The federal government finally announced that we are in a climate emergency. The next day, they approved the Trans Mountain tarsands pipeline expansion.
By Mark Worthing, Climate and Conservation Campaigner
From Ex-Enron executives convincing the federal government to buy a leaky tar sands pipeline to SNC-Lavalin lawyers doing Indigenous consultation for the federal government, the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers is a story of corporate influence over governments, review processes and the public interest.
After turning a blind eye to the climate change impacts of Trans Mountain, the National Energy Board made a remarkable admission about the impacts of TMX on endangered southern resident orcas in its Reconsideration Report released February 22.
In short, just like in their original review of the project three years ago, the NEB admitted that the project’s oil tankers would have “significant adverse effects” on the orcas, but that they decided expanding a tar sands pipeline was more important.
Yes, you are understanding that right – the National Energy Board thinks pipelines are more important than the potential extinction of orcas.
This round of review was so problematic, inadequately scoped, rushed, and inherently compromised by the obvious bias of the federal government that it has set itself up for inevitable legal appeals.
At the same time this half-baked attempt at public review has attempted to give Trans Mountain a second rubber stamp, the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal has broken Trudeau’s cabinet into pieces.
And guess who the federal government appointed as the special envoy for discussions with First Nations regarding the pipeline? None other than the lawyer for SNC-Lavalin, Frank Iacobucci.
Would you trust SNC-Lavalin’s lawyer to handle consultation with First Nations for the federal government while the government is pushing hard for a tar sands pipeline?
That’s how I feel too.
You can almost hear the Kinder Morgan executives laughing from Texas.
So, what’s next?
On the near horizon are the constitutional challenges and referrals in the provincial tit-for-tat game between Alberta and BC.
The outstanding question is this: does a province have the constitutional right to regulate and limit certain substances that are harmful to human health and the environment if this creates implications for the economic prospects of another province?
The BC government has filed a reference case in BC Supreme Court to answer the question of whether the government can limit the transportation of dangerous substances like diluted bitumen across the province. BC’s reference case begins March 18 and could yield a ruling anytime this spring or summer.
But in a desperate attempt to protect the tar sands industry, the Alberta government has retaliated by bringing in legislation that could limit fuel exports to BC. While BC has already attempted to challenge this legislation, a Calgary court has ruled that the legislation can only be challenged if and when it is enforced. Should Alberta enact limitations on fuel exports to BC, this would likely be unconstitutional.
Curiously, however – in a move that contradicts its public stance against Trans Mountain – the BC government is actually fighting the Squamish Nation in court to uphold BC’s Environmental Assessment Certificate and Equivalency Agreement with the NEB. This is despite the project’s approval being quashed in court last year after the original NEB report was found to be too deeply flawed.
So, while Premier Horgan is throwing high-fives with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and together stating publicly they are opposed to TMX, behind courtroom doors they are defending the provincial certificates granted to Trans Mountain during the Christy Clark era.
In short, the government is leaning on their public communications to garner support and influence popular opinion, but they aren’t using all the tools in their toolbox to fight this pipeline.
That’s why—while we stand ready for another possible round of Pull Together to support Indigenous legal challenges—we’re asking the BC government to stop fighting the Squamish Nation and re-do an environmental review of the project under a new process the public can trust. And we ask you to do the same.
You did it!
You helped stop the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers in the courts!
On August 30, we celebrated a major victory as the project’s approval was quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal. This court ruling is fantastic news for orca whales, for our climate, for Indigenous peoples defending their title and rights, and for the rights of all of us to defend the land and waters we love and call home.
And it happened in part thanks to the help of hundreds of people who stepped up in solidarity with First Nations by supporting our Pull Together campaign. With your help, we raised more than $650,000 for the nations fighting this project in court!
Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. First, we sent Kinder Morgan home to Texas, because the company knew this project was a sinking ship. Now, with your support, Indigenous peoples fought back – and won.
The court agreed with what we’ve been saying all along: that the National Energy Board review was deeply flawed and fell far short of the mark in consulting Indigenous peoples.
The fact that the NEB decided not to include in its review the impacts of marine tanker traffic– which it agreed would pose significant adverse effects to endangered orca whales – meant the government could not rely on the Board’s recommendation in making a decision. And because Canada failed to engage meaningfully with Indigenous peoples, the court ruled this consultation needs to be redone.
