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.