Canada Approves Economically Inviable Pipeline Without Indigenous Consultation

The liberal government has failed to demonstrate a commitment to First Nations and climate change concerns, say Robyn Allan and Louisette Lanteigne

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Story Transcript

DHARNA NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Dharna Noor joining you in Baltimore.

This week, the Canadian Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave approval to the proposed 36 billion dollar Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline and export facility. They’re set to be built on Lelu Island off the coast of British Columbia. The project is majority owned by the Malaysian company PETRONAS.

There’s also a pending decision from the Prime Minister expected in December as has been leaked to Bloomberg News on another highly controversial BC based pipeline, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline has been the subject by the major campaign of the advocacy group Lead Now. The deadline for public input on this pipe is Friday September 30th.

With us to discuss these two pipelines and their social environmental and economic implications are our two guests.

Robyn Allan is a former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. She was an expert intervener at the National Energy Board Trans Mountain Expansion Hearing.

We’re also joined by Louisette Lanteigne who is a pro bono advocate who stopped projects and secured concessions to protect water supplies and endangered species. Her work is housed at the Wilfred Laurier Archives which is the largest repository of environmental law data in Canada. Thanks for joining us both of you.

LOUISETTE LANTEIGNE: Welcome

NOOR: So let’s begin by talking about the approval of the Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline. The environment minister Catherine McKenna said that quote, this project was subject to a rigorous environmental assessment and today’s announcement reflects this commitment. The government has also attached 190 legally binding conditions to this approval which for the first time includes placing a maximum cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

So what’s your reaction to the approval of the pipeline and the conditions that they’re attaching to it.

LANTEIGNE: Well upon first hearing it I found it interesting that she also made note that there was indigenous consultation involved with this project because people who actually live on Lelu Island were not consulted and its quite alarming for them to find this decision approved. We really have to go back to the root of why can’t they say no? We’ve seen this government be very proactive in saying we need to do climate action and yet on the same note, they just approved the highest polluting project so why is no, the answer? Well I think it goes down to laws like NAFTA which make it very difficult for Canada to back out of the bad project without risking liability. So I think what they’re doing is they’re actually falling back on First Nations to bail them out. Because First Nations are recognized nations according to international treaties, recognized by the United Nations. We have the current [say no,] because we never signed NAFTA so there’s no NAFTA risk associated with us saying no. I think that’s what he’s placing his bets on.

NOOR: And let’s shift gears and discuss the Kinder Morgan Pipeline as well. Robyn you’ve looked at the economics of this pipeline. Does the construction of this pipeline make economic sense? Is this a good mood for Canada?

ALLAN: Not at all. This pipeline makes no economic sense and I intervened in the process trying to get on the hearing record. The economic case against the pipeline and the National Energy Board refused to hear it. So we have a captured regulator in Canada. It’s like [inaud.] in the states in that it regulates the pipelines. But this regulator does not regulate in the public interests. It only supports the wishes of pipeline companies and that’s why it’s undergoing a major review.

We were promised it would be overhauled, we were promised that the Trans Mountain review would be redone under a credible process. And that promise has also been broken. So we have a serious economic harm being done to the community economy and that’s not being recognized and this false dichotomy that their economic benefits have to be pressed up against an environmental harm, it’s a ridiculous argument but it continues to hold the day and it’s very distressing for people here that understand what’s going on.

NOOR: And on this pipeline, Louissette, can you talk about the role First Nations are playing in this assessment process? The government is saying they are consulting First Nations on these pipelines? But what are the processes for input in place and are they legitimate? What effect can they have because it’s worth noting also that Canada became a signatory to the UN declaration t the rights of indigenous peoples back in May, so has that had any effect?

LANTEIGNE: Well here’s the root of the issue. When Canada became a nation that was without writ to the beneficiaries who were receiving benefits from the original crown agreements and the treaty rights. So we have basically what’s existing as a corporate entity and a corporate entity has no jurisdictional power to handle international treaties because they’re not technically a country. We are countries. The First nation’s people are actually recognized in the UN as being countries because we had to do agreements with Europe in order to do trade.

In my case, the first time we were recognized as official nationhood was in 1610 by way of [inaud.] because [inaud.]. NBC they have other treaties specific to their people as well with the crown. So the only protocol we are legally bound to is consultation with the crown itself. We don’t have an indigenous people, the mechanisms to facilitate a third party entity to replace that function. It’s not right for us to see Canada download the burden of consultation onto a third party NEB when they have nothing to do in our policy with what we need to do to comply with the law.

NOOR: Talk some more about how the National Energy Board functions. As you said Robyn, the board was promised to soon undergo a huge overhaul. But who’s interests are they representing now and who would be represented if they did undergo this overhaul?

