Tar sands pipelines

It’s kayaks vs. tankers as pipeline battle heats up in B.C.

NEB approval of Trans Mountain pipeline widely considered a fait accompli
Devyn Brugge

Early Wednesday morning, activists in kayaks on Burrard Inlet blocked a tanker headed to Kinder Morgan’s terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The latest direct action comes on the eve of a decision from the National Energy Board on the company’s proposed pipeline, and just days after close to one thousand people blocked the Kinder Morgan terminal by land and water.

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“We were out in the way of a tanker headed for the terminal for about an hour,” explained Cam Fenton of 350 Canada. “The Port Authority brought its boats and basically pushed us out of the tanker’s way, at which point it wasn’t safe for us to continue there.”

Fenton told Ricochet that all the activists involved pledged to continue challenging Kinder Morgan’s presence on Burrard Inlet and to increase the size of their kayak fleets as the deadline for a federal government decision on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline draws closer.

Expect to see more of this type of direct action throughout the summer on the west coast.

“No matter the NEB recommendations, Kinder Morgan has been rejected by First Nations and other communities, and it won’t meet any reasonable climate test,” Fenton said. “Regardless of the NEB, this pipeline isn’t getting built.”

With the NEB set to release its recommendation on Kinder Morgan’s proposal this week, expect to see more of this type of direct action throughout the summer on the west coast.

The NEB’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s tar sands export pipeline proposal is widely seen as a fait accompli. The federal government didn’t wait for the formality of the NEB’s green light to roll out its supplemental review. On Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced a three-person panel to carry out what is essentially a consultative process in advance of a cabinet decision on the pipeline due in December 2016.

Supplemental review panel won’t make decision

Jim Wilkinson, Liberal MP for North Vancouver, told Business in Vancouver the three-person panel will not be issuing its own formal decision. “The panel is not going to come back with a formal recommendation about whether the process should go ahead. It’s going to come back and tell the minister that this is what we heard from communities and these are the specific concerns that need to be addressed.”

In other words, the new panel doesn’t have specific regulatory power. This is not what Liberal candidates and leader Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 election campaign. Liberal MP Terry Beech, who won in the riding of Burnaby North where Kinder Morgan’s terminal is located, told his local community newspaper, “We are going to redo the National Energy Board process. We’re going to broaden the scope. We’re going to make sure it’s objective, fair and based on science.”

It won’t take much consultation work to realize that many First Nations and municipalities in B.C. are firmly opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Trudeau, in an exchange captured on video with Kai Nagata of the Dogwood Initiative, also explicitly promised that the NEB process for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project “needs to be redone.”

Far short of overhauling and redoing the badly flawed NEB process for the Trans Mountain pipeline, the additional review is merely a listening exercise. The real decision now rests with Trudeau and his cabinet.

What will the new panel hear? It won’t take much consultation work to realize that many First Nations and municipalities in B.C. are firmly opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline. This includes vocal opposition from the municipal governments in Vancouver and Burnaby. Perhaps to help expedite the new review process, organizations in B.C. this week released a new map of opposition to Kinder Morgan in the province.

Rueben George, spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which staunchly opposes the pipeline and tanker expansion, told CBC News the new panel would have trouble turning the tide. “What you have is 24 months of the NEB and their processing, and now you have this new group coming in that are gonna try to do what they couldn't do in 24 months, and they're gonna do it in four months.”

Regardless of what the new, supplemental review panel does over these next four months, it’s clear for many activists that the plan is to hit the streets — and the water. Expect to see more images of kayaks facing down tankers in Burrard Inlet this summer.

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