How the Trans Mountain Pipeline Will Lock Canada into a Fatal Mistake

The manner in which the Trudeau government and by extension, the NEB have tackled this crucial development is horrendous to say the least. They have ignored the cries of Indigenous communities who they swear to protect, turned a blind eye to science and reason, and have locked our country into a deadly mistake. Their actions cannot be ignored and should not be tolerated. What is most important in these times is that we find our voices. Tell your friends, family, and neighbours about the Expansion project and why you think it should be stopped. Use your social media to inform individuals and make sure you are always citing credible sources. Be respectful with your words but firm in your beliefs and don’t let this problem go unresolved!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Navigate this Post:

  1. Background and a bit of History: A brief overview of Canada’s history extracting oil and building the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
  2. Impact on Indigenous Communities: How governments have silenced Indigenous voices throughout deliberation and how the pipeline will impact Indigenous way of life.
  3. Impact on the Environment: The Expansion will lock Canada into extracting and burning fossil fuels for the foreseeable future and this will have a complex impact on the global environment.
  4. Where do we go from here? If you want to get involved in stopping the Expansion, some resources are provided.

Background and a bit of History:

Photo by Daniel Joseph Petty on Pexels.com

Extracting and burning oil is entrenched in our way of life. Just about every country fortunate enough to have it, has taken extraordinary measures to exploit it; and Canada is no exception. With the 3rd largest reserve of crude oil in the world, Canada is well aware of the fortune it resides on and has been extracting oil for decades. In Alberta, Canada’s oil capital, expellers dot the landscape and remind residents of what their livelihoods depend on. Proponents of oil willingly overlook the substance’s environmental impacts and repeat the rhetoric that it ‘brings jobs and money’ in the face of backlash. However, while this may be true, it is simply no longer good enough.

The most recent use of the ‘more jobs, more money’ justification by the Canadian government can be seen in their push to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The original infrastructure running from Alberta to B.C. was built in the 1950s to transport crude oil and bitumen to Canada’s western coastal region where it could then be exported internationally. In 2013, Trans Mountain began discussing the possibility of doubling the existing pipeline to meet increased demands from shippers. This ‘twinning’ would increase the flow of oil from 300000 barrels per day to more than 890000 barrels per day. Trans Mountain worked with the NEB (National Energy Board now known as the Canadian Energy Regulator) to ensure that the ultimate proposal posed little harm to the environment and did not encroach on indigenous communities. This involved an environmental assessment and a hearing that invited aboriginals to give their opinion. The result was a plan that had to abide by 157 conditions before, during, and after construction and ensured the safety of environments and communities in the area. This plan was approved by the federal government yet quickly challenged. Courts called for deeper explorations of the repercussions on marine life and that more meaningful discussions be had with Aboriginal communities. This led to the roll out of a second proposal in 2019 which was quickly approved by the government. Although Indigenous and environmental advocacy groups attempted to challenge the decision citing inadequate safety measures and consultation processes, the Supreme Court made it clear they no longer wanted to listen.

The manner in which the Trudeau government and by extension, the NEB have tackled this crucial development is horrendous to say the least. They have ignored the cries of Indigenous communities who they swear to protect, turned a blind eye to science and reason, and have locked our country into a deadly mistake. Their actions cannot be ignored and should not be tolerated.  

Impact on Indigenous Communities:

National Observer: nationalobserver.com

Throughout this past decade of deliberation, the Aboriginal community has been consistently disrespected and disenfranchised by the Canadian government. Under the 1982 Constitution Act, Aboriginals have treaty rights to ownership of reserve lands, preservation of their traditional ways, and to meaningful consultations from authorities; yet they have been denied these rights at every point.

