Trudeau Be­trays Us ALL by Push­ing the Trans Moun­tain Pipe­line

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Un­til hu­man­ity tran­si­tions from oil to other more sus­tain­able forms of en­ergy or our civ­i­liza­tion col­lapses from the ef­fects of run­away cli­mate change, we will con­tinue to need oil. But which oil we use is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance. Some oil comes with much greater harm than oth­ers, and there is no oil source more dam­ag­ing than Canada’s tar sands.

Mining, pro­cess­ing, trans­port­ing and re­fin­ing the bi­tu­men from un­der­neath Canada’s bo­real for­est uses an es­ti­mated 25% more car­bon than other sources of oil, and the mining causes se­vere and mas­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion that should sim­ply not be al­lowed to oc­cur. It re­ally is in­sane to do so. Fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will be clean­ing up the tar sands catas­tro­phe for a very long time and at enor­mous cost.

De­spite re­peat­edly mak­ing com­mit­ments to re­duce its con­tri­bu­tion to green­house gases, the Cana­dian govern­ment is de­ter­mined to not shut down the tar sands op­er­a­tions as it should but, rather, greatly ex­pand it.

Get­ting the Key­stone XL pipe­line ap­proved to carry 830,000 bar­rels of Cana­dian bi­tu­men per day to re­finer­ies on the U.S. Gulf Coast was not enough. A sec­ond ex­port pipe­line (to Canada’s west coast) is be­ing built. Called the Trans Moun­tain Pipe­line, it con­sists of ex­pand­ing the ca­pac­ity of an ex­ist­ing pipe­line built in 1953 and lay­ing a new pipe along­side it to triple the ca­pac­ity to 890,000 bar­rels per day.

The pipe­line is cer­tainly not needed to sup­port Canada’s en­ergy needs, adds few last­ing jobs to the lo­cal economies, lays out a ma­jor risk of fu­ture dev­as­tat­ing leaks and by its very ex­is­tence flies in the face of past procla­ma­tions by the cur­rent Cana­dian govern­ment to do ev­ery­thing to re­duce fu­ture green­house gas emis­sions. Yet the pipe­line has grabbed Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau’s at­ten­tion as some­thing that must be done – not for Cana­di­ans but to sup­port the prof­its of the mostly for­eign oil com­pa­nies that are caus­ing the world’s great­est sin­gle en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter by turn­ing a vast re­gion of bo­real for­est into toxic waste ponds.

De­spite strong op­po­si­tion from in­dige­nous peo­ples’ groups, a siz­able Bri­tish Columbia busi­ness con­sor­tium, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and Bri­tish Columbia’s Premier John Hor­gan, Two-face Trudeau says the Trans Moun­tain Pipe­line project must and will go through.

The project was ap­proved by the Trudeau ad­min­is­tra­tion in late 2016. At the time, the for­mer Lib­eral Party govern­ment in Bri­tish Columbia was in sup­port of it. The cur­rent New Demo­cratic Party (NDP) govern­ment and Premier Hor­gan are strongly op­posed to it. The govern­ment of oil-rich Alberta was and is still a strong sup­porter of the project.

Hous­ton-based Kin­der Mor­gan is the owner of the Trans Moun­tain Pipe­line ex­pan­sion project. It is a Texas com­pany, and its Cana­dian di­vi­sion is man­ag­ing the project. It will profit from the pipe­line, as will the mostly-for­eign-owned tar sands pro­duc­ers.

The risks that would ap­pear if the pipe­line is built are sig­nif­i­cant. They be­gin with at­tempt­ing to ex­pand the ca­pac­ity of an al­ready-un­safe pipe­line that was con­structed in 1953, has had lit­tle main­te­nance in the 64+ years since it was built and is now way past its use­ful life and should have been re­tired 25 years ago.

The ex­ist­ing Trans Moun­tain pipe­line and its stor­age fa­cil­i­ties have re­peat­edly rup­tured and spilled sub­stan­tial amounts of oil since 1960. The long­est the pipe­line has gone with­out a spill is four years.

