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Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion: A trail of broken promises and bitumen

Thursday 05th, January 2017 / 14:03
By Jennie Orton

Photo: Mark Klotz

VANCOUVER — As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers block the progress of the Dakota Access Pipeline after months of dogged protests by First Nations and water protectors, another pipeline quietly got the friendly wave by our dashing leader Justin Trudeau, leaving many who voted Liberal due to the party’s platform of pipeline blockage feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse.

When Trudeau announced the federal government’s approval of the expansion, his promises of proven safety and environmental consideration were met with baffled head shakes from not only environmentalists and voters, but also scientists and politicians.

Opposing party leaders such as NDP leader Tom Mulcair cited the flip-flopping of election promises as a slap in the face to Canadian voters who helped the party win the election. Environmental conservation entities like Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation have filed court challenges against the expansion approval, asking for more complete assessments of possible environmental impact. Considering Kinder Morgan’s record of over 80 spills in their history with pipelines, one can understand the apprehension.

One vehemently opposed elected official is Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. In an official statement released after the announcement, Robertson describes himself as “profoundly disappointed.”

“The Federal Government’s decision on Kinder Morgan is a missed opportunity for Canada, as there’s never been a better time to aggressively shift to a clean energy future. Vancouver’s economy is the strongest and greenest in Canada and our marine-based industries play a big role in our success. Vancouver’s economy created 94,000 new jobs last year and significant tax revenue for Canada — it doesn’t make sense to jeopardize that success with the risk that comes with an expanded Kinder Morgan heavy oil pipeline and more tankers. As I’ve said repeatedly, it is not worth the risk.”

But as Alberta heads into its third year of economic downturn at the hands of the recent oil crisis, one can also see the appeal in the promise of jobs and economic prosperity that come with Trudeau’s reversal heard round the world.

Alberta is sitting at over 8.5 percent unemployment rate since the fall of its main industry, a statistic that is forecasted to get worse before it gets better. In light of this, provincial NDP Leader Rachel Notley is supportive of the approval while insisting that diversification of energy sources and industry in the province is her top priority.

In an interview with The Tyee recently, Notley said the following:

“Generally speaking, what we need is to be able to afford to diversify, so at this point it’s more of an investment in diversifying our economy generally, and so there’s a whole range. At the end of the day, I believe that this is the best balance — that approving Kinder Morgan establishes the best balance for climate change progress and success and job creation.”

Kinder Morgan still has a long road ahead before the expansion becomes a reality, and there are stakeholders in all directions who will be watching: from jobless Albertans, industries that operate in the Burrard Inlet, and those wanting to protect the vulnerable orcas on the shipping route. Or even just those who wonder why Great Bear Rainforest is “no place for a pipeline” sounded so good back then, but now sounds a little like an oil spill.

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