How to kill the Trans Mountain pipeline -

How to kill the Trans Mountain pipeline

Opponents of Trans Mountain amass, with some eyes alighting on Lightning Rock—which could prove to be a lightning rod, akin to Standing Rock

Thomas Terry, of the St'at'imc First Nation, wears a black bear hide during a protest march against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday November 19, 2016. The proposed $5-billion expansion would nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline that carries crude oil from near Edmonton to the Vancouver area to be loaded on tankers and shipped overseas. A federal government decision on whether to approve the proposal is expected by December 19. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

More pipeline protests are in the works, with promises of civil disobedience. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Lightning Rock has long been sacred to the Sumas people of B.C.’s Fraser Valley—a site where a shaman was thought to have transformed into a giant boulder before getting blasted into four pieces by a bolt from an avenging thunderbird. In the 1780s, perhaps as a show of deference, the Sumas interred victims of smallpox around the stone, creating a 12-hectare burial ground they’ve recently scrambled to preserve. Two years ago, they fought off a proposal for a massive business and residential development on the site. “Basically,” says Chief Dalton Silver, “we’re just trying to protect the place.”

Now, as pipeline opponents in the U.S. celebrate their triumph in North Dakota, Lightning Rock may be headed for a much larger stage. Not only is the name reminiscent of Standing Rock, where the movement to halt the Dakota Access oil pipeline got started, it’s one of the few sites authorities in this country acknowledge could be threatened by another, equally contentious petroleum project: the planned twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Strathcona County, Alta., to Burnaby, B.C. Last May, the National Energy Board referred to Lightning Rock by name when it set down 157 conditions for the 1,150-km expansion, calling for archaeological and cultural heritage assessments of the area around the fractured boulder.

What would happen if surveys unearth artifacts or human remains isn’t clear. The NEB’s conditions require the pipeline’s owner, Kinder Morgan, to do little more than consult with the Stó:lo Collective, which includes the Sumas First Nation, and to document efforts to address their concerns. But for the array of Aboriginal groups, environmentalists and political leaders now aligning against the $6.8-billion pipeline, the rock’s mere existence seems a gift. Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced cabinet approval of the pipeline last week, everyone from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to an 84-year-old grandmother in Burnaby has declared their willingness to get arrested trying to stop it. At times, one gets the sense that all they need is a time and place, and with Kinder Morgan preparing to break ground next fall, the time is drawing near.

As for a place, the pipeline’s planned route runs next to the Lightning Rock area, where archaeologists have documented at least 40 grave mounds, raising concerns that Kinder Morgan’s crews could disturb more remains on adjacent land. Says Silver dryly: “We don’t go digging around where our ancestors are buried.”

MORE: Justin Trudeau’s B.C. blunder

Symbolism will be important in this battle, because many of the legal avenues to stopping the project were closed off 60 years ago, when the existing pipeline was built. With the right-of-way established, Kinder Morgan requires few easements from landowners or governments facing pressure to protect Crown land—something that has proven insurmountable for recent pipeline projects. What’s more, the company boasts relationships with First Nations along the route that date back decades, which has helped it win over those communities to the proposed new phase.

For the Liberals, clinging to their credentials as friends of the environment, the optics won’t be easy. But the “twinning” model at least spares them a barrage of media images of crews clear-cutting through pristine forests or blasting alongside crystalline rivers.

Still, anyone who thinks the battle is over—or properly under way, for that matter—is in for a nasty surprise. Trudeau had hardly finished his announcement when outraged environmental groups promised to stop it in the name of protecting the planet, pointing out that a twinned Trans Mountain would triple the volume of oil reaching Kinder Morgan’s terminal in Burnaby to 890,000 barrels per day. And for every First Nations leader willing to negotiate with Kinder Morgan, more seem to share the environmentalists’ anger. In a newspaper op-ed that ran Monday, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs accused Trudeau of failing a “sacred duty” to protect the environment and the land rights of Aboriginals.

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Phillip made headlines two years ago when he was arrested at Burnaby Mountain during a demonstration against the Trans Mountain project, and the roster of public figures willing to engage in civil disobedience seems to expand by the day. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has promised to demonstrate, while Derek Corrigan, Burnaby’s left-wing mayor, is on the record saying he’d “stand in front of the bulldozers” (the 65-year-old massaged that quote last week, describing it as a “symbolic” expression of his opposition).

Whatever their level of resolve, these leaders represent the kind of so-called “direct action” coalition that proponents of the pipeline would do well to fear—especially after the intervention of First Nations, environmentalists and assorted sympathizers proved so effective at Standing Rock. There, a polyglot movement in support of the local Sioux has over the past two years blocked construction, tangling with police and, in a euphoric victory last week, forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to scrap plans to run the Dakota Access pipeline under a Missouri River reservoir. Such alliances have proven no less effective in Canada, as when Indigenous protesters joined forces with environmentalists on Vancouver Island in the 1990s to curb the logging of old-growth trees in Clayoquot Sound.