If Kin­der Mor­gan can't op­er­ate its ex­ist­ing pipe­line safely how could it pos­si­bly op­er­ate an ex­panded pipe­line safely?

In 2012, an es­ti­mated 110,000 litres (692 bar­rels) of crude oil leaked from Kin­der Mor­gan’s oil stor­age fa­cil­ity on Su­mas Moun­tain in Ab­bots­ford

In 2007, 250,000 litres (1,500 bar­rels) of crude oil spilled out of the pipe­line in Burn­aby, BC, flowed through storm sew­ers and ditches and com­tam­i­nated a large por­tion of Bur­rard In­let and killed wildlife.

To­gether, the two lines will go from the cur­rent 300,000 bar­rels a day of out­put to 890,000 bar­rels. When one of the pipe­lines leaks – some­thing that is only a mat­ter of time given the age of the ex­ist­ing line and Kin­der Mor­gan’s long record of pipe­line spills – the po­ten­tial dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment will be ma­jor.

Once the oil is trans­ported to the B.C. coast, it would be loaded into oil tankers at the in­land Burn­aby ter­mi­nal. From there, the ships would have to wind their way through Van­cou­ver Har­bour and then past nu­mer­ous is­lands, through Haro Strait and then the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If the project pro­ceeds, it is ex­pected to cause a ma­jor in­crease in the num­ber of oil tankers trav­el­ing through Canada’s ex­tremely del­i­cate Pa­cific coast re­gion.

If a spill does oc­cur, ocean cur­rents will carry the bi­tu­men into U.S. wa­ters.

The po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age is part of what is be­hind ma­jor protests by in­dige­nous peo­ples who see the pipe­line as trash­ing the lands they con­sider sa­cred and in need of pro­tec­tion. On April 7, a broad group con­sist­ing of Ta’ah Amy Ge­orge (Tsleil-wau­tuth Na­tion elder), Grand Chief Ste­wart Phillip (Pres­i­dent of the Union of B.C. In­dian Chiefs, which rep­re­sents more than half of the na­tions in Bri­tish Columbia), Chief Judy Wil­son (Neskon­lith First Na­tion in Secwepemc ter­ri­tory) and Chief Bob Cham­ber­lin (Kwik­wa­sut’in­uxw

Haxwa’mis First Na­tion) were joined by hun­dreds of oth­ers to protest the pipe­line at Kin­der Mor­gan’s Burn­aby oil pipe­line con­struc­tion site. They showed up in such strong num­bers that Kin­der Mor­gan chose to halt con­struc­tion on the site for that en­tire day. (See the Tril­lions ar­ti­cle on that protest here.)

Those protests have con­tin­ued and have created havoc with the Kin­der Mor­gan crews al­most ev­ery day since. They have also re­sulted in the ar­rests of about 200 of the pro­test­ers, mostly near Kin­der Mor­gan’s marine ter­mi­nal in Burn­aby.

The risk of en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age is also linked to the po­ten­tial ma­jor dam­age to the lo­cal econ­omy that would fol­low. It is part of why more than 450 busi­nesses – or­ga­ni­za­tions that col­lec­tively em­ploy many thousands of Cana­di­ans – sent an open let­ter to Premier Hor­gan ask­ing him and his govern­ment to stay their ground in stand­ing against the pres­ence of the pipe­line. Lay­ing down the charge that, as the let­ter says, “this pipe­line is just too risky to be built,” they point out that they, like the in­dige­nous peo­ples, strongly dis­agree with the project.