ALLAN: Well the National Energy Board is supposed to represent the public interests, the Canadian public interests and it has become completely incapable of delivering its job because it is simply a facilitator of the interests of pipeline companies. It has never seen a project it doesn’t like. It has gone to the situation now where in order to get to yes on these projects that are not economically sound and not in the Canadian public interests, they restrict the scope of issues, they refuse cross examination of the evidence, they actually exclude participation by people that are directly affected and they refuse to actually test the evidence that does happen to make it to the record.

So you see what we have is a situation where in order to get to yes they have to rig the outcome and we have a Prime Minister that understood that and he promised he would redo this review under a credible quasi-judicial process and he’s broken that. And what that has created in British Columbia and across Canada is huge, huge resistance that will be mounted to the point that this project will never go forward because due process hasn’t been given. And we do have the First Nations to be very thankful to because they are very strong and adamant that they have to be consulted on a government to government basis and that’s not being done.

So now we have a situation where First Nations, communities, concerned citizens, retired people, thoughtful Canadians are saying no, it stops here and we will not allow this.

LANTEIGNE: You see a pattern repetitively where the consultation processes that they deem worthy only come after the decision has been officially made by way of the NEB. Harper’s logic was basically that well we don’t need consultation unless a decision is actually made that they don’t like. What that does it pushes us into a position of fiscal duress because we have to foot the bill for natural court process to have a say on the project. Whereas the rest of Canada I allowed to engage freely in the National Energy Board process prior to the decision. We don’t have a say prior to the decision.

That’s the fundamental issue. Why is it that we have to pay in the courts to have our stake where the rest of the communities have the right to speak before the decision is made. We don’t like this approach, it’s very costly and a lot of duress for indigenous people across Canada.

ALLAN: And just speaking to that as well because the cost situation is very imbalanced. The National Energy Board a number of years ago provided Kinder Morgan a 238-million-dollar fund in an unprecedented decision to force this regulatory approval through. And then when it came to participating in the NEB hearing, participants got hardly any funding at all. We’re talking 3-4 million compared to 38 million. It’s totally unfair.

The NEB has rigged this entire process. It is not credible in Canada. People do not believe the NEB should be trusted in any way and we have the energy east hearings that crumbled because of conflict of interests. So the system isn’t functioning. It’s broke and the more these companies try to push this project through, Kinder Morgan tries to lobby the government, tries to use all his power from the states to push this through, the less and less likely this thing is going to happen.

NOOR: I want to wrap by asking what comes of the environmental goals that were set at the Paris Climate Agreement for Canada? Will these pipelines if and when they’re built have any effect on whether or not these goals can be met?

LANTEIGNE: Only in the LNG process it was clarified quite plainly that the issue of climate change was outside the scope of the review process and such was the case of the Line 9 hearings as well. We had an expert during the Enbridge Line 9 hearing Ontario with the National Energy Board who came and spoke of the [Rossby wave effects]. How the tar sands are creating a heat island effect that is blowing hot air into the Arctic and effecting jet streams so much so that instead of it going in a straight line across the earth, keeping Nordic temperatures here, the mid climates here and so on, they’ve essentially created a giant bubble of heat that goes up and it pushes cold air down. And its effecting the jet streams so dramatically that it altered the flight times from Britain to Canada by an hour.

We’re dealing with all kinds of havoc because once the weather patterns go in this kind of chaotic effect, it’s a ripple effect for all of the other jet streams. So this is a big part of climate change and yet the National Energy Board stated to this man, sorry this outside the scope and one of the promises of the Trudeau government was that they would consider climate risk into the National Energy Board process. But with the approval of the LNG we clearly see that he’s not applying that logic.

ALLAN: And further to that, the national energy board reviewed Kinder Morgan’s project under a projection of future oil supply that did not have any of the liberal government’s stated climate change policies included in it. So we essentially have the Kinder Morgan NEB recommended project under the Harper government vision of the future. And so now we have the liberal government suggesting that this project’s needed when in fact that projections it’s based on are ridiculous. And so you have this huge duplicity coming from the federal government. They say one thing and they’re doing another and Canadians really are not being fooled.

LANTEIGNE: The weakest part of this entire argument is actually the economics because right now they’re losing about $25 per [inaud.] just pulling it out of the ground. That doesn’t count the infrastructure costs. We have experts like Jeff Rubin and experts like Mike Ellison from the industry itself saying this is not viable. We have report after report showing that the economics don’t make sense any more like 2025, we’re going to have electric cars the same price as carbon combustion engine. So the demand isn’t there. We have an oil glut. They’re not applying the reality of today’s economics on these proposals that came out back in 2012, 2015 and 14. We have to look at the reality of today’s economics and know when to cut bait.

NOOR: Again the deadline for public input on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is Friday September 30th. Robyn and Louissette, thank you so much for joining us today.

ALLAN: You’re welcome.

LANTEIGNE: Thank you very much.

NOOR: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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