Despite another oil spill, Keystone XL pipeline is approved in Nebraska. Resistance is strong and resolute

On November 16, TransCanada Pipeline shut down the existing Keystone Pipeline to contain a spill in South Dakota, estimated at 210,000 gallons– the third in the area since operations began in 2010.  Reports include “South Dakota Warns It Could Revoke Keystone Pipeline Permit Over Oil Spill”  in Inside Climate News .   On November 20, the Nebraska Public Service Commission granted approval to Keystone  – but an approval which Anthony Swift at NRDC describes as a “pyrrhic victory” because the original proposed route through Nebraska was rejected, and the new alternative route approved – the Keystone Mainline Alternative route –  must now undergo new state and federal environmental approval processes .  Official intervenors may also file an appeal  in the Nebraska courts within 30 days and may petition the Public Service Commission for a rehearing within ten days.  Even TransCanada seems to wonder if the Keystone will ever get built – the official press release  states:  “As a result of today’s decision, we will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission’s ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project. ”   Other reaction to the news of the approval: from The National Observer  ;  Alberta’s Calgary HeraldCouncil of Canadians ; Bold Nebraska (an alliance of landowners, environmental groups and First Nations), and  from Common Dreams, ” ‘This Fight Is Far From Over’ Groups Declare as Nebraska Clears Path for Keystone XL Construction”  – summarizing the responses of 350.org and the Sierra Club.

As for strong and resolute opposition: In May 2017, CBC reported that leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Canada, the Great Sioux Nation (U.S.) and the Ponca tribe (U.S.)  signed a joint declaration of opposition to Keystone XL . In a broader coalition,  First Nations, along with non-native groups such as 350.org and Greenpeace USA, have now launched  the Promise to Protect campaign which states:We will make a series of stands along the route – nonviolent but resolute displays of our continued opposition to a project that endangers us all. Join native and non-native communities in the Promise to Protect the land, water, and climate. ”  In light of the resolute and deep resistance, it is important to note an article in The Intercept   “Nebraska approves Keystone XL Pipeline as opponents face criminalization of protests”   (Nov. 20), which reported:  “In anticipation of the Keystone XL’s construction, legislation was passed in South Dakota in March that allows the governor or a local sheriff to prohibit groups numbering more than 20 from gathering on public land or in schools, and also allows the Department of Transportation to limit access to highways by prohibiting stopping or parking in designated areas.”  The South Dakota Senate Bill 176 is here.

 

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.

 

 

NEB Conditional approval for Kinder Morgan Pipeline is met with Determined Opposition

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On May 19, a National Energy Board press release stated,  “Taking into account all the evidence, considering all relevant factors, and given that there are considerable benefits nationally, regionally and to some degree locally, the Board found that the benefits of the Project would outweigh the residual burdens.”  The Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline NEB approval, with 157 conditions , is subject to review by a three-member federal panel, announced on May 17    , which has until  November to report to  the Minister of Natural Resources.  The final decision will then be made by the federal Cabinet. See “ Trudeau Declares Resource Promotion a PM’s ‘Fundamental Responsibility’” , and “McKenna won’t give a straight answer about Enbridge pipeline” (May 17)  , summarizing the mixed messages and political manoeuvering over pipeline development.  Also of interest, from DeSmog blog: “Enbridge and Kinder Morgan lobby hard as Feds change tune on Pipelines”  .

The Kinder Morgan decision had been the focus of Canada’s Break Free divestment protests on May 14, and Canada’s 350.org states that the NEB decision doesn’t change “the simple fact that the Kinder Morgan pipeline will never be built.” EcoJustice reacted with: “Ready to continue fight against Kinder Morgan”  in the courts, and citizens , local governments, and environmental groups also oppose Kinder Morgan: see  “Local Governments deeply disappointed”   , and “NEB sides with Texas-based pipeline company against B.C. citizens, First Nations”  .   Chances that First Nations will approve the pipelines are non-existent, according to a National Observer report (May 19)   in which  Rueben George, spokesperson for the local Tsleil-Waututh Nation, states ” First Nations have won 170 legal cases around resource extraction, that’s a 97 per cent victory rate. It’s pretty clear to me that we have veto power over this company.”  The  interactive map  (above) by the Wilderness Committee shows the Kinder Morgan route and summarizes the opposition by First Nations throughout the NEB consultations .

