Coastal Protection Plan”  in The Tyee ; and though Equiterre’s press release strikes a constructive tone, it links the Plan directly to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and subsequent tanker traffic.  As  Chantal Hebert wrote in the Toronto Star,  “it is obvious to everyone following along that he (Prime Minister Trudeau)  was getting some framing in place before green-lighting Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion”.

The Report from the Ministerial Panel for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project  was presented to Natural Resources Minister Carr in early November, the Panel having been appointed by the Minister  in May 2016  to quell  public outrage over the National Energy Board  process. From the Report introduction: “The panel’s mandate was not to test or build social licence for the project. It was to identify what might have been missed in the original review. Appropriate to the panel’s mandate, therefore, this report does not contain specific recommendations. Rather, it provides an overview of input, a reflection of public concern about changing circumstances, and a synthesis of major issues “.   Nevertheless, the panelists managed to say that the Kinder Morgan project “cannot proceed without a serious reassessment of its impacts on climate change commitments, indigenous rights and marine mammal safety. ”   DeSmog blog summarizes the report and commends the Panel .

Others  dispute that the pipeline is even needed, on economic grounds – see Climate Action Network   or Robyn Allan in “Opinion: Premier Notley relies on fiction to push Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion”  in the National Observer (Nov. 14)  . From Vancouver-based   Conversations for Responsible Economic Development  (CRED),  self-described as “fiercely pro-business and pro-economic development” : “It’s crucial that the federal government reject the KM pipeline and instead support sectors in BC that create family-sustaining jobs, make significant tax contributions, insulate the regional economy from boom-and-bust cycles, and promote economic growth compatible with Canada’s national climate commitment.”  See the full CRED report,  What’s Fuelling Our Economy: Is Kinder Morgan’s Proposed Pipeline Inconsistent with New Economic Trends and Realities?

Protests and legal action against the Kinder Morgan project have been going on for years – see our previous WCR coverage here –  but they are intensifying with the upcoming December 19 deadline for a government decision.  In October, 99 protestors were arrested on Parliament Hill, and  British Columbia’s former Premier Mike Harcourt warned in a November interview   that an approval could result in “a  Clayoquot or North Dakota type of insurrection”. A November 17 event hosted by Leadnow.ca  also makes the link: “From Standing Rock to Burnaby Mountain: Can Direct Action Stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline?”.   On November 16,  the Canadian Youth Delegation at COP22 in Marrakech delivered a  petition with 210,000 names opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline; demonstrations and vigils are planned across Canada for November 21, coordinated by 350.org , Leadnow.ca, Greenpeace Canada   , the Council of Canadians    , the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition  and others.  The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is being framed as the acid test for the Liberal government’s environmental position.