Pipeline Fight Reaches Canada’s Highest Court

Kinder Morgan pipeline is being laid across Alberta and British Columbia, 2018 (Photo credit unknown)


BURNABY, British Columbia, Canada, March 27, 2108 (ENS) – The City of Burnaby is taking its battle with Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan to the Supreme Court of Canada in an apparent attempt to halt a pipeline expansion that would multiply oil tanker traffic on Canada’s West Coast by a factor of seven.

The legal fight concerns Burnaby’s opposition to Kinder Morgan’s C$7.4 billion Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby.

Kinder Morgan pipeline is being laid across Alberta and British Columbia, 2018 (Photo credit unknown)

The expansion – from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil per day – would increase oil tanker traffic on Burrard Inlet and the British Columbia coast seven-fold.

The project would add roughly 980 km of new pipeline and reactivate 193 km of existing pipeline. New facilities will include 12 new pump stations, 19 new tanks added to existing storage terminals, and three new berths at the Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet.

Supporters say the new pipeline capacity will be good for the Canadian oil industry, create thousands of jobs and millions in new tax revenue for B.C. and Alberta.

Critics say it would put the British Columbia coastline at constant risk of oil spills and make Canada’s climate change goals impossible to achieve.

The City of Burnaby, as well as the City of Vancouver and the government of British Columbia, all oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Yet it was approved by the Liberal Government of Canada led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2016.

Burnaby announced its decision to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada after the Federal Court of Appeal refused Monday to hear the city’s appeal of a December 2017 decision by the National Energy Board (NEB) to relieve Kinder Morgan of its requirement to follow Burnaby’s construction bylaws.

This means that Trans Mountain is not required to pass a Preliminary Plan Approval nor obtain municipal tree cutting permits for its Burnaby Terminal and Westridge Marine Terminal pipeline worksites.

Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia (Photo courtesy Kinder Morgan Canada)

“The federal court has refused to review the decisions made by the National Energy Board,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. “They’re not giving consideration to the arguments being made by the city and the provincial government that oppose the NEB ruling.”

“The Court System should be the body that decides whether or not this is fair and just, but they dismissed our application without reasons,” objected the mayor. “Very clearly, it’s something the court should have dealt with and given reasons why it’s not allowing the provincial government to exert its authority to protect the environmental interests of the province. We will, therefore, now ask the Supreme Court of Canada to perform this function.”

Kinder Morgan argues that Burnaby’s construction bylaws are unconstitutional, as they conflict with the company’s ability to proceed with the federally approved project, and with the NEB Act.

Trans Mountain also claims that Burnaby is deliberately delaying permit approval because it is politically opposed to the project.

“Kinder Morgan is committed to continuing to work with stakeholders in good faith as we continue with construction of the Trans Mountain expansion project,” the company said.

Fifteen other challenges have been filed with the Federal Court of Appeal against the federal government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr reiterated the Government of Canada’s support for the project while in Vancouver earlier this month.

indigenous people
First Nations leaders march in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. March 10, 2018 (Photo by Zack Embree / Protect the Inlet)

There is little public support and much protest action surrounding the pipeline expansion battle. The demonstrations have been led by Coast Salish spiritual leaders and members who have raised a traditional Coast Salish Watch House near the Kinder Morgan pipeline route.

The indigenous peoples of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh and Tsleil-waututh, who have resided in this territory for thousands of years. Seven indigenous First Nations have legally challenged federal approval of the pipeline expansion.

Together with the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver and two environmental groups, they are asking the court to overturn the federal government’s decision to approve the expansion.

Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish First Nation said the federal government failed to consult or gain consent of First Nations for the expansion of the oil pipeline, so they have to try to protect their land and water in the courts.

Daily protests and arrests have continued since March 10 although a B.C. Supreme Court ruling prohibits protesters from setting up blockades or interfering with work at the terminal.

