Trudeau Betrays Us ALL by Pushing the Trans Mountain Pipeline
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.
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...