The Alberta Government  calls the NEB decision “a responsible national approach to energy infrastructure. Canada is balancing the need for much stronger action on climate change with the need to pay for that action, by sustainably developing our natural resources – including our energy resources.”  From the British Columbia government: “ We will only support new heavy-oil pipelines in British Columbia if our five conditions can be met. These conditions include the successful completion of the environmental review process, ensuring world-leading marine and land-based spill response, prevention and recovery systems are in place, ensuring legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed and First Nations are provided with the opportunities to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project, and, finally, that British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits from any proposed heavy-oil projects.… “The responsibility for meeting the five conditions is complex and will take a great deal of effort from both industry and governments….we will continue to work with the proponent and all stakeholders to address B.C.’s needs.”  And indeed, the B.C. government passed legislation  to alter the boundaries of Finn Creek Provincial Park in May, after a Kinder Morgan submission that requested changes to four park boundaries .

Unnoticed amidst the Kinder Morgan debate was a report released on April 28 by the Council of Canadian Academies(CCA). Commercial Marine Shipping Accidents: Understanding the Risks in Canada , explores the likelihood of commercial marine shipping accidents, including oil spills,  and considers their potential social, economic, and environmental impacts. Noting significant gaps in the available data, and that there have been few such accidents, the report concludes that the Pacific Region has the highest level of shipping activity, but has a relatively low risk profile. The report concludes that Canada has a well-developed oil spill response regime overall, but identifies areas for improvement as “ the need for a hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) preparedness and response regime across Canada, as well as further research into how substances classified as HNS behave in a marine environment.” The report was commissioned by the Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping,  a not-for-profit  based in Vancouver since 2014.  Its goal is to provide unbiased, independent research; its funding comes from the governments of Canada, Alberta, and “industry groups represented by CAPP” (the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers).

 

 

 

 

 

Trudeau’s “Sunny Ways” on the Climate file

trudeau at CLCSince taking office as Canada’s Prime Minister on November 4, Justin Trudeau has taken steps towards what Elizabeth May of the Green Party called “fixing what Harper broke” . An interview with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion  in the Globe and Mail (Nov. 12) makes clear that climate change issues are to be woven into decision-making in all ministries, and Dion also states that the government is committed to slashing fossil fuel subsidies, building green infrastructure and mass transit, and providing green investment funding. On November 13, the Ministerial Mandate Letters  were made publicly available, outlining the cross-Ministry priorities of climate change: for example, the Letter to the Minister of Finance includes “Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in creating a new Low Carbon Economy Trust to help fund projects that materially reduce carbon emissions under the new pan-Canadian framework”.   Also on November 13th, Trudeau  called for a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic for B.C.’s North Coast . This is generally seen as the end of the Northern Gateway pipeline, as explained in The Tyee  . And for the first time since 1958, the Prime Minister of Canada addressed labour leaders at a meeting at the Canadian Labour Congress  on November 10 ; climate change was one of the topics discussed.

Energy East Pipeline is not worth the Risks

Energy East Pipeline is Not Worth the Risks: The Ontario Energy Board released the conclusions from an 18-month study and consultation on August 13. A Review of the Economic Impact of Energy East on Ontario  considered the impacts on tax revenue and local employment, and concluded that “there is an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the project and the expected benefits for Ontarians”.   The greatest concerns were expressed about potential gas shortages as the pipeline switches from transporting natural gas to oil, proximity to important waterways, and the need for up-to-date technology to prevent and mitigate spills. Employment impacts were difficult to estimate because of lack of data from the Trans Canada proposal, but were considered minimal, especially in Northern Ontario.   The final report was prepared by researchers at the Mowat Centre and University of Toronto; consultants’ reports and submissions are available online at the Consultation website, including the Canada’s Building Trades Unions submission.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick describes the natural environment and thriving fishery and tourism industry in its August report, Tanker Traffic and Tar Balls: What TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline means for the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine . The report cites the dangers to whales increased noise and traffic in already busy shipping lanes, as well as the greater danger of an oil spill. Further, it cites research that states that oil dispersants can by 52 times more toxic than spilled oil to certain marine species. It concludes with 9 recommendations for further consultation, research, and environmental protection legislation.

The Council of Canadians also exposed the dangers of Energy East oil spills to waterways across Canada in a 2014 report,  Energy East: Where Oil meets Water.