In a sea of bad news stories about human impacts on the natural environment and the toll already taken by a changing climate, good news stories are a welcome relief. So when American energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan announced the suspension of work on its Canadian $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project yesterday, whether temporary or not, the news was greeted by activists with enthusiasm, relief, and renewed commitment to ensure the pipeline never gets built.
By William Chen/Wikimedia Commons
The announcement came a day after some 300 people braved stormy weather on Burnaby Mountain to demonstrate against the project.
Protests against the project — which involved expanding the existing Kinder Morgan line built in 1953 to increase its capacity to 890,000 barrels of crude oil per day — had ratcheted up in recent weeks in British Columbia, with hundreds taking part in numerous marches and sit-ins led by Indigenous rights activists and supported by local environmental groups.
“This is a sign that organizing works and it could well be the beginning of the end for this dangerous pipeline,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, Stop-it-at-the-Source campaigner with 350.org, who led one of the protests on March 17 and was arrested later that day. “Kinder Morgan’s investors have seen that people all across Canada are choosing Indigenous rights, clean water, and a safe climate over this dangerous pipeline. Now it’s time for Justin Trudeau to do the same.”
“The Indigenous chiefs who risked arrest today are some of the most visionary and principled leaders in the world,” author and climate activist Naomi Klein said during the Saturday, April 7, protest. “They are willing to put their bodies on the line to protect the land and water that are inextricable from their human rights as Indigenous peoples and from the habitability of our shared planet.”
In a press release, Kinder Morgan explained that the decision to suspend the project was the result of the opposition presented by the British Columbia government, which has been putting up barriers to the project in direct conflict with the Canadian federal government and the Alberta government. Kinder Morgan did, however, leave an opening for negotiation with stakeholders with a deadline of May 31 to reach an agreement.
“A company cannot resolve differences between governments,” said KML Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Kean.
The Canadian federal government has long been a supporter of the Trans Mountain project despite it signing onto the Paris Climate Agreement and making a pledge to consult and get consent from First Nations along the pipeline route. The pipeline, which would transport oil from the tar sands mines of Alberta to an export terminal on the coast of British Columbia in the city of Burnaby near Vancouver, would result in a massive expansion of the ecologically destructive oil mining process.
Upon hearing the news from Kinder Morgan, the federal government only reconfirmed its push to get Alberta tar sands bitumen to the coast via Trans Mountain, a move which it believes is necessary for Canadian economic growth despite the massive environmental risks.
“The Government of Canada calls on Premier Horgan and the B.C. government to end all threats of delay to the Trans Mountain Expansion,” Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in a statement. “His government’s actions stand to harm the entire Canadian economy. At a time of great global trade uncertainty, the importance of Canada’s role in the global energy market is bigger than individual projects and provinces.”
Although Kinder Morgan and the Canadian government suggest that the new provincial government in British Columbia is responsible for the project’s suspension, the activist community claims the increased civil disobedience, including a massive protest the day before Kinder Morgan’s announcement, and threat of an even larger movement reminiscent of the recent Standing Rock protests are what really won the day.
“We have 150 Nations all along the proposed tar sands pipeline routes, including all along the Kinder Morgan route, who are ready to stand up together and do what’s needed to stop them” said Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and Treaty Alliance, who was present at the April 7 protest. “I respect that some First Nations in Alberta might have a different view and that’s their right, but it’s also the right of First Nations along the pipeline route to stand in defence of their lands and waters, and of any First Nation for that matter to stand up and stop the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands from wrecking the climate for everyone.”
Over the past month, nearly 200 people have been arrested for protesting the Trans Mountain project.