On Saturday, March 17, roughly 10,000 people marched against the pipeline project. At least 170 people were arrested between March 17 and 24 for protesting at the Kinder Morgan terminal on Burnaby Mountain.

Greenpeace founder Rex Weyler joins indigenous activists and other members of Greenpeace founding families to block the gates to Kinder Morgan’s construction site on Burnaby Mountain, March 19, 2018 (Photo by Protect the Inlet)

Among those arrested were Greenpeace International co-founder and Gulf Islands resident Rex Wyler who said, “We do this in solidarity with the Tsleil-Waututh and Coast Salish communities, knowing we’re not alone. The whole world is watching – wondering will Canada continue to be a fossil fuel hog after promising to cut carbon emissions? Will Justin Trudeau continue to renege on his commitments on Indigenous rights?”

“The world is waiting for us to act on our promises,” said Wyler. “In our roles as global citizens, it’s our responsibility to speak up against the risks from Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline and oil tankers.”

Also arrested were Bob and Barbara Stowe, children of Greenpeace founders Dorothy and Irving Stowe. Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver in 1971. Barbara Stowe called Kinder Morgan’s pipeline “unethical.”

“It goes against everything Greenpeace and my family stand for, which is why we were prepared to take action to protect the Earth from the dangers it poses,” said Barbara Stowe. “Greenpeace’s fight to protect the coast from tankers goes back 45-plus years. Our fight also goes back 45-plus years and we’re not backing down now.”

Canada’s Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP, was arrested for demonstrating in a prohibited zone in front of Kinder Morgan’s terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, March 23, 2018 (Photo courtesy Office of Elizabeth May)

Federal Green party Leader and Member of Parliament Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart, the New Democratic Party MP for Burnaby South, were arrested Friday protesting in the court-ordered no-go zone at the gates of the Kinder Morgan tank farm in Burnaby.

“We weren’t the first people to be arrested at this gate, and we sure won’t be the last,” said May. “As leader of the Green Party and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, I feel it is moral duty to stand against Kinder Morgan’s disastrous project. It violates Indigenous rights, threatens our climate, our coastlines, our salmon and whales, and thousands of jobs.”

May said the permits issued for the project to proceed did not respect the rights of Indigenous people on their territory. “The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018, when we are in climate crisis, is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it,” she said.

May was charged with civil contempt for blocking a road – not a criminal charge.

MP Stewart, whose constituency takes in the Burnaby Mountain protest location, said, “I am in solidarity with my constituents who are deeply, deeply opposed to this pipeline and feel betrayed by the government for how they threatened to force this through our community.”

“It’s a combination of the disastrous potential of this project, but also betrayal around how it was approved that is moving many of my constituents to take the actions that they are,” said Stewart.

Now Coast Salish spiritual leaders are calling for a week of ceremony before “bold actions” begin again.

Protests in solidarity have spread south of the border to Washington state.

On March 20, a group of about 30 concerned kayakers with the Mosquito Fleet floated alongside a tanker in Elliot Bay near Seattle, inbound from British Columbia. Flying a “Stop Kinder Morgan” banner the kayakers said they are opposing the company’s “reckless transport of tar sands crude oil through British Columbia and Washington waters.”

“We refuse to let Kinder Morgan turn our Salish Sea into a fossil fuel super-highway. Their operations are already unacceptably dangerous. The last thing we need is to make matters 700 percent worse,” said Zara Greene, a member of the Mosquito Fleet. “Such a massive increase in oil tanker traffic would not only jeopardize communities in BC, but in Washington as well. Kinder Morgan is a threat to us all.”

Kinder Morgan, Inc. is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America. It owns an interest in or operates approximately 85,000 miles of pipelines and 152 terminals. The pipelines transport natural gas, refined petroleum products, crude oil, condensate, CO2 and other products, and its terminals transload and store petroleum products, ethanol and chemicals, and handle products such as steel, coal and petroleum coke.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2018. All rights reserved.


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