In their let­ter, they point out that the busi­nesses they rep­re­sent, be­sides not adding to the po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal risk the pipe­line would bring, also pro­vide far more jobs – many of which are also in dan­ger from the pipe­line – than the oil and gas in­dus­try. Their state­ment on this is wor­thy of quot­ing in its en­tirety:

“We are the in­no­va­tors of Canada’s new econ­omy – the thousands of busi­nesses that are Canada’s eco­nomic fu­ture – and we say this pipe­line is bad for busi­ness. Ours are the high tech­nol­ogy, tourism, clean en­ergy, agri­cul­ture, real es­tate and cre­ative sec­tor busi­nesses. These are the re­mark­ably di­verse sec­tors that to­gether em­ploy most of our coun­try’s work­force. To­day, the tech­nol­ogy, tourism, con­struc­tion, film and tele­vi­sion in­dus­tries each cre­ate more jobs than oil, gas and mining com­bined. They also make up the fastest grow­ing sec­tors of our econ­omy.

“We are the coastal in­dus­tries – in­clud­ing com­mer­cial fish­ing, prawn­ing, ocean-de­pen­dent tourism and port ac­tiv­i­ties – which em­ploy more peo­ple than work in oil and gas. These vi­tal in­dus­tries rely on a healthy marine en­vi­ron­ment and would be put at un­ac­cept­able risk by an oil spill along the B.C. coast. Stud­ies show that a sin­gle ma­jor oil spill could cost our econ­omy $1.2 bil­lion and crip­ple coastal in­dus­tries for decades. In con­trast, a pipe­line project that will add just 50 per­ma­nent jobs in B.C., at most adding 1% to mu­nic­i­pal tax rev­enues. The risk is sim­ply too great for such a small eco­nomic ben­e­fit.”

To­gether, these busi­ness lead­ers stand united against the pipe­line. They see it as waste­ful, risky and a sell­out of the Cana­dian govern­ment to oil in­ter­ests at the cost of the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment and con­tribut­ing even fur­ther to global warm­ing.

So, too, does Premier Hor­gan, who has fought the pipe­line in the courts di­rectly.

The com­bined forces against the pipe­line have created enough con­cern for Kin­der Mor­gan that as of mid-april it has sus­pended all non-es­sen­tial spend­ing on the Trans Moun­tain Pipe­line ex­pan­sion project.

On April 15, Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau met with the Pre­miers of both Alberta and Bri­tish Columbia to reach some agree­ment to al­low the pipe­line to go through. He was un­suc­cess­ful. Later the same day, he an­nounced he will be sub­mit­ting leg­is­la­tion that will “re­assert and re­in­force” the rights of the fed­eral govern­ment to ap­prove the project in the first place and to make sure it pro­ceeds at full speed. He also di­rected his Fi­nance Min­is­ter to meet with Kin­der Mor­gan and “re­move the un­cer­tainty” the com­pany may have about Canada’s po­si­tion on the project.

It could be pos­si­ble that the new pipe­line could be de­signed, con­structed and op­er­ated with min­i­mal dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment. But Canada's lax reg­u­la­tions and en­force­ment, and Kin­der Mor­gan's long track record of spills rules that pos­si­bil­ity out.

It will not be pos­si­ble for the de­cayed old pipe­line to be op­er­ated safely. Nor is it pos­si­ble for the tar sands to con­tinue with­out mas­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion.

A bet­ter choice would be for Cana­di­ans to sim­ply na­tion­al­ize their nat­u­ral re­sources, boot out the for­eign oil com­pa­nies that are loot­ing and de­stroy­ing the coun­try and cor­rupt­ing Canada's govern­ment. Then tran­si­tion rapidly to clean en­ergy and use only the least dam­ag­ing oil and only un­til bet­ter al­ter­na­tives are in place.

As of this writ­ing, the leg­is­la­tion Trudeau has promised has not ap­peared, but is ex­pected soon.

Photo by Some­o­fusi, CC

Photo by sba­mueller, CC

Canada's tar sands. Imag­ine an area of crit­i­cal wildlife habi­tat and wa­ter­shed the size of Florida turned into an open toxic waste pit that leaks cancer-caus­ing tox­ins into the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment that spreads for hun­dreds of kilo­me­ters, all for...

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