One such example is how Kinder Morgan has presented information to indigenous communities. When addressing positive implications of the pipeline, they use simple language that is easy to understand, and they provide ample visual aids. However, when depicting the negative outcomes of the pipeline, they employ more complicated and technical language that is not accessible to lay individuals. They further disrespect the community by denying them access to resources such as experts and funding which would help in them better understand the true ramifications of the expansion. This is yet another example of the wealthy winning an argument in which their opponents had no tools to fight back. The NEB/CER also explains the benefits of the pipeline in a way that makes them seem definite. They say that the project will produce more jobs, will boost the economy, and will up-lift their community; however, they don’t make any guarantees with regards to the negative repercussions. They suggest there is a definite benefit, but only a risk of failure.

The NEB/CER makes it clear that while they may be willing to entertain some concerns, they are the ultimate deciding figure and have all the power. So, while Trans Mountain will likely put more than 50% of individuals in Indigenous reserves at risk of being exposed to dangers, Aboriginals only have the right to complain, not to veto or to give consent.

A particular aspect of daily living that the pipeline is sure to disrupt is access to clean water. Already, 1 in 4 individuals on First Nation reserves experience water insecurity, despite Canada having the most abundance of freshwater in the world. The government has said in the past that they wish to solve this problem and advisors have even drafted proposal estimating it would take 3.2 billion dollars to do so. However, instead of investing that money towards this group, in 2018, the Federal government spent 4.5 billion dollars to buy out Trans Mountain and ensure the project moves forward. This is yet another example of blatant hypocrisy from the Trudeau Government who chose short term profit over the well-being of an important Canadian community.

Impact on the Environment:

The Energy Mix: theenergymix.com

We cannot discuss the Trans Mountain Pipeline without also discussing its complicated impacts on the environment. While the final product may span 980km, its ultimate impacts will afflict the entire country, and even the world.

If we focus our scope first however on the pipeline route, the ecosystems that it will run through are at serious risk of disturbances and oil spills. The TMX website itself recognizes that they may not always be capable of restoring the land back to its original state but promise to do their best. However, we can no longer settle for such promises. Original ecosystems are filled with diverse species of all ages and cannot be replicated in a mere 2-5 years. They are a result of a millennia of growth and evolution and hold so much biodiversity and ecological value. When they are destroyed, so is that biodiversity and no amount of regrowth can restore them to their original glory. Furthermore, oil spills can be silent killers of ecosystems and have been shown to leach into areas far from their original spill site. The pipeline has a history of leaking with more than 88 spills having been recorded since it was first installed. These spills can interfere with aquatic ecosystems, land environments, and underground water sources for many communities.

On a bigger scale, expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline will have deep ramifications on global emissions as it essentially locks Canada into extracting oil for the foreseeable future. The extraction process itself is very harmful as it demands large quantities of water and thus depletes and contaminates important aquatic environments. As we continue to extract, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that oil will become increasingly more difficult to access. Thus, more energy and resources will have to be expended to extract decreasing qualities of oil. Canada has already burned through its most valuable oil and has been forced to switch to withdraw in lower quality reserves.

If TMX is hell-bent on extracting oil than Canadians will also have to continue to burn it as the company will need to see returns on their investment. This means more greenhouse gas emissions, increased temperatures, and bigger problems to solve down the road.

What is arguably most confusing about the situation is how backwards it all seems. There are clear negative repercussions to burning and extracting oil that will impact communities and environments globally. The oil we are currently extracting is no longer good quality and will only become harder to access in the future. As well, the supply we have, while substantial, is not going to last forever and has been predicted to run out in under half a century. What is worse, the government’s investment in this project will not generate the returns it expects to. Recent studies have demonstrated that final return on investments for fossil fuels are much lower than initially estimated and that they are further declining. So, using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will actually become just as profitable as fossil fuels if not more so.

Where do we go from here?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Approval and support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion has been an embarrassingly poor decision by the government. It endangers species and communities, is sure to increase greenhouse gas emissions, and is a short-term investment that will provide Canadians with little in return. While we may be tempted to question their decision, it is most important now to focus on what we can do to stop the project’s progression.

