Dear Orcas: The Trans Mountain death machine has been stopped

Indigenous groups and other humans who are not in climate denial have significant reason to celebrate today, as the Federal Court of Appeal has invalidated the government’s approvals to build the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain expansion project.

The court, represented by Justice Eleanor Dawson, found that the federal cabinet based its approval of the pipeline on a fatally-flawed National Energy Board assessment of the project. The November 2016 NEB assessment declared that the pipeline would not cause significant adverse environmental impacts, but the NEB neglected to consider the fact that the expansion would triple the pipeline’s output to 890,000 barrels a day, and see a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in B.C.’s Burrard Inlet. The increased tanker traffic would be a death sentence for the southern resident killer whales in the waters around the line’s shipping terminal, who are already overstressed due to human activity. Underwater noise interferes with the orca’s ability to communicate and to find food.

The court has halted construction of the 1,150-kilometre project indefinitely.

Now, thanks to the Liberal government, Canadian taxpayers are the not-so-proud owners of a proposed pipeline project, or as some have suggested, “a pig in a poke“, and we are on the hook for 7.4-billion dollars. That is the bad news. The good news, though, is that we have dodged a bullet in terms of climate change, and that Salish Sea resident orcas will not follow the cougar into extinction any time soon, and that Indigenous rights have been respected, for once. It is a day to celebrate!

2 thoughts on “Dear Orcas: The Trans Mountain death machine has been stopped”

  1. I am, indeed, celebrating that the approval for pipeline expansion has been quashed. And am also very proud of the stand that Unitarians across the country have taken. I think we need to be very careful though to be presenting factually correct information. Even if this were a sign that the pipeline expansion will not go ahead – and at this point, that is not a done deal – we can certainly not say that therefore the resident orcas are not in danger of extinction. That claim both makes false promises and allows for complacency in the protection of a population whose threats include but are also bigger than one pipeline project.

    • Dear Janet, You are absolutely right about the resident orcas–in truth, the Trans Mountain cancellation is more of a reprieve than a salvation. The orcas are still stressed from existing traffic, and starving. I am sorry if I give the impression of advocating complacency; that is certainly not my intention. Those who care about these orcas know that it will be challenging for them to survive.


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