Note: This article was updated on Nov 28th to add Keystone XL information and to add links to Trans-mountain pipeline news items. Prior to that, the article was updated on October 5th to show the news that the Energy East pipeline was cancelled.
I have been asked a couple of times lately to brief aquaintances on the status of pipelines, so I thought that I would create a status update for the various pipeline projects that First Nations and environmental activists have been working so hard to stop. What a tumultuous summer it has been: spring flooding in Québec, raging forest fires in B.C., multiple, devastating hurricanes in the Carribean, Florida, and the southern U.S., and yesterday, Sept. 20th, an earthquake in Mexico, which has declared a state of emergency. The Earth is writhing in pain, and homo sapiens is getting slapped in the face with the reality of the interdependence of all life and the interconnectedness of human existence. Perhaps, just perhaps, a dawning realization that climate change is real, and it is not going away, is the reason that some pipeline projects have been cancelled.
TransCanada Corp: Keystone XL
Keystone XL is the fourth phase of the Keystone Pipeline System owned by TransCanada Corporation. It runs from Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and also to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma. Keystone XL came to symbolize the battle over climate change and fossil fuels, and in 2015 was temporarily delayed by then President Barack Obama, only to be restarted on January 24, 2017, by President Donald Trump. However, various Indigenous groups on both sides of the border continued to oppose the pipeline vociferously.
The good news, and the bad news
Indigenous groups succeeded in getting the attention of governments, and making the Nebraska Public Service Commission uncomfortable enough that they decided they could not ignore protesters. Regulatory approvals were denied. That is the good news. The bad news is that the pipeline is still going ahead, but on a new route, which will purportedly protect ‘sensitive ecological areas’–if we compare the Earth to a person, this is tantamount to saying, ‘to spare your sensitive heart, I will not stab you in the chest, instead I will chop off your legs’. Should we say thank you? :p
Kinder Morgan: Trans-Mountain Pipeline
The Trans-Mountain pipeline, you will recall, is a $7.4 billion-dollar project to expand an existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline between Strathcona County, Alta. and Burnaby. The new line would almost triple its current capacity, going from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.
The bad news:
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr continue to shill for the pipeline, delivering separate keynote speeches on Nov. 30th at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s energy forum, side by side with Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. president Ian Anderson.
On September 14th, Kinder Morgan got the green light to begin construction on some areas of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, after initially failing around a dozen aspects of a pre-construction audit released by the National Energy Board (NEB).
Reasons for hope:
- Premier John Horgan vowed to fight the expansion project during the provincial election campaign. On Nov. 16th, The Star reported that Horgan had met with the PM, and that he had raised B.C.’s concerns about Kinder Morgan’s proposed $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline project:“I reiterated our position and the prime minister acknowledged that and reiterated his position,” Horgan said.
- The NDP hired Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger as external counsel to provide options on legal challenges. In November 2017, we continue to see reports of the ongoing tug-of-war between the B.C.’s NDP government, which seeks to delay the permitting process and thus the pipeline, and the Canadian and Alberta governments, who are eager to push things through.
- The Secwepemc are resisting the Kinder Morgan pipeline by constructing ten solar-powered tiny houses in its path. On Sept. 11th, the Leap challenged its supporters to help fund this construction — and hit their goal for the week in less than a day.
- As of Nov. 28th, 22,707 people have signed the Coast Protectors’ pledge: “With our voice, in the courts or the streets, on the water or the land. Whatever it takes, we will stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.”
Enbridge Energy: Line 3
This pipeline was intended to replace Enbrige’s aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.
On Sept. 11th, the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that Enbridge Energy had failed to establish the need to replace the Line 3 pipeline, and suggested that it might be better to shut down the existing line, since refineries in Minnesota and the upper Midwest already have sufficient supplies of crude oil and little capacity for processing more of it. The Dept. of Commerce added that Minnesota’s demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products appears unlikely to increase, long term, and that the environmental and socio-economic risks outweigh the benefits to Minnesota.
Trans Canada Pipelines: Energy East (dead)
This pipeline has been defeated!
Thank you to all the activists who worked hard to acheive this victory, and to citizens’ groups like Ecojustice, Equiterre, Council of Canadians and so many others who led the way. (Photo courtesy of Ecojustice.)
TransCanada Pipelines has suspended the approval process for Energy East while the company decides whether to proceed or pull out. In a letter addressed to the prime minister, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant made his pitch to save the pipeline, stating, “I believe that this project is in jeopardy, and that is not in the interests of the country.”
In the face of rampant climate change-related disasters, many people countered that the Energy East project itself is not in the interests of Canada or Canadians–and they were heard!