Last week, I applied to participate in the National Energy Board review of Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline.
This is my second kick at the can when it comes to tankers and pipelines. Just over a year ago, I made an oral submission to the Enbridge joint review panel. Yes, we know how that ended (although it’s not over yet!). Yet, I firmly believe in the process. Here’s why.
Submitting to a review panel provides an opportunity to participate in democratic processes. Although these processes are being eroded we must avail ourselves of what remains in order that they do not disappear without our understanding or knowledge. It is possible to participate while simultaneously critiquing the process for limiting public participation and not considering carbon emissions associated with this pipeline. And it is equally important to challenge the notion that only landowners directly on the route are “directly affected”.
Having said that, the Kinder Morgan process is in a class of its own. You have to experience it to believe it.
Unlike the Enbridge application, which was fairly straightforward, with Kinder Morgan I felt I was being discouraged from participating right from the beginning. The whole process took me about 20 minutes, with multiple screens to go through, much longer than I would have expected given that this is only an application to be allowed to make a submission.
In order to be considered, you have to explain on what grounds you are applying. The site explains that the grounds under which you are eligible to make a submission are very limited. Living in British Columbia is not enough. You must clearly argue why you will either be directly affected by the proposed pipeline and/or you have information or expertise that you believe is of value to the process.
In order to claim that you are directly affected, you are given a list of eligible issues you must choose from.
List of Issues:
- The need for the proposed project.
- The economic feasibility of the proposed project.
- The potential commercial impacts of the proposed project.
- The potential environmental and socio-economic effects of the proposed project, including any cumulative environmental effects that are likely to result from the project, including those required to be considered by the NEB’s filing manual.
- The potential environmental and socio-economic effects of marine shipping activities that would result from the proposed project, including the potential effects of accidents or malfunctions that may occur.
- The appropriateness of the general route and land requirements for the proposed project.
- The suitability of the design of the proposed project.
- The terms and conditions to be included in any approval the Board may issue.
- Potential impacts of the project on Aboriginal interests.
- Potential impacts of the project on landowners and land use.
- Contingency planning for spills, accidents or malfunctions, during construction and operation of the project.
- Safety and security during construction of the proposed project and operation of the project, including emergency response planning and third-party damage prevention.
I chose numbers 4 (the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of the proposed project), 5 (the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of marine shipping activities, ie. oil spills), and 10 (the potential impacts of the project on landowners and land use).
With a box for 500 words, I really had to think about how to make explain my concerns within this very narrow definition of parameters.
Here is the application I made.
“I am a resident of B.C., a small business owner and live just a stone’s throw from the ocean.
The risk of oil spill by Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline tankers stands to directly affect me.
I grew up on the coast and all my life have eaten from the sea. I was taught how to catch crabs and collect shellfish as a child. We enjoy crabs caught off of Sidney, clams from the Gulf Islands and fish caught right off Clover Point in Victoria. Harvesting from the ocean is a vital part of my culture as a coastal person, and of my 6 year old son’s culture. If there is an oil spill, we stand to lose our ability to safely engage in these activities.
Furthermore, I have grave concerns about the impacts of this project on the economic strength of our province. Our economy is built on our clean natural habitat. The tourism and fishing industries are vital parts of local economies up and down the coast. An oil spill could devastate these sectors, and all the businesses, like my own, that depend on healthy local economies.”
I do not know whether I will have the chance to make a written submission, or whether the NEB will even consider my application. However, I believe in my right to participate in this decision-making process. Building another tar sands pipeline will affect me and my family. Oil tankers on our delicate and unpredictable coast threaten salmon-bearing rivers and the wildlife and communities that depend on them. Expanding fossil fuel consumption puts all of us at risk of massive climate change. We all have a right to speak out against this project.