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  April 11, 2018

Trudeau Panics After Trans Mountain Tar Sands Pipeline Suspended

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convenes an emergency cabinet meeting to save Trans Mountain while Alberta Premier Rachel Notley warns of a "constitutional crisis." Dimitri Lascaris reports
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DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris for the Real News Network reporting from Montreal, Canada. After weeks of protests in what has been described as the Standing Rock of the North, pipeline company Kinder Morgan announced on April 8 that it is suspending all non-essential activities and related spending on the TransMountain pipeline expansion project. Kinder Morgan also announced that, quote, under current circumstances, specifically including the continued actions and opposition to the project by the province of British Columbia, it will not commit additional shareholder resources to the project. However, Kinder Morgan will consult with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements by May 31 that may allow the project to proceed.

As we have previously reported at the Real News, the $7.4 billion TransMountain pipeline project is designed to increase dramatically the capacity of an existing pipeline system to transport bitumen from Canada's tar sands in northern Alberta to the west coast of Canada, where it is planned to be exported by tankers to Asian markets. The 1250 kilometre pipeline project would increase the capacity of existing infrastructure to 890000 barrels per day, up from 300000 barrels per day, and if completed TransMountain would increase oil tanker traffic on Canada's west coast by a factor of seven.

Those who have been arrested for peacefully protesting the TransMountain pipeline expansion include Romilly Cavanaugh, an environmental engineer educated at Harvard who once worked for Kinder Morgan. Romilly recently spoke to the Real News after her arrest to explain her opposition to the pipeline.

So Romilly, why did you expose yourself to arrest at the site of the TransMountain pipeline expansion?

ROMILLY CAVANAUGH: I made that choice, it wasn't an easy choice. But this pipeline project, the expansion of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline, is just too dangerous, in my opinion, in terms of risks from spills. It will contribute to Canada's climate change, greenhouse gas emissions. It tramples on Indigenous rights. And the process that was used through the National Energy Board to approve this project was deeply flawed.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Others arrested the TransMountain pipeline include Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada, and NDP member of Canada's parliament Kennedy Stewart. A British Columbia judge just recommended that May and Stewart be prosecuted criminally for their act of conscience against TransMountain.

As Romilly Cavanaugh indicated in her interview with the Real News, the TransMountain pipeline project is strongly opposed by indigenous groups in British Columbia. Last year, as the battle over TransMountain began to intensify, the Real News spoke about TransMountain with Charlene Aleck, an elected councilor of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and a spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative.

CHARLENE ALECK: Tsleil-Waututh means people of the inlet. We have stories of our first grandmother being born from the inlet, and that really ties us to the water. It really ties us to the land. And having that bond and that knowledge is hardwired with all Tsleil-Waututh people. We had a saying: When the tide went out, the table is set. Meaning we got about, over 90 percent of our diet from the inlet. It was so bountiful and it was so rich that we had a good way of life. It sustained us.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Despite the strong opposition of environmental groups and Indigenous peoples to the TransMountain project, and despite Kinder Morgan's dramatic announcement of April 8, the battle of TransMountain is far from over. Today Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has convened an emergency cabinet meeting in a bid to save TransMountain, and is in that meeting as we speak. Trudeau is fighting to save the tar sands pipeline despite his stated commitment to the Paris climate accord, a contradiction that has caused leading environmentalists like David Suzuki to brand Trudeau as a liar.

Meanwhile, in the province of Alberta, home to Canada's tar sands industry, the government of NDP Premier Rachel Notley is ratcheting up the rhetoric against the neighbouring province of British Columbia, whose own NDP government has vowed to stop TransMountain. Notley has just stated publicly that the standoff between Alberta and British Columbia might provoke a constitutional crisis. It has also been reported that Notley's government is contemplating investing taxpayer funds in the TransMountain project to reduce Kinder Morgan's exposure and to keep Kinder Morgan in the game. Reports have also begun to emerge that if Kinder Morgan is forced to scrap this tar sands pipeline expansion it will sue Canada's government, potentially for billions of dollars, under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Such a lawsuit would confirm the criticism of various activist groups that investor state dispute resolution provisions of free trade agreements pose grave risks to the environment.

In the battle over TransMountain the stakes are incredibly high, particularly for the environment. As former NASA scientist James Hansen has stated, the continued exploitation of Canada's tar sands means game over for the climate.

The Trudeau government's panicked reaction to the Kinder Morgan announcement raises a troubling question: Is Kinder Morgan trying to pressure the Trudeau government into adopting harsher measures against environmental defenders? We at the Real News will continue to follow closely this rapidly unfolding story in order to determine the answer to that question.

This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for the Real News from Montreal, Canada.


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