This is a stunning blow. And it offers the perfect opportunity for Prime Minister Trudeau to walk away from this pipeline and tankers.
But instead, he’s already doubled down his efforts to push this dangerous project through communities that do not consent.
Trudeau has asked the NEB to reconsider its recommendations – and he’s given it an incredibly tight 22-week timeline to do so.
To make matters worse, this hasty new review is already showing signs of the same flaws that were present in the original review. On September 26, the NEB announced the new review.
We did some digging and found out the NEB was misinforming people about this process.
We found that their website contained inaccurate and conflicting information, leading many people to believe that the deadline for comments on the project was October 3 – less than a week away. It also suggested people need to send in an application to participate and prove that they are “directly affected” or have “relevant information or expertise,” just like the first NEB review process in 2014, which was designed to shut people out of the process.
But we found out that if you want to send a letter of comment on the project, you don’t need to apply and you don’t need to comment by October 3. This deadline is only people who want to apply to be an intervenor or comment on the scope and process of the review (which you should do too, if you can!)
After we pestered them all day, the NEB finally updated their website to correct the wrong info.
It doesn’t look like the NEB has learned much from their past mistakes. Instead, it looks like they’re up to their old tricks and that we’ve got another sham process on our hands – a process destined for another predetermined outcome.
This is what happens when you do a rush job. We see no difference yet between this and Harper’s approach – they’re still trying to confuse people and deny participation.
Get a refresher on the flaws of the last NEB review with our “Credibility Crisis” report: https://bit.ly/2H6zm60
If the Trudeau government takes its commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seriously, then these rigged and superficial approaches need to become a thing of the past. Indigenous peoples have the right to free prior and informed consent – and they still do not consent.
It’s time for a more modern, democratic process that involves much closer scrutiny, especially of the many environmental, social and economic dangers posed by projects like this.
We are thrilled that the courts have overturned federal approval of this dangerous pipeline and tankers project that would have put so much at risk. But the fight is far from over.
We’ll be helping people ensure they are heard in this new process, and keeping a sharp eye on the NEB to ensure they don’t keep pulling more tricks. It’s still important to use this opportunity to raise your voice, and we hope you’ll participate by sending a letter of comment. Once more details are released on the process, we’ll be in touch about how you can have your say.
Say yes to orcas and salmon – donate now to help us keep fighting this pipeline and oil tankers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 30, 2018
VICTORIA – Sierra Club BC hailed today’s decision of the Federal Court of Appeal on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as a major victory.
Reaction from Sierra Club BC conservation and climate campaigner Mark Worthing:
“It’s time for Prime Minister Trudeau to walk away from this pipeline and tankers project. Today’s decision should be a lesson to politicians: your days of being servants to multinationals and fossil fuel corporations are coming to an end. We will no longer wait for climate justice.
“If the Trudeau government takes its commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seriously, then these rigged and superficial approaches must become a thing of the past. Indigenous peoples have the right to free prior and informed consent.
“The decision making processes have been rigged for too long. It’s time for a more modern, democratic process that subjects projects like this to much closer scrutiny, especially of the many environmental, social and economic dangers they pose.
“Fossil fuel infrastructure must be subject to a robust and thorough climate test that considers their impact on emissions and whether there are less carbon-intensive alternatives.”
Reaction from Sierra Club BC campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon:
“Today’s court ruling is a victory for orca whales, for our climate, for Indigenous peoples defending their title and rights, and for the rights of all of us to defend the land and waters we love and call home.
“We are thrilled that the courts have overturned federal approval of this dangerous pipeline and tankers project that would have put so much at risk.
“Climate leaders don’t build pipelines. It’s time for Trudeau to walk away from this dinosaur fossil fuel project and focus on building a clean energy economy instead. We can create more jobs by investing in renewable energy.”
Conservation and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 3, 2018
Victoria / Tofino – Justin Trudeau and his family have vacationed on Vancouver Island in Tofino for the past three summers since he became the Prime Minister of Canada. Days after the Trudeau family’s current vacation started, on July 24th marine biologists observed a member of the endangered Salish Sea orcas, known as J35 or Tahlequah, swimming around carrying her dead newborn calf on her back. Nine days later and the pod of endangered orcas started taking turns floating the body of the calf who died more than week ago. Friday, August 3 marks the orcas the 11th day of mourning.
