As the Canadian government approved the expansion of a pipeline that will triple the amount of oil brought from Alberta to a Vancouver-area port, opponents promised to continue their efforts to kill the project.
A major expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that will nearly triple the capacity of an existing pipeline carrying oil from Alberta to a Vancouver-area harbor was approved by the Canadian government yesterday.
The project is opposed by many environmental groups, First Nations and tribes on both sides of the border because it would lead to a dramatic increase in tanker traffic on the Salish Sea — marine waters shared by British Columbia and Washington state — and increase the chance of spills, as well as stoke global warming.
The decision is “in the best interest of all Canadians,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a news conference.
“Others will oppose this decision,” Trudeau said. “We will not be swayed by political arguments, be they local, regional or national, we are convinced it is safe for B.C. and the right one for Canada. This is a major win for Canadian workers and the economy now and into the future.”
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“It’s unbelievable,” said Fred Felleman, a Seattle port commissioner and consultant for Friends of the Earth, which opposed the project. “First Nations and certainly the Salish tribes in particular are obviously geared up for this battle.”
Felleman said the concerns raised by Washington tribes, regulators and environmentalists were “summarily dismissed.”
The expansion nearly triples the capacity of an existing pipeline to carry diluted bitumen oil more than 700 miles from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, immediately east of Vancouver.
The expansion will result in a sevenfold increase in the number of oil tankers in the Salish Sea from 120 per year to 816 per year. That also creates a significant increase in the chance of spills, according to a vessel-traffic risk assessment by George Washington University.
“I stand tall and firmly say that this pipeline is not going to be built, whatever it takes,” said Charlene Aleck, an elected councilor of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “You don’t just need First Nations’ consultation, you need their consent. They have never had a meaningful consultation, let alone gotten to consent,” she said of Kinder Morgan.
The Tsleil-Waututh reserve is just across Burrard Inlet from the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby that will be expanded to load and store oil at the pipeline terminus there.
Additionally, the project faces multiple lawsuits and the opposition of many public officials in the Vancouver area.
The pipeline expansion planned by Kinder Morgan — the largest energy infrastructure company in the U.S., based in Houston, Texas — will increase capacity of Trans Mountain from 300,000 barrels of oil a day to 890,000 barrels a day.
“This is a defining moment for our Project and Canada’s energy industry,” Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to move forward and get this Project built, for the benefit of our customers, communities and all Canadians.”
The $6.8 billion expansion will run along the same route as an existing line built in 1953.
The pipeline expansion is needed because existing pipelines are at capacity and Canada, with the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves, needs ways to get that oil to export markets, Trudeau said. He said moving oil by rail instead is more expensive and more dangerous.
While approving one controversial pipeline, Trudeau rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline through the Great Bear Rainforest in Northwest British Columbia.