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

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Kinder Morgan’s Tight Grip on the Canadian Government: What is Canada’s history with oil and what is the present situation?

Manipulating Facts: How Canada’s indigenous population has been repeatedly disrespected by proponents of oil

They’re Killing Our Environment For What? What damage will the pipeline impose on Canada’s rich ecosystem and is it worth it? (short answer: NO)

Where Do We go From Here: How you can stop the Trans Mountain Expansion


Kinder Morgan’s Tight Grip on the Canadian Government

Burning carbon has sustained the human race for centuries. In modern societies, we cannot imagine life without it. How did we get here? Since the industrial revolution, oil companies have been creating an extensive ecosystem to preserve themselves by manipulating governments and reaching into the pockets of wealthy individuals so that entire nations are at their mercy. Those who profit from extracting and distributing carbon religiously repeat the same argument that it brings jobs and money. Unfortunately, they conveniently fail to mention the irreversible damage their precious resource causes, intentionally blinding many to the environmental devastation taking place before them.

Most recently, the Canadian government has employed the ‘more jobs more money’ rhetoric to push for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project that aims to double the length of existing oil pipelines. This ‘twinning’ would nearly triple the amount of oil transported between Alberta and B.C. in a time where global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions are at record highs. This is to say, the project would add fuel to an already ravaging fire.

Initially, Kinder Morgan seemed willing to work with the Canadian Energy Regulator and indigenous communities to ensure their infrastructure imposed minimal damage on communities and ecosystems. But indigenous and environmental groups were in a losing battle from the very start. They didn’t stand a chance against the all-mighty oil companies. Kinder Morgan had more resources, money, and the support of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. So, it was no surprise when, just as the project was about to go under, a 4-billion-dollar Hail Mary from Trudeau saved it, allowing more oil than ever to be extracted and burned in Canada.

“We are committed to building a renewed relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership” – Justin Trudeau

Throughout this past decade of deliberation, the Aboriginal community has been repeatedly 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 consistently denied these rights.

Manipulating Facts

When addressing indigenous communities about the positive implications of the pipeline, Kinder Morgan and the NEB used simple language, provided ample visual aids, and used definite terms like, “The extension will bring new jobs”. Conversely, when depicting any negative implications of the pipeline, they used more complicated and inaccessible language and avoided making any guarantees about negative repercussions (i.e., “The project may impose some damage on the environment”). They further disrespected the community by denying them access to adequate resources such as experts and funding. They actively blocked any pipeline nay-sayers from having a fair fight.

The NEB also made it clear that eventhough they were willing to entertain some concerns, they were the ultimate deciding figure. So, while Trans Mountain will likely put more than 50% of individuals in Indigenous reserves at risk, Aboriginals only have the right to complain, not to veto or to give consent.

For example, the pipeline is sure to disrupt access to clean water. Already, 1 in 4 habitants on aboriginal reserves experience water insecurity and Trudeau has repeatedly stated that he wishes to solve this problem. But, it seems  this was all talk because in 2018, the Federal government chose to spend 4.5 billion dollars to save the pipeline instead of spending necessary money to solve the water crisis. This is yet another example of blatant hypocrisy from the Canadian Government who managed to once again disrespect indigenous people.

They’re Killing our Environment For What?

We cannot discuss the Trans Mountain Pipeline without also discussing its complicated impacts on the environment. While the final product may span 980km, it will ultimately have global ramifications.

Any ecosystem along the pipeline route is at serious risk of disturbances and oil spills. The project website even states that TMX will not be able to restore the land back to its original state, but that it will ‘try its hardest’. We can no longer settle for such platitudes. Original ecosystems are rich with diverse species that cannot be replicated in a mere 2-5 years. They are the result of millennia of growth and evolution and hold so much ecological value. When they are destroyed, no amount of regrowth can restore them to their original glory.

Expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline will also have deep ramifications on global emissions as it encourages Canadians to keep burning fossil fuels. And, as we continue to extract, the oil will only become more difficult to access. Essentially, we will have to spend more energy to extract a worse product. This means more greenhouse gas emissions, increased temperatures, and bigger problems to solve down the road.

What is most confusing about the situation is how backward it all seems. There are clear environmental and social repercussions and little to gain from so much harm. The oil is no longer of good quality and will only become harder to access in the future. As well, the supply we have, while substantial, is sure to run out in under half a century. What is worse, the government’s investment in the project will not generate massive returns. Recent studies have demonstrated that final returns for fossil fuels are much lower than initial estimates and on a continuous decline. Canadians are throwing good money after bad to support a dying industry.

Where do we go from here?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

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 the reasoning, 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. 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.

How you can stop the expansion project:

Urge insurance companies such as Liberty Mutual, Zurich Insurance, and Chubb to drop Trans Mountain (this, in particular, has gained a lot of traction

Call the new Finance Minister to stop funding the project

Call your MP to drop their support

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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