“Tahlequah is one of just 75 endangered southern resident whales and this calf was the first to be born in three years into the Salish Sea orca population, which is the same amount of time the Trudeaus have vacationed here,” said Jeh Custerra, Friends of Clayoquot Sound campaigner. “With Trudeau on the West Coast enjoying the environment that people have fought hard to protect he needs to understand that as Prime Minister of Canada his decisions, including buying the Trans Mountain pipeline, will exasperate serious issues here.”
In an effort to hold Trudeau accountable as a decision maker, Friends of Clayoquot Sound reached out to the South Island ecotourism operator, Ocean Ecoventures, to invite the Trudeaus on a reality tour to bear witness to the orcas’ mournful wake.
“We have been following the story of J-35’s grief with broken hearts. It is an overwhelming tragedy on our coast that should be a watershed moment where the plight of the orcas solidifies in the public consciousness as at a crisis point,” said Simon Pidcock, Head Captain of Ocean Ecoventures. “For the entirety of the currently ongoing grieving ritual, we have been discussing what we can do as a crew as we continue to learn updates about Talequah’s mourning. The idea of inviting Trudeau to observe comes as a welcome request to transform his understanding as a decision maker.”
The Salish Sea orcas are suffering from a lack of nutrition due to an absence of their dietary staple, Chinook salmon, which are serious decline due to climate change and environmental stress.
“The Trans Mountain expansion would increase oil tanker traffic in the Salish Sea by 700% and undermine Canada’s global climate change commitments,” said Eva Garofalo, Dogwood BC’s South Island Organizer. “Stopping this oil tanker expansion is critical for orcas, salmon, and the livelihoods of people on the West Coast. We can’t escape our interconnectedness.”
“The Salish Sea orcas are fighting for their lives every day. They don’t get to take vacations,” said Mark Worthing, Climate & Conservation Campaigner at Sierra Club BC. “No decision maker can have a fully informed perspective about the consequences of their actions until they witness the hardship of those most impacted. The Trans Mountain pipeline buyout completely undermines the new oceans protections plan and any efforts of the DFO to aid these endangered whales.
Eva Garofalo, Dogwood BC, South Island Organizer: 250-370-9930 ext. 31
Simon Pidcock, Ocean Ecoventures, Head Captain: 250-748-3800
Mark Worthing, Sierra Club BC, Climate & Conservation Campaigner: 250-889-3575
Jeh Custerra, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Campaigner: 250-725-4218
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 23, 2018
Sierra Club BC released the following statement from conservation and climate campaigner Mark Worthing as federal deadline passed without a buyer for the Trans Mountain pipeline:
“While Prime Minister Trudeau vacations on our beautiful coastline, he is putting that same coastline at risk by buying out the Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tankers project.
“The federal government said they would find investors for this failing project. But Kinder Morgan couldn’t find investors, that’s why they wanted out. Investors seem to understand what the federal government doesn’t: the economics don’t make sense for this project.
“While Kinder Morgan cashes in, public funds that should be used to transition our energy economy are being blown through reckless political jockeying and short sighted economics.
“It doesn’t matter who owns this pipeline, the risks are still the same. And the roadblocks it faces are still the same too. First Nations, municipalities and non-governmental organizations are in court fighting to defend this coast and the courts will decide soon.
“British Columbians will remember this betrayal on October 21, 2019. Buying a tar sands pipeline in the middle of a climate crisis is unforgivable.
“Wasting public resources on a pipeline that faces such stark opposition from Indigenous peoples is profoundly unethical and completely undermines the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
“The answer has always been no. From the boreal forests of Athabasca Chipewyan territory, to the many rivers this pipeline illegally crosses in Secwepemc territory, to the Tsleil-Waututh waters of Slilwat where Trudeau threatens us with more oil tankers, the answer is still no. The people of British Columbia stand alongside Indigenous land and water protectors.
“I wish I could say this isn’t my prime minister. I wish I could say this isn’t my pipeline. But as a non-Indigenous person living in Canada, this is a dark reminder that we need to take responsibility for the colonial injustices that our governments continue to commit in our name.
“This government promised to end fossil fuel subsidies and champion the clean economy. Yet they are spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to buy out a tar sands pipeline that would decimate our most progressive climate targets and threaten British Columbia’s coast.”
Conservation and Climate Campaigner
Sierra Club BC