Unfortunately, it seems as though appealing to courts is no longer possible as First Nations and environmental groups have exhausted these avenues and have repeatedly been rejected. Despite this, our fight is not over. Several non-profits and advocacy groups are running initiatives to fight this cause that you can get involved in. They require little of your time and money but even your small actions can have massive ramifications.

Suggestions for how you can stop the Expansion project:

  1. Urging insurance companies such as Liberty Mutual, Zurich Insurance, and Chubb to drop Trans Mountain (this in particular has gained a lot of traction).
  2. Calling Finance Minister Bill Morneau to stop funding the project
  3. Calling your MP to drop their support
  4. Write to Premiere Horgan to cancel TMX’s building permit

You can also donate to these non-profits to help them stop the Expansion Project:

Wilderness Committee: based in B.C. but working across Canada to fight climate change by protecting wildlife and natural resource.

Stand.Earth: non-profit that challenges governments and corporations to do better with regards to their environmental policy and treat our land with respect.

Living Oceans: The Trans Mountain Expansion will have deep impacts on Canada’s coastal and marine life. They support and protect Canada’s ocean by advocating for evidenced-based policy and ocean management practices.

What is most important in these times is that we find our voices. Tell your friends, family, and neighbours about the Expansion project and why you think it should be stopped. Use your social media to inform individuals and make sure you are always citing credible sources. Be respectful with your words but firm in your beliefs and don’t let this problem go unresolved!


Referenced Material:

Bórawski, P., Beldycka-Bórawska, A., Szymańska, E. J., Jankowski, K. J., Dubis, B., Dunn, J. W. (2019). Development of renwable energy sources market and biofuels in the European Union. Journal of Cleaner Production, 228: 467-484. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.04.242

Brockway, P. E., Owen, A., Brand-Correa, L. I., Hardt, L. (2019).  Estimation of global final-stage energy-return-on-investment for fossil fuels with comparison to renewable energy sources. Nature Energy, 4: 612-621. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0425-z

CER-REC. (n.d.). Trans Mountain Interactive Conditions Tool. Retrieved July 6, 2020 from: https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/pplctnflng/mjrpp/trnsmntnxpnsn/cndtnstl-eng.html

Cooey-Hurtado, L., Tan, D., Kobayashi, B. (2019). Rhetoric deployed in the communication between the National Energy Board and Aboriginal communities in the case of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Young Scholars Writing, 16. https://youngscholarsinwriting.org/index.php/ysiw/article/view/274

Dale, D. (2020). Benchmarking fiscal benefit distributions through Impact Benefit Agreements: A case study of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Resource Management. http://summit.sfu.ca/item/20411

Datta R. & Hurlbert, M. A. (2020). Pipeline spills and indigenous energy justice. Sustainability, 12(2): 47. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010047

Kraushaar-Friesen, N.E. (2019). Examining the hegemony of fossil fuels in Trudeau government’s discourse on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. Master’s Thesis: Human Ecology. http://lup.lub.lu.se/student-papers/record/8996094

Thompson, M., Alderman, S. L., Wilson, K., Dalgarno, S., Thorley, J. L., Gavin, S., Dersch, A., Boyer, L. (2020). Trans Mountain expansion project and oil spills: Power analysis on Pacific salmon data. Management and Solutions in Environmental Science. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joseph_Thorley/publication/342184077_Trans_Mountain_Expansion_Project_and_Oil_Spills_Power_Analysis_on_Pacific_Salmon_Data/links/5ee7f1efa6fdcc73be7d61a3/Trans-Mountain-Expansion-Project-and-Oil-Spills-Power-Analysis-on-Pacific-Salmon-Data.pdf

Trans Mountain. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2020 from: https://www.transmountain.com/

Qazi, A., Hussain, F., Rahim, N. A. B. D., Hardaker, G., Alghazzawi, D., Shaban, K., Haruna, K. (2019). Towards sustainable energy: A systematic review of renewable energy sources, technologies, and public opinions. IEEE Access, 7: 63837-63851. 10.1109/ACCESS.2019.2906402.

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