MORE: Evan Solomon on Trudeau’s crude math on pipeline politics

Small wonder, then, that elected leaders and oil execs alike are striving to keep Trans Mountain from becoming Standing Rock North. Jim Carr, the federal natural resources minister, flew into damage-control mode after musing during a speech about calling in police and the military on unruly pipeline protesters (on a tour of weekend talk shows, he insisted the remark was not meant as a threat). Rachel Notley, Alberta’s NDP premier, flew to B.C. to talk up the project’s economic importance in the province where opposition to it is strongest. Kinder Morgan CEO Ian Anderson, meanwhile, pleaded with opponents to protest “in a peaceful, lawful manner,” telling reporters on a conference call that safety was the company’s “number one and unwavering priority.”

Truth be told, the legal avenues haven’t been exhausted. The David Suzuki Foundation, for one, is planning to challenge approval of the pipeline under the federal Species at Risk Act, arguing that the 34 tankers sailing into Kinder Morgan’s terminal each month would harm killer whales in the Salish Sea. The legislation calls for mandatory protection once a threat to a population is scientifically established, notes Jay Ritchlin, director-general for the organization in Western Canada.

Others anticipate resistance when local governments begin considering permits necessary for construction on municipal lands. Dinara Millington, vice-president of research at the Calgary-based Canadian Energy Research Institute, points to Burnaby, where crews must expand a storage facility, as a likely point of delay. If Corrigan, the mayor, holds sway, she notes, “they could definitely delay the day the pipeline goes into operation.”

How long opponents can string such gambits out, and whether Kinder Morgan can persuade the courts that it has addressed ecological challenges, might not matter. When the process-based manoeuvres have run their course, all eyes will turn to places like Lightning Rock, which Silver, the Sumas chief, can easily imagine becoming the focus of a Dakota-style stand. His people will demand a say in anything that happens near the site, he says, and even then will watch every bucketload of earth for signs their ancestors’ resting place is being disturbed. If their wishes are swept aside, Silver adds, you can expect to see them in the path of an excavator: “As I’ve said before to developers, you start coming in with your equipment, we’ll be there to meet you.”


How to kill the Trans Mountain pipeline

  1. Don’t tell me that Canadian Indians aka First Peoples are as stupid as American Indians aka Native Americans can be, in opposing petroleum pipelines, a safe means of getting an economically-important national resource to market.

    Both sets of tribes have been very inventive in creating “sacred sites”, which L(l)iberals in both countries accept as soon as invented.

    I think that most Liberals anywhere must have outside sources of income and thus do not understand the economic value of national resources.

    • There seems to be some evidence that negotiations involving $ might overcome sacredness.

        • Canada, supposedly one of the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. The Canadian people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money. In other words: “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

  2. Why is that jackass wearing bear head!! And they want a fight??? Ooooooookay!!!!

    • I first people may not want pipelines but sure do support killing indangered animals and wearing there pelts as robes

      • First it is ‘endangered’ not ‘indangered’….second the black bear is not ‘endangered’….and is worn by Indigenous peoples as a sign of their clan. The Bear Clan are strong and fearless protectors; seen as having noble spirit and wisdom, as authority figures in their communities; as “Medicine people”, through their knowledge of the medicines and the plants of Mother Earth.

    • The person wearing the bear robe is not the jackass….it is the person who would make such an asinine comment.

    • The person wearing the bear robe is not the jackass….it is the person who would make such an asinine comment.

  3. All you have to do to stop the pipeline is be honest with people and don’t be a hypocrite.

    The pipeline will provide money for the federal government so the first step is to accept less money from the government. You can’t accept the rewards without accepting some of the risks.

    The second is that if you do not want resource development then first stop it in your own province and convince the people of Canada that it is worth their while to lower their standard of living to save the environment.

    Then you will be seen as an honest broker in this discussion.

    • Obviously, you haven’t read the WTO’s analysis of Canada’s tar sands ‘oil’ production, an important point being that the net cash flow from tar sands production to government coffers is negative i.e. every barrel shipped is wrapped in tax-payer dollars. The differential is such that a global competitor could raise a WTO challenge; they likely won’t since pretty much all fossil fuel production is heavily subsidized.
      However, if one truly cares about Canadian economics, one might ask how much of the pipe will come from China and how much of the heavy equipment will come from South Korea? One might also ask how many refinery jobs and how many billions in value add will be exported through Burnaby.
      A tax payer may also be concerned that taxpayers are on the hook for $3.7B in remediation for their next big spill (it’s not that long since the last one); they might also be concerned that studies indicate that $3.7B isn’t enough and will likely be increased.

    • I notice Trudeau is not forcing Ontario and Quebec to accept Energy East Pipeline. Could it be that he fears losing votes there but could not care less about BC? He is not a nation builder.

  4. By the end of his mandate Prime Minister Numbnuts will have signed the entire effing country over to these malcontents. Time to rip up the Indian act and put these bums out to pastures.

