Trudeau approves Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, opening Burrard Inlet to hundreds more tankers each year

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project has federal approval to go ahead. At the same time, the government denied Enbridge permission to build the Northern Gateway pipeline.

      Today (November 29), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his cabinet has authorized the proposal, removing the greatest barrier that would have stood in its way.

      The project involves twinning a Kinder Morgan pipeline that runs from Edmonton—where it receives diluted bitumen from the Alberta tarsands—to a port in Burnaby.

      Upon completion, it will triple the amount of bitumen transported to the Lower Mainland, increasing the number of oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet from some 60 ships per year to more than 400.

      “The Government of Canada has approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa. “It will create 15,000 new middle-class jobs, the majority of them in the trades. This major initiative will get hard-working Canadians back to work, put food on the table for middle-class families, and grow and strengthen our communities.

      “Aside from the many and obvious economic benefits, we approved this project because it meets the strictest of environmental standards and fits within our national climate plan,” he continued. “We will require that Kinder Morgan meet or exceed all 157 of the binding conditions set out by the National Energy Board. These conditions address potential impacts on indigenous communities, the protection of local wildlife, and the offset of greenhouse gas emissions during construction.”

      Trudeau acknowledged that many British Columbians oppose the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

      “I worked and lived in B.C. for years as a teacher,” he noted. “Now, I have heard the diverse perspectives that exist in B.C. on this project. Indeed, one of its most articulate and substantive critics is a caucus colleague, Terry Beech. Others will be opposed to this project for their own reasons. We respect that. And we respect their right to hold and voice their beliefs. But to them, and to all, if I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would reject it.”

      At the same conference, Trudeau also announced his cabinet had declined to authorize the construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, blocking its construction for the foreseeable future.

      The $7.9-billion project would have transported diluted bitumen from the Alberta tarsands across British Columbia to ships destined for Asia. It would have seen twin pipelines carrying 525,000 barrels of bitumen and 193,000 barrels of condensate per day between Bruderheim, Alberta, and Kitimat, B.C., where the oil would be loaded onto approximately 220 tankers per year.

      A third proposal, another Enbridge project called Line 3, received the government’s conditional approval to go ahead.

      Line 3 presently transports bitumen from the Alberta tarsands via a terminal at Hardisty (two hours’ drive east of Edmonton) to the United States by way of a terminal at Superior, Wisconsin. The proposal that Trudeau’s cabinet approved will see it expanded.

      Trudeau argued that the approval of the Kinder Morgan project alongside the rejection of the Enbridge pipeline strikes a balance.

      “Voters rejected the old thinking that what is good for the economy is bad for the environment,” he said. “They embraced the idea that we need strong environmental policies if we expect to develop our national resources and get them to international markets. Canadians know that strong action on the environment is good for the economy.”

      Trudeau maintained that the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is not a betrayal of the country’s commitments to combat climate change.

      “Climate change is real,” he said in French. “It is here and we cannot wish it did not exist or vote for climate change to disappear. Canadians know that we must begin to transition towards an economy based on clean energy. This is a duty which we have towards ourselves. We must ensure that our economy is more competitive but we also have a duty towards our children and grandchildren to leave them a cleaner environment. But we also know that this transition requires investment and that this will not happen overnight. To fund this change towards a carbon-free world, we will have to create good jobs and generate strong economic growth.”

      In Vancouver, opposition to the pipeline has grown for some time and intensified in recent months.

      On April 9, 2015, a grain ship spilled bunker fuel into the Burrard Inlet. The City of Vancouver has raised concerns for the risk of similar spills that could increase with a twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline carrying more oil to the Lower Mainland.

      On November 19, thousands of people marched from city hall to downtown Vancouver, making a noisy show of protest.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson immediately condemned Ottawa’s approval of the Kinder Morgan expansion.

      “I am profoundly disappointed with today’s decision,” he said in a news release. “Approving Kinder Morgan’s heavy oil pipeline expansion is a big step backwards for Canada’s environment and economy. The project was approved under a flawed and biased Harper-era regulatory process that shut out local voices and ignored climate change and First Nations concerns.

      “The Federal Government’s decision on Kinder Morgan is a missed opportunity for Canada, as there has never been a better time to aggressively shift to a clean energy future,” Robertson continued. “Vancouver will continue to raise concerns about Kinder Morgan’s massive expansion that could bring seven times the number of oil tankers to our waters.”

      From the other end of the political spectrum, Andrew Saxton, a former Conservative MP representing North Vancouver and a candidate for leader of the federal Conservatives, said it was a mistake for the government to deny Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.

      “Any government making decisions based on facts and evidence and the consistent rule of law should approve them both,” he said in a statement sent to media. “Instead, Justin Trudeau decided to play politics, ignore the national interest, and pick one pipeline and reject another. He could have shown leadership by talking and listening to First Nations, British Columbians and other Canadians and by working to address concerns and anxiety out there about Northern Gateway's safety. Instead, he ignored the science, he ignored the experts, and he simply said no.”

      The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs called for an "emergency" protest of the Kinder Morgan decision to happen at 5 p.m. today (November 29) in downtown Vancouver at the CBC building at the intersection of Georgia and Hamilton streets.

      Following the mayor’s lead, B.C. environmental groups issued releases condemning the federal government’s decision on Kinder Morgan.

      “Canadians—and especially British Columbians—have said loud and clear that we don’t want this reckless pipeline coming anywhere near the Pacific coast,” said Peter McCartney, a Wilderness Committee climate campaigner. “To ignore the deeply held views of the vast majority of people who live on this coast is outrageous.”

      Karen Campbell, a lawyer with the Vancouver-based nonprofit Ecojustice, said the government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan expansion was irreconcilable with action that Canada needs to take to ward off the worst effects of climate change.

      “While we are glad that Cabinet has rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, this does not change the fact that approving the Kinder Morgan project flies in the face of precautionary, evidence-based decision-making and takes Canada in the wrong direction on climate change,” she said quoted in a media release.

      “The federal government insists that it is committed to acting on climate change, but approving Kinder Morgan’s project contradicts its promises and undermines the government’s climate strategy and its international commitments.”

      Follow Travis Lupick on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.