  5. I think it would be offensive if some private company started digging up a local ‘Mount Pleasant’ for investigative purposes yet we have tone deaf regulators ordering a company to do such a thing (‘stupid is as stupid does).

  6. “Both sets of tribes have been very inventive in creating “sacred sites”…”

    The article clearly says this site has been meaningful for a very long time. Do you have any evidence to support your claim, or are you just talking out of your ass?

  7. I stand with the Aboriginal’s on this one. Most people making comment’s in here have never lived in BC. It is one the greenest area’s left in Canada. Now they want to gamble with peoples lives for money, by taking a chance of ruining parts of a Provence that supplies part of the oxygen that we breath every day. Why can the US not use their own resources that they have squandered, by exactly the same thing they what to do here.
    Build the infrastructure to Produce the refined product. Then sell to the US at an appropriate cost and means of delivery at a land base, not a water base on any of our coasts that will be polluted by incompetence and leaky vessels. I might not be an educated person, but I am entitled to my opinion as a taxpayer in this country.

  8. You want to ensure the oil companies maintain the pipeline, lift the cap on any spill….they spill anything the company and the shareholders lose EVERYTHING, they are blocked from declaring bankruptcy to avoid responsibility. 2009 Peace river pipeline explosion the NEB found that the ruptured pipe was 95% corroded…tell me they did more than cross their fingers to maintain it.

  9. The biggest danger of the Transmountain pipeline is not tankers or the actual pipeline (although both present clear risks) but the tank farm on Burnaby mountain. The proposal is to vastly expand the capacity of the farm with much larger tanks. Is the event of a large earthquake, which is inevitable, the fire department does not have the capacity to respond to the fires orruptures which will see the bitumen flowing from there to the Burard Inlet. Burnaby has stated this clearly but the NEB has ignored this. The death and destruction of a tank farm failure will be devastating to Burnaby and the Burrard inlet. Kinder Morgan has repeatedly refused to relocate the tank farm as it allows them to use gravity in the loading process and they have completely ignored the risk. Trudeau cares little about the west coast, but I note he is not forcing Quebec to accept Energy East. Like father, like son. He is just like Harper with a pretty face.

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  11. In 2015 (pre-election), the former Liberal campaign co-chair Daniel Gagnier worked for months for TransCanada Corp., helping it with its controversial Energy East pipeline, while at the same time working as a key advisor to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

    TransCanada Corp communications director James Millar confirmed that the corporation has been paying Gagnier for his advice. “Dan has worked with TransCanada as a contractor on the Energy East file since the spring of 2015, primarily offering us communications advice. His counsel has been helpful in guiding us on how best to communicate the benefits of the project to Canadians.”

    So, my guess is that PM Trudeau has approved both Kinder Morgan (Trans Mountain) and Line 3 (Alberta to Wisconsin), fully intending to end up with only the Line 3 pipeline.

    He knows Kinder Morgan is going to be an ugly, ugly fight and at some politically convenient time, he will spin it around so that his government will appear to have actually listened to the concerns of Canadians, and announce that in respect of these valid concerns his government will be cancelling Kinder Morgan and only proceeding with Line 3, thus approving only 1 out of 3 pipeline applications, appearing both environmentally and fiscally responsible, and demonstrating the social conscience they promised pre-election.

    This makes his government look good, seem like they really care and aren’t just about doing what is politically expedient. It will make the Line 3 pipeline approval quick and easy and since that is all that they ever wanted or expected to get in the first place, it is a huge win where they get what they want economically, look good to the voters, keep Alberta and BC happy as well as unions, can say they respect indigenous peoples, etc, etc, all the while playing the Canadian public for fools.

    I am guessing that this is the advice that Mr. Gagnier provided to the energy industry.

  12. Just some thoughts as another year comes to an end:

    Oil companies with pipelines running black like a thief
    In the night while only some of us look on in disbelief
    Trying to buy out each and every band council and chief
    Trying to get them to sell us out by signing along the dotted line
    Unless you want more madness you can’t believe in any pipeline

    No this oil stuff could surely kill us as much as can heroin or coke
    And this is the absolute truth, ain’t no lie, certainly no joke
    If you think otherwise then just go and do another line
    Better yet let’s just build another God damn pipeline
    While further breaking yet another treaty they had us sign

    The oil company’s lawyers, liars with their pants on fire
    Consultation with First Nations is never their great desire
    While Mother Earth is in such turmoil, the times are so dire
    Yes the time is here to protect the land
    Time for all of us to make a stand

    Time for us to realize it is Mother Earth we must defend
    Before all else is far too late, before all we look at is the End
    But if we choose the right road to “Bimaadiziwin” — a good life
    If we can find a way to avoid more conflict, to prevent more strife
    To work together for Mother Earth, to remember “Water Is Life”

    Maybe then we will discover that the real worth
    In life is to do all we can to